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Alternate take on Ned Kelly

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February 24, 2018

A new Ned Kelly exhibition, which presents a different side to the ‘‘usual’’ Kelly story, is on display at the Benalla Art Gallery.

A new Ned Kelly exhibition, which presents a different side to the ‘‘usual’’ Kelly story, is on display at the Benalla Art Gallery.

The True Ned exhibition, by Ray Hearn, will have its official opening on Sunday, February 25, with a talk by guest speaker, Associate Professor John McQuilton.

John was born in north-eastern Victoria and has had a lifelong interest in Ned Kelly.

He has written extensively on Kelly with one of his most notable works being The Kelly Outbreak 1878-1880: The Geographical Dimension of Social Banditry.

True Ned presents a different Ned Kelly story to that of Sidney Nolan’s famous series of paintings.

Ray Hearn’s paintings, ceramics and assemblages examine the artistic influences on Nolan during his Kelly period including the new phenomenon of Walt Disney cartoons.

Hearn’s exhibition presents a view of Kelly as a bandit hero, a kind of renegade who emerges in rural societies where sharp divisions exist between rich and poor.

‘‘My own work is usually issue-based, and one of my main concerns is how Ned Kelly is portrayed today in life and in art,’’ Mr Hearn said.

‘‘I therefore reference Sidney Nolan, whose Kelly is so recognisable.

‘‘I’m particularly concerned with the highway sign at Glenrowan, which depicts Kelly with two six guns as a wild west cowboy style desperado.

‘‘Two things — he was indeed intending to set up a republic, and wounded four times in his left arm (and foot) in the first exchange of gunfire, could never have held those two pistols aloft.

‘‘Australia’s take on the Kelly gang’s exploits is polarised — was he a murderous thug, a cowboy desperado; a horse thief and bank robber, or romantic hero, a rebel reformer with a vision of a republic in north east Victoria?

‘‘The exhibition reflects my search for inspiration and in grappling with the Kelly saga to search for meaning for my work and for myself.’’

The exhibition is already on display, and will be until March 4.

The official opening takes place on Sunday, February 25, at 3pm.

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