5 Miles from the Sea

Greg Neville, 5 Miles no. 2, 2011

This work is in a new group exhibition at Level 17 Artspace until May 17. Curated by Geoff Tolchard, it’s based on the idea that for white settlers and immigrants, penetration of the continent of Australia sort of stopped at about 5 miles from the sea. We are a coast-hugging nation.

The work I’ve put in is based on old family snapshots, some of me at the family home which was … 5 miles from the sea. The snapshots have been manipulated in Photoshop to create a blur through which parts of the original can be glimpsed. Here is my artist’s statement …

Snapshots are potent artefacts, they keep the old, young and the dead, alive. Each family’s snapshots are a record of their movements and growth, their existences and extinctions. Eventually, over generations, the chain of recognition is broken, the memories embedded in them fade away. The people who look out from these slivers of paper become phantasms.

In the first half of the twentieth century, my parents and their families moved around Victoria, to Chiltern and Echuca, to Bendigo and Wonthaggi. Ultimately, they retreated to the coast, settling in Melbourne only a few miles from where their own grandparents had first set foot here.

The snapshots that generated these prints were taken 120 miles from the sea, then 2 miles, and finally, true to the theme of this exhibition, 5 miles from the sea. One of them is of me at the age of ten, another coastal white Australian.