WHO ARE THE ‘THREE AUSTRALIANS’ IN THE PAINTING? – The clues are in the painting. Just place your opinion in the year book with all the other entries. Martin Shaw won’t reveal the answer. The ‘Three Australians’ has a bigger field to choose from than any Melbourne Cup Race. What can be revealed though, is ‘Pea’, the black and white dog is sitting in the corner. Sadly Pea died in 1991.

YEARBOOKS –The yearbooks idea came about in my 20’s whilst doing casual market research which required asking people their ages, occupations, addresses and opinions on products. A yearbook represents a region of Australia, ten yearbooks complete a ten year cycle around Australia. Each generation will interpret the painting differently and this will be reflected in the yearbooks. The yearbooks form a social commentary and a mosaic of information about Australia.

SURPRISE ! SEEING YOUR PREVIOUS OPINIONSWhen the painting returns to the same venue, the public will look back at their previous comments in the yearbooks and be puzzled and surprised at their previous opinions, a bit older, a bit smarter but not necessarily wiser. They will see something differently in the painting on each visit and see newer ideas and opinions recorded in the yearbooks. As the project travels through time the ‘future’ will look back into the yearbooks and see deceased family members’ opinions on the ‘Three Well Known Australians’. A bond will be created between the past, present and future.

What would Nikki den Exter be thinking now? In 1983 as a 9 year old she recorded the below opinion

Blue figure/Ned Kelly. Red figure /Nick Griener Green figure /Jack Newton

THE LETTERS – After a telephone conversation, information and a promotional sticker of the painting was mailed out. From 1991, letters were received with opinions on the identities of the ‘Three Australians’. In 1994, 24 letters went on display; by 2009 there were 240 letters. It takes motivation for members of the public to write to someone whom they have never previously heard of, about a painting they have never seen before. There were no prizes or inducements on offer. Obtaining these letters was slow and tedious. If the painting was a household name, the public would have had preconceived ideas on the ‘Three Australians’ and the letters wouldn’t be as interesting to read.

LETTER THEMES – The letters are in 30 themes, 8 letters to a theme. The themes range from the ‘Arts’ ‘Sport’ ‘Regionalism’… to ‘History’, different aspects of Australia. The letters will never change, but what will change over time will be viewers opinions of the letters (and painting).

CULTURAL INSTITUTIONAL NETWORK – The increasing number of cultural institutions and art galleries built since the 1970’s has made it possible for the ‘Three Australians’ to tour continuously around Australia since 1983. This growth is a reflection of the increase economic wealth and continual political and social stability of the country. Overseas art galleries and private collectors lend artworks for exhibitions that travel to Australia because of the above reason.

2000 SYDNEY OLYMPIC GAMES TORCH RELAY – The ‘Three Well Known Australians’ relay has similar symbolism to the ‘Torch’ relay. Just as the public lined the streets to participate and cheered at the 100 days torch relay event, the public have similar opportunity to participate and record their opinions in the yearbooks in ‘Three Australians’ relay event. The ‘Three Australians’ is a slower relay without the hype of the torch relay and it does a 10 year continuous circuit of Australia.

PEACE SYMBOL – When looking around at the histories of other countries with their wars, civil unrest, political and economic problems it’s doubtful if a project like this could exist in many other countries. For the painting to keep touring for many generations Australia must continue to be a political, social and economic stable society. In other words the painting becomes a symbol of Australia’s continual peace.

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