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Jack sketch returns

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Jack sketch returns to Koondrook
Pictured left to right are Holly Russ (nee Thompson), who lived in the coffee palace as a child; Ken Guskich, who lived in Koondrook as a child and has donated the artwork; Christine Dartnell, president of the BKHS; and Michelle Wilson, Weekley family historian and relation of Ken Guskich. Holly and Michelle are also members of the historical society.
Photo: Kirstin Nicholson.

Kirstin Nicholson, The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

A sketch of the Koondrook township has been gifted to the Barham Koondrook Historical Society (BKHS). The sketch, a pen line drawing by renowned Australian artist, Kenneth Jack, was presented to the society by Ken Guskich on Wednesday, May 5.

Ken Guskich spent the first few years of his life in Koondrook. He is connected to the Weekley family, which has links with the area extending back to the 1800s.

The artist, Kenneth Jack, was born in 1924 and spent his life painting, drawing and exhibiting across Australia and around the world. He had a particular interest in architecture, country towns and paddle steamers, and would visit Echuca and Murray River towns such as Barham and Koondrook.

It was on one such visit in 1963 that he sketched a street scene in Koondrook. The drawing depicts the township with a street full of shops, and includes the goods shed, the memorial hall and the coffee palace.

The sketch was part of the Jack family’s private collection, but through his connection with the family, Ken was able to acquire it with the aim of donating it to the historical society.

For Ken, who has been collecting Kenneth Jack artwork for over 30 years, the significance of the work is not just its face value, it is a combination of his experience with the artist and his work, and how he interprets the artwork, which has inspired him to compile a book.

“As a collector I started initially with a couple of paintings that I liked, and the more I got involved in the artist, the more I delved in the different works he did – his drawings, his printings, his early works, his later works, his water colours – it’s just evolved. At some point I thought I’d like to integrate a lot of my stories with his art, and that’s the basis of the book.”

The book, which is in draft form at the moment, has the working title, ‘Ken & Ken. Ken Guskich & the Kenneth Jack Collection’ and so far contains 25 stories using Jack’s artwork as a basis. As Ken explains, “It’s not an art book, it’s not all about him, it’s not all about me, it’s a combination of his story, my story, an art story and a partial history story.”

One such example in the book is the chapter on timber cutters. Ken’s uncle and cousin worked in the forest and Ken has fond memories of going out with them when visiting as a nine-year-old. Of how he links one of Jack’s pieces and everything together, he explains, “It’s the timber cutters, my personal association as I recall with my uncle, lots about the town and the history of the timber cutters, lots about the artist and finishing off with a personal note.”

Ken travelled from Melbourne to present the work to the historical society. The sketch, which began its life on the streets of Koondrook has returned to its ‘hometown’ 58 years later and will now be housed in the former Baptist Church when its refurbishment is complete later this year.

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 13 May 2021

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 13 May 2021.

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