The Migration Series 1992-2002

Who’s involved

Stephen Copland, artist
Meredith Brice, curator
Irena Conomos, photographer
The Muse, TAFE Sydney Institute
Gosford Regional Gallery and Arts Centre
New England Art Museum
Orange Regional Gallery
Migration Heritage Centre NSW

When and where

Project location: Sydney, Gosford, Armidale and Orange
Project status: Current project
Date of completion: June 2003

Project description

This international project demonstrates how diverse communities throughout the world could be brought together and interconnected by art and the narrative voice of personal experience.

The exhibition traces the development of a series of work begun in 1990 by NSW artist Stephen Copland. The inspiration for this work was his grandmother’s diary, letters, a postcard album and embroidery made in Cuba in 1907. The diary was written in 1911 on arrival in Melbourne from Cuba and subsequent passage to Dunedin. Her family, from El Mina, Tripoli, migrated to Cuba in 1887 and then to Melbourne and New Zealand.

Copland’s artwork on this material began in 1992 when he exhibited Julia at 24HR Northern Territory Contemporary Art Space, a series of 75 collages and a handmade book. This exhibition caused Copland to consider the possibilities of tracing his forbear’s migration experience through a series of exhibitions in Australia and overseas in locations related to Julia’s story.

In 1993, Copland took an exhibition of 40 collages and three handmade books to Cuba with an exhibition titled; Suspiros y Ansia, (trans. Sighs and Anxieties); to the Fayad Jamis Galeria, Havana. Then in Dunedin, NZ in 1995 at the Settlers Museum, (a museum devoted to sociological aspects of culture), he exhibited; Julia-an exile in love.

Translating these experiences into a visual record of the artists personal reconstruction of cultural roots, as well as acknowledging some aspects common to migrant experience as expressed in Julia’s diary, Copland exhibited, Julia’s diary – An immigrants story, in 1999 at the Immigration Museum, Melbourne. Later that year Copland, with assistance from the Australian government, took this exhibition to Lebanon as part of the 1999 UNESCO cultural festival.

In 2001 Copland was invited to exhibit in East of Somewhere at Casula Powerhouse. It was an exhibition which gave the opportunity to draw a larger experiential map of his travel in Lebanon; an exercise which completed the circle for the project and strengthened personal, community and cultural connections.

It is intended that The Migration Series exhibition will include heritage material, selected paintings, collages objects and documentation from the national and international venues.

The motivation for this exhibition functions as contemporary art, social history, heritage, migration history and community art.

What will the project achieve?

Increase personal engagement with the migrant experience.
Strengthen connections between new migrants and members of mainstream communities.
A sense of ‘welcome’ in a spirit of generosity within the community towards its new members.
Foster a capacity or pattern of connectedness rather than difference within the broader community.
Exhibition information
7 – 8 November 2002: The Muse, TAFE Sydney Institute (Building C, Ultimo College, Mary Ann St, Ultimo)
13 December 2002 – 2 January 2003: Gosford Regional Gallery
17 February – 27 April 2003: New England Regional Art Museum
2 May – 5 June 2003: Orange Regional Gallery

N.B. Selected works from The Migration Series will be available for viewing at The Muse in Sydney.

Project contact

Stephen Copland – Artist

Phone 02 4381 0136


25 Newell Road, MacMasters Beach
NSW 2251