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Exhibition inspired by the Heidelberg School

STAN Perron and Jock Clough are just two of the high-profile Perth business names to have invested thousands of dollars in an art exhibition launched this week.

The Land of Light Australian Landscapes of the Millennium exhibition will open at Scotch College on Friday evening.

In 1997 Perth-trained artist John Michael Challen was commissioned by Mr Clough and other business people to paint their favourite pieces of land. Mr Perron purchased the first landscape artwork, which helped to launch the program in the same year.

Many of the paintings, valued at about $800,000, have been donated for a year to allow the collection of Australian landscape artwork to travel the country.

The Land of Light exhibition showcases varying Australian nature scapes, from the Twin Falls in Kakadu National Park to the south-west Tasmanian wilderness and Mr Clough’s painting of Shark Bay.

According to Mr Challen’s agent, Fiona Rafferty, the concept for the exhibition was to have as many business people as possible commission a piece of art, allowing Mr Challen to travel the country to paint and record forever Australia’s landscape during 1997 and 2003.

“We had a launch of our idea in 1997 and we had a few of Michael’s paintings, but it was difficult because we didn’t have all these paintings to sell,” Ms Rafferty said.

“We were selling blank canvases and he would go out and paint.

“There were a few on display and Stan Perron bought the one of Upper Swan.

“He purchased it for $25,000 and it’s now estimated to be worth between $38,000 and $50,000.

“Initially we wanted to do six paintings per State and to have a collection of 42, but it has grown so that we have close to 80. Between 25 and 30 of those are large ones.”

The inspiration for the project came from an exhibition of Australian landscapes held 100 years ago by the Heidelberg School.

“There hasn’t been anything like it since. We wanted to document the country, so Michael painted and I researched the areas,” Ms Rafferty said.

Mr Clough said he was one of the first people to commission Mr Challen to paint a landscape piece for the project.

“I knew of Michael Challen and had bought one or two of his works,” he said.

“I like his work and when I heard of this idea I thought it was great. I got him to paint one of my favourite spots, which is Shark Bay.

“We partly own a sheep station there and I spent a lot of time in my youth there.

“We went camping together along with my wife for four or five days up at Shark Bay in 1999.

“He [Mr Challen] would go wandering off before sunset and I told him I’m wouldn’t interfere with what he was looking for and what he should paint.

“He ended up painting the Zuytdorp Cliffs.”

Mr Clough said the painting, which formed part of his private collection, would be show cased in art exhibitions for 12 months.

“I thought this was a terrific initiative and I wanted to be part of it,” he said.

“It’s something I would have done anyway if I had thought of it.

“It’s a remarkable collection.”

Mr Clough will officially open the collection of 35 Michael Challen paintings tomorrow evening at Scotch College.

The exhibition is open to the public from August 16 to 24.

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