Artists in Residence: A historic Hill End home

A printmaker and an artist compassionately conserve their country home in the New South Wales village of Hill End.

Writers, poets, painters, artists (and the rest of us) spend lifetimes exploring the nature of living spaces. Most of us can only wonder at the places where artists live and work, in the knowledge that we must remain outside their apparently sanguine and engaged worlds. In the ongoing conservation of this Hill End home in country New South Wales, it seems that small is not only beautiful in the hands of the owners – artist Genevieve Carroll and photographer and printmaker Bill Moseley – but that it can be more advantageous to the imagination.

Genevieve Carrol and Bill Moseley in the garden.

Giant posters of French 19th-century entomological drawings, found in a Paris flea market, hang on the sitting room wall.

It’s a long stretch from Sydney to Hill End, 85 kilometres north of Bathurst. Six years on and a lifetime away from city living, artists Carroll and Moseley have settled for what Moseley calls “a village set in the margins of rural life and small-town suburbia”. Together they came with a dream to live and work in a community such as they had witnessed while visiting remote Naoshima, an island town in Japan that has been renewed and imbued with a sense of destination thanks to contemporary artists, galleries and installations that have attracted large numbers of tourists and created work opportunities and hope for the local ageing population.

Other artist friends were already settled in Hill End, which has a rich history of artists flocking to the town from the mid-1950s. For Carroll, “the house looked like an old woman who needed a bouquet of flowers. The bones of the garden were still there; they just needed propping up and conserving.”

Moseley wired a stuffed horse leg bought at a Paris flea market to create on of the home’s many soft lights. On the wall is Moseley’s Running Man copperplate photogravure and a photograph he took in Eritrea. The clay vessels are by Moseley (left) and Carroll.

Built using the old traditions of wattle-and-daub, brick and iron by publican and goldminer William English for his wife and 11 children in 1872, the Moseleys took on a 40-year lease from NSW National Parks & Wildlife in 2005, an arrangement borrowed from Europe to protect historical buildings and sites. Since then, they have dedicated themselves to its rebirth. Their home is now redolent with evocations of another time and rich with the hands-on creative endeavour of its new owners.

The home is known as the ‘English Cottages’ because that is what it is – a series of four small buildings in which the couple is dedicated to segmented living. They delight in walking from the kitchen across a brick path to the sitting room, bedroom and office. They walk outside to the rustic bathroom – freezing in highland winters. A fourth cottage is yet to be restored as guest accommodation.

On the wall of the sitting room hangs a portrait painted by Moseley’s father, Charles Moseley (once an Archibald finalist) of his sister Joyce, in 1937. Behind it is a vintage canvas awning found during a council pick-up.

In the bedroom, Moseley transposed his clay-formed Running Man to paper, setting him into a foreboding landscape formed by intense diffusion of light and dark using 19th-century photogravure techniques. “I love process, life drawing. I love the 19th century. It was a time of great optimism.” Within the walls of the cottages exists a hypnotic array of colour and form from other times, other places, a theatrical melange strangely akin to going backstage, perhaps in a 19th-century theatre, discovering props, cards, fabrics, costumes, puppets, painted backdrops, faded oil paintings, posters, photos, ribbons; the detritus of passionate obsession rather than purposeful collecting.

Moseley’s Running Man in clay leans against the wall, while an assortment of ceramic pieces and nasturtiums from the garden grace an old dresser.

The kitchen chandelier is made of stuffed yellow fabric and wire. The sink splash panel is a mosiac of collected pieces of old ceramics and bottles.

Here, both art and craft provide Moseley and Carroll with inspiration and meaning through their innate ability to create a living, breathing space of eclectic miscellanea. It is a home in tandem with its new owners, who have the enviable focus of artists for whom these things are the essence of life and being, and who can make by hand and repair, rather than purchase or throw away. While studying at La Cité internationale des Arts in Paris, Carroll saw Van Gogh’s yellow sunflowers but found she “could only think of home; the yellow wattle in Australia”. This biographical idea is now central to her work. Carroll’s diarised titles for her paintings exhibit her intense observation of the traditional English garden that surrounds their home. It hugs the buildings, all constantly observed by the kangaroos that graze not far beyond in their private domain, deep in the hillsides of the Great Dividing Range of New South Wales. The German ideal of lebenswelt – the understanding of the lived world – is alive in this environment.

The artists prepare a wedding invitation at the Hill End Press studio.

The couple’s determined philosophy of combining art practice, home and garden seems intuitively linked to the words of French-Algerian journalist, writer and existentialist Albert Camus, which are now engraved around the four edges of the long table in Moseley and Carroll’s print studio in Hill End village, a short walk each day from home. Here, they produce works on paper and finely embossed stationery for their creative print workshop business, Hill End Press. The table is the work of highly regarded contemporary artist and letter-cutter Ian Marr, who painstakingly inscribed into the large slate slab the words: In the depths of winter, I finally learned/that there lay in me an unconquerable summer.

Bill Moseley and Genevieve Carroll’s next exhibition will be at Damien Minton Gallery, Redfern NSW, 8–13 October. The next open studio day at Hill End cottage is 15–16 September. For more information, visit hillendartscouncil.blogspot.com.

This story was originally published in Vogue Living July/August 2012.

Producer/Writer: Jan Jones
Photographer: Martyn Thompson

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Comments
11 Responses to “Artists in Residence: A historic Hill End home”
  1. Pam says:

    I thought it was a slum they were going to renovate…the first photo has mould on the walls, YUK!!!

    • Vogue Living says:

      Hi Pam,
      The darker areas on the walls aren’t mould but distressed paint as it is very old house. We have been inside this home and it is actually very clean and mould-free. The ‘shabbiness’ is a cultivated look.
      The Vogue Living team

      • Charlotte says:

        I think it’s beautiful. So wonderful to see images of a house full of art, originality and beauty but not blind, sterile, hipster materialism (“yuk!!!”). Would love to see many more like this.

  2. Such a shame that the ‘mould’, which as pointed out is not mould at all, is the only thing that can be mentioned above. what about the amazingly eclectic way the furniture has been arranged and put together as a composition. It is to be admired not torn down.

  3. A real home to live a real life, intriguing, beautiful, thoughtful, good.

  4. angelavsquez says:

    a great inspiration!

  5. Lolo says:

    Liked it. I love real things with real people…bets plastic no courage deco everyday of the week!

  6. cheryden says:

    The concept that the artist couple is “restoring” the cottages struck me as odd, because it appears more like a personalization. It seems the restoration is to create the illusion of a long forgotten, overgrown, dilapidated house that people decided to put their lovely things into, and disregard the disrepair. I love wabi-sabi, I love creative use and re-use of materials, flea market finds, etc., but the subject matter, (fleas?) of the etymological posters, the wire and fabric chandelier, and the paint technique in the living room are not things that make me think historic restoration, but more what the writer describes as “theatrical melange”. If this were an individuals home, that they owned, I would feel, “too each their own”, but since they are owned by National Parks, (even with a 40 year lease) I think their should possibly be some parameters to the design.

    • Cherry says:

      I agree. I love Hill End with all my heart, and don’t want to see “modernisation” in the restorations… but it seems to me no restoration is being done here. How sad if we were to lose these beautiful buildings that stand as a last bastion to a long-past era. The National Parks leases were put in place to ensure that they were lovingly cared for and restored in faithfulness to their beginnings. I’d like to see some more careful improvement without the loss of character, rather than covering up walls with canvas and posters.

      • Kevin English says:

        Cherry
        This is my Great Grandfather’s home, built by him about 1860, I have been in side when my Grandfather lived there and it was a dump. My Grandfather died in 1971 and the home fell into disrepair. The couple that have leased it from NPWS of NSW have done a wonderfull job and I dare say that they will continue to do more as time permits. I hope this helps with you appreciation of the work sofar.

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