July 5, 1945 – July 3, 2015
THE Gallery has lost one of its greatest supporters, and a key member of Friends of Orange Regional Gallery (FORG), with the recent passing of Gregson Edwards.
Gregson had a life-long interest in the visual arts – both collecting art and assisting artists and galleries. He had a particular commitment to contemporary Australian painting and sculpture and I was fortunate to view his remarkable collection, which had been assembled despite a career largely spent abroad working in media and public relations.
It was rare for Gregson, and his wife Maria, not to be in attendance at exhibition launches and other Gallery events. Indeed, Gregson was the first member of the arts community I met at the first launch I attended as Gallery Director in August last year. His great passion for and knowledge about art, and his mischievous sense of humour were immediately evident in this initial exchange.
Even when Gregson’s illness was taking hold he did not let it slow him down too much, arriving at the Gallery’s most recent event, the Tim Winters exhibition launch on June 12, with his oxygen tank in tow. During the evening Gregson contributed to the celebratory sense of occasion, entertaining many with his larger-than-life stories and anecdotes, as he had always done.
Gregson’s ideas, infectious enthusiasm and never-give-up attitude made him a great, if occasionally formidable, FORG committee member, according to Ros Kemp, President of FORG. His main contribution was his constant wish to “think big” and his determination to see things through despite apparent difficulties.
Ros described Gregson as generous, a truly community-minded person, who wanted art to be accessible to all. “He insisted that excellence was the key to encouraging people to take art seriously.”
Excellence of course could be humorous, daring, challenging, obscure – but never dull. Gregson believed that art is a celebration of life, in all its facets. He believed that we should nurture artists and encourage galleries to show their work in the best possible manner. To that end he worked hard to support Orange Regional Gallery, not only in fund raising which he did so well, but in encouraging interesting and challenging dialogue about art and society.
Ros recounts that it was Gregson’s brilliant idea that FORG celebrate Alan Sisley’s life by initiating the Alan Sisley Memorial Oration and it was through his efforts that former Director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Edmund Capon, appeared as the speaker at the inaugural oration held in March this year.
Who but Gregson would have taken on the debate at the rugby club? Who but Gregson would emphatically insist that the word “oration” was the best tribute for Alan Sisley? It is this broad-ranging mind of a long-time Labor man, political analyst, communications expert, art lover and family man that made working with Gregson such a joy.
Above all, Gregson’s entertaining stories, contagious laugh, strong opinions and often wicked sense of humour kept the FORG committee and broader arts community on its toes, or collapsed with laughter. He will be sorely missed by all.
He was a good friend and passionate supporter of the arts.