The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place

Gordon Syron, 70, is a celebrated Worimi/Biripi painter, educator and political activist from the north coast of NSW. Here he talks about the presence of art and culture on the Block in Redfern for the interactive documentary The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place.

In 1979, he held his first art exhibition at the Murawina preschool building on the Block. Several prominent people attended the exhibition, including: former Supreme Court Judge Adrian Roden QC; Redfern icon Shirley Smith (also known as Mum Shirl); and the famous Indigenous singer Jimmy Little, who sang a song.

Gordon first took up painting whilst serving a 10-year murder sentence in Long Bay prison for shooting a man in a land rights dispute over his family’s land.

His prison experience has had a profound influence on his life. The mistreatment of Indigenous people by the criminal justice system features heavily in his artwork.

In 1982, following his release, he co-founded the Eora College of Aboriginal Arts in Chippendale with Bobby Merrit. The college continues to play an important role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.

Gordon and his wife Elaine, through their interactions with many prominent Indigenous artists from all over Australia, have amassed a significant collection of Aboriginal art, known as the Keeping Place collection.

The collection is the largest of its kind, featuring 2000 artworks, and includes many exquisite examples of urban Aboriginal art. Until November 2010, the couple lived with the collection in a shed in Redfern. The couple is currently fighting to find the collection a permanent home.