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Whether it’s a favourite coffee mug at work, or a tea cup that brings back happy childhood memories, every cup has a story to tell. In Town Hall Gallery’s latest Community Exhibition ‘The Good Cups’, a group of 19 local artists share paintings of their favourite cups and the stories and memories associated with them. Originating as an initiative of teacher Linda Judge, the group has been meeting to paint together for more than 20 years at the Camberwell Community Centre.

When Joy Barnett selected her subject for this exhibition, she discovered that a beautiful antique cup and saucer she thought belonged to her beloved mother-in-law, was actually a cup from T2. She says ‘I had no idea where this had come from, so I did some sleuthing and low and behold, it was a gift to my daughter from an old boyfriend’.

Sometimes your cup is the only really personal object that belongs to you in a workplace. It might be a gift from a loved one or perhaps something that allows you to express your personality in an otherwise rigid and sterile environment. People often chat about their cups and how they came to acquire them. In the story accompanying her painting, Julie Kelcey shares her guilty pleasure, ‘Sometimes, when people move from the workplace, they leave their cup behind. It can almost seem like they are leaving a memory or reminder behind, so they will not be forgotten. I like to drink from these cups and announce that I am using “so-and-so”’s cup. It feels like I am disobeying the rules.’

Helen Braun’s cup story comes from her time working in the advertising industry. ‘Lucky for me, many of my co-workers were fun, vibrant and colourful to be around. However, in the staff kitchen look out if you used one of their trendy, designer mugs. You’d be hunted down and sometimes their looks could kill.’ To overcome this, Helen would always look for the “unloved mug”, alone at the back of the shelf. She was delighted to discover one day that her Creative Director did exactly the same thing, and that he too came from a large family. Helen says, ‘When you’re from a large family, you learn to go with the flow and any mug is a go.’

Artists share a myriad of stories in the exhibition, many reminiscing about conversations and times shared over a cuppa. When Margaret Poiesz and Melanie Jacobsen drink from their favourite cups, they are reminded of their mothers who have passed away. Jill Nicol thanks her father, who bought her two rose tea mugs knowing how much she admired the work of botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

‘The Good Cups’ brings together both painting and storytelling, highlighting unrepresented artists from Boroondara who use still life painting and writing to access memory and personal narratives.  See the paintings and read these charming stories online now as part of Town Hall Gallery’s online exhibitions.

Banner image credit left to right: Margot CAMPBELL, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 41 x 30 cm; Christie CURATOLO, Untitled, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 cm; Helen BRAUNS, Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 cm. Images courtesy of the artists.