Two examples of seizing the day collide when north east Victorian artist, Alan Phillips presents Carpe Diem – Collages from the Diaries at the Old Beechworth Gaol in September.

The exhibition is a retrospective, presenting 40 years of commentary on historic and current significant world events. Mr Phillips has been keeping visual diaries for 40 years and brings his sense of humour, inquiring mind and life experience to Carpe Diem, as he interprets the consequences of people seizing the day.

“The Old Beechworth Gaol offers a great venue for such an exhibition. In this case, it’s all the more relevant because the opportunity wouldn’t exist if it were not for 49 mostly local people who nearly two years ago bought back the gaol. They seized the day and here’s an example of the consequences,” Mr Phillips said.

Whether they be quirky, dramatic or life-changing, the exhibition of 32 works documents such events as The Evolution of the Vespa, 9/11, Nirvana and the Uluru Handback, just to name a few.

One of the bigger pieces at 400 X 1500mm, the Evolution of the Vespa – Leonardo da Vinci reflects Alan’s deep interest and research into the history of art, but also his sense of humour, connecting the use of carp fish to the exhibition title, Carpe Diem.

“I had a bit of fun with it. I was looking into da Vinci’s inventions and propose that he might have used rotting carp to test some of his designs. Also, that I found his primary school report in the archives. The competition between da Vinci and Michelangelo was all a bit serious, so I felt it needed lightening up a bit,” Mr Phillips said.

While Evolution of the Vespa is a mix of the serious and the light-hearted, Alan also uses his art to challenge many historic developments including the Uluru Handback informed through many years working with Indigenous communities.

Alan graduated in industrial design from RMIT and worked for two years as a graphic designer before training as an art teacher and then teaching in an Aboriginal school in Alice Springs for 10 years.

There he made formative connections and the genesis of his style can be traced back to the years he spent in Central Australia. He regards this as one of the most influential periods of his life, as a teacher, artist and person.

“I learned then from my students and their families and continue to learn now from the elders and traditional owners to stop, listen and observe,” he said.

The collages feature pages from his diaries and materials gathered from cities around the world.

As an established artist in north east Victoria and in the Northern Territory, Mr Phillips is known for his landscapes, including paintings after the 2009 fires and in the NT for his desert paintings from central Australia. His works are contained in permanent collections in the NT and Victoria.

Carpe Diem – Collages from the Diaries opens at 6pm on Friday, 14 September and then daily from 10am to 2pm until 24 September at the Old Beechworth Gaol. Entry is free.