On the Move: The Dion Family

WOLLONGONG ART GALLERY, WOLLONGONG. 30 NOVEMBER 2019 – 23 FEBURARY 2020.

Artists: Pia Johnson, Naomi Segal and more to be announced.

Venue: Wollongong Art Gallery, 46 Burelli Street, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Delving through more than a century of the Dion family, an indelible part of the Illawarra’s social fabric as members of the Chinese diaspora and operators of the region’s bus services, On the Move tells a story of migration, survival, acceptance and community spirit of a remarkable family through archival material and responses from contemporary artists.

The Dion family, whose name evolved from Chong Da On to Chong Di On then Di On before eventually settling with Dion, arrived in Australia in the late 1800s as part of a larger migration driven by the prospects of alluvial goldmining. The family eventually arrived in the Illawarra in 1907, where they quickly established themselves as prominent members of the community, playing an important role in creating the multicultural social fabric of the Illawarra that we know today. They did this by building on a successful market garden family business before forming a bus service in 1923, which imparted a great community sentiment over the decades through their committed service and hospitality. The company was established by Tom Dion who commandeered a 1923 Model T Ford fitted with timber seating to accommodate twenty passengers. The family, over several generations, are widely admired by the residents of the Illawarra, with a particular fondness for the memory that during the Great Depression the Dions routinely allowed locals to ride their buses free of charge if they could not pay fares due to mass unemployment and economic hardship. The Dion’s Bus Service continues to operate a fleet of buses in Wollongong and surrounds today.

The Dion family story represents a fascinating example of the important contributions Chinese-Australians have made to Australia and, indeed, the nation’s perception of itself as an inclusive and culturally diverse society. This exhibition at Wollongong Art Gallery presents a selection of curated objects drawn from the family’s vast archive of material, along with the presentation of new commissions by contemporary Australian artists that distil this historical archive and history.

Artist Biographies

Pia Johnson: Born 1983, Melbourne., Australia. Pia Johnson is a photographer and visual artist, whose practice seeks to investigate issues about cultural difference, diaspora and identity. She also has a strong practice in portrait and performance photography, working with major and independent arts organisations in Australia. Pia has exhibited throughout Australia, the USA, China, Japan and Mexico. She has been a finalist in many photography awards, and is regularly invited as a guest speaker and artistic advisor for a range of organisations. Her work is collected in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria. Recent highlights include solo exhibitions Cusp (2019) at Stockroom, She that came before me (2018) at Manningham Art Gallery, being a finalist in the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize (2019), group exhibition All That We Can’t See (2018), her curatorial exhibitions The Family Mantle (2018) and Chinese Whispers and Other Stories (2017), and an artistic residency at National University of Singapore (2018).

Naomi Segal: Naomi Segal is an emerging artist and curator engaging with contemporary Asian and diasporic art. In her art-making practice she is drawn to cultural recovery, remembrance and love – specifically how the love of her Shanghainese family traverses linguistic and cultural barriers. Recent art awards include the Girl Genius Award (2018), Little Things Art Prize (2017) and Art Speaks Japanese (2016). She is mentored by Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE and is a studio resident at the Broadway X 4A Creative Space. Her first curatorial project was Peach Blossom Spring at Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney.