Since moving to Singleton in the 1970s, Vivien Dwyer has been a keeper of history and memories.
In a series of sketchbooks - 46 in total, of up to 150 pages each - she had recorded old buildings and landscapes as they were at an exact moment in time.
Alongside the sketches and watercolour works are her beautifully scribed notes, of personal observations and her thoughts of that day, peppered with historical facts and architectural details.
"They're quite diaristic," says curator Faye Neilson, "with all of Vivien's associated thoughts written in there. There's something so beautiful about that because it's recorded in the moment, on-site, in that place. It's poetic."
The exhibition, titled The Art of Being Here, also has works from further afield including a lengthy sojourn Dwyer made to Monet's Garden in Giverny, France, and a stint at Duntroon military training base in Canberra painting imagery for a book.
Many of the buildings and places depicted in the sketchbooks either no longer exist or have been remodelled by progress.
For instance, Ravensworth Homestead - which she documented in a watercolour and pen work on May 18, 1999, between 2-5pm - is now owned by a mining company. There are controversial plans to have it taken apart and put back together somewhere else, preserving the structure but altering the in-situ aspect of heritage.
Dwyer says she started the sketchbooks "through guilt". Her husband worked in mining and the evidence of change wrought on a landscape by the industry was right before her eyes when they moved to Singleton.
"I started to try to record what I saw as the important heritage," she says.
The couple had moved from the Kalgoorlie region in Western Australia where Dwyer was entranced by the architectural remains of gold rushes.
As a teacher at the time, she says she encouraged her students "to value their place".
"So I'd go around sketching their little houses or the poppet heads of the mines," Dwyer says. "My sketchbook was really a journal for capturing information, and well beyond what I was looking at."
The sketchbooks offer a "double-sided view", she says.
"It's not just artistic, it's to collect the thoughts and feelings." And, to retain memories.
Turning the pages of those books is a transportive experience for Dwyer. "The sketches take me to the moment, they make the story," she says. "Once you open the page, wherever you are, it's in front of you now. You turn the page, it's a new day."
As a newcomer to the Hunter Valley back in the '70s, Dwyer was also trying to find a "sense of belonging".
She saw the significance of her work to locals when they started commissioning her. Many of the works in the sketchbooks are studies for paintings to be worked up in the studio.
Her task, she realised, was to get into the core of what people didn't want to forget about a place - "to retain their memories for them".
When the exhibition was devised, the concept was based on the richness within the covers of Dwyer's sketchbooks.
Curator Faye Neilson sought out some commissioned paintings to display paired with the sketches. A call-out to the community reaped more than expected, with Neilson receiving more than 80 works. She expanded the exhibition to include them all.
"It was such a lovely thing, I didn't want anyone who brought a work in to miss out," Neilson says.
"It has historical significance for the town as well. It's apparent this is very important, it's like she's a keeper of memories for people.
"She's an artist who's identified by Singleton as their own."
Dwyer says the exhibition, as it evolved, represents the "collective memory" of a community. "We can collect our memories and hold onto them forever," she says. "Their memories will be returned."
New memories will be created, too, with Dwyer doing sketches at the gallery of those who come to see her observations.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.