My Holiday Moments – Discovering Art and Artists

Why I haven’t been in my studio 🙂

Well, I started my holiday with an overnight stay in Brisbane to be sure e weren’t held up on the Bruce Highway before our early morning flight to Darwin. It was such a bonus to discover that the Monet in Paris Exhibition was opening that week, just near where we were staying.

Like so many others, I have always been inspired and influenced by the French Impressionists. Being totally enveloped in this beautiful installation was like a dream, so surreal.

I thought it was an amazing kick-off for our holiday, but it was just the beginning of my discovering so many wonderful artists over the following weeks.

The first rock paintings I saw were at Kakadu. For thousands of years Aboriginal artists have ground the pigments from the soil to create their artworks. I was overwhelmed by the history held in this rock, worn away by so many hands grinding the clay, stone on stone, over the centuries.

The following day we took a trip to Arnhem Land Miwatj. I’ve often loved painting and sketching Pandanas trees here on the east coast. However, I had never known that Aboriginals have been using them for food, health, art and craft (example of Pandanas in left image). The roots of the tree (right/centre above the rock) are used to create the ochre dye, I forget the name of the plant. The red dye is from berries. For weaving, part of the process is to tear the long leaves thinly. When I saw this delicate little basket with the ochre-dyed and berry-dyed thin pandanus threads I knew I had to buy it. The artist is Ethlit Lungguy.

The following day we went to different areas of Kakadu and Arnhem Land. Our guide was a local Aboriginal man who demonstrated the art of throwing a spear using a woomera to give more speed and distance. He had made the woomera, and it was surprisingly light to hold. He was also an artist and sculptor and represented in galleries. His friend. also represented internationally, was kind enough to allow me photograph him painting.

I’m embarrassed to say it was all very new to me, I thought all Aboriginal art was similar. This was the day I learned that lined artworks are created by people of this area. The lower-right image is a small artwork on bark that I purchased at the artists’ co-op, I chose it for two reasons. Firstly, because I identify with the Goanna, as we often get goannas, lizards, and monitors wandering through our garden here in Maleny. Secondly, because I had learnt a little about the traditional ochre colours and local line art. The artist is John Lemibanda.

We spent a few days in Darwin before catching the Ghan to Adelaide. Archie 100 was exhibiting at The Northern Territory Art Gallery. So many amazing portraits by extraordinary artists. I was thrilled to see that one of my favourites was there – Portrait of Albert Namatjira 1956, painted by William Dargie who had 45 Archibald Prize works between 1934-1986.

The watercolour landscape paintings by Albert Namatjira of the MacDonnell Ranges and Standley Chasm are familiar to us all I’m sure. It was wonderful to wander through the area and see the rich colours in person. Standley Chasm Angkerle Atwatye is privately owned and operated by the Western Arrernte people. I learnt a little about Dot painting while there. One of the Elder ladies took a group of us. I discovered a little about the legends and symbols. Our boomerangs were to tell the story of our own homes. So mine portrays mountains, trees, people, and birds. Because our home is built on an old Cobb and Co Stop and resting area for the horses I added the symbol for travel/trek and tree stops. It was a really enjoyable, learning experience.

That evening the Ghan arranged a Dinner Under the Stars in the dessert for us all at the Old Telegraph Station. Surrounded by artists – blacksmiths, singers, musicians, chefs – Oh the joy!

When I had three babies under three, in the early 1970’s, a dear friend used to mind the boys one morning a week so I could go to art classes. I studied for a few years under Nola Seidel at The Plympton School of Art, South Australia. It was Still Life painting, week in, week out. Excellent grounding though. Sometimes, I painted, or tried to, landscapes at home and would take them in for her critique. She suggested to me that I should go into the South Australian Art Gallery and study the colours that Hans Heysen used in his landscapes – and so I did.

It was such a thrill to visit his studio in Hahndorf, to see the worn carpet where he continually had worked at his easel. Everything was set up, the brushes, the stool, it was as though he had just stepped out of the studio a moment before we arrived.

Hans Heysen’s dedication to his art is amazing. He would do a draft and a re-draft before settling on a final composition. He would spend lengthy time in the hills, traveling, camping, and working en plein air.

I have always loved his landscapes, but the family home also has beautiful examples of his portraits and still life paintings. The Cedars – well worth a visit if you are in the Adelaide Hills.

My Holiday Moments – Inspiring Landscapes


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