In the studio with the 2014 Deadly Art Award winner

At the end of a winding driveway lined with eucalypts, nestled on acreage in the rolling hills of Bellbrae is the home and studio of Jenny Crompton, who recently won the Deadly Art Award as part of the 2014 Victorian Indigenous Art Awards held at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Her property is a peaceful oasis of bushland with the pleasant warble of magpies and other birdsong ringing through the valley. Inside her studio, artworks in various states of progress are crammed into every nook and cranny: abstract paintings inspired by macro photography of seaweed lean against the exposed brick wall, boxes of dried seaweed which Jenny calls “shrapnel” or “fluff” sit on makeshift shelves, and long black strands of seaweed, like unravelled cassette tapes, hang from a piece of dowel. In one corner a pile of books about art and aboriginal history totter precariously.

Jenny has lived in Bellbrae with her partner and son for four years, devoting many hours to her art which is informed by natural materials and expresses her relationship to the land. She has been experimenting with different varieties of seaweed, collected from nearby beaches, to create sculptural forms. It is a process of trial and error, both laborious and unique. Now all the hard work has paid off for her with the $30,000 Deadly Art Award win.

Jenny with her winning work-1Jenny Crompton with her award winning work Gathering at Godocut at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Photo: Nigel Clements

Jenny’s winning work, Gathering at Godocut, is crafted from seaweed and binder. It comprises twenty-five long shapes similar in form to aboriginal tapping sticks and message sticks. These delicate and intricately laced sculptures, in pink, black, white and brown, appear to hover, gently swaying as people move past them. Her work pays tribute to her indigenous ancestors of the Wada Wurrung people.

“My piece is about celebration,” Jenny explains from her studio. “The fineness of these people – magnificent and resourceful. My work is celebrating them and I have tried to use natural materials in a way that hasn’t been seen before.”

Jenny Crompton in her studio-1
Jenny Crompton at work in her studio. Photo: Brett Kiteley.

Jenny’s art practice is deeply personal and conveys a strong sense of place and connection to the past. The title of the work plays on the word ‘gathering’, referring to her practice of collecting objects from the beach but also to the gathering of her ancestors who once frequented the Point Addis area, called ‘Godocut’ in Wada Wurrung language.

“Collecting the seaweed before it disintegrates resonates with what happened to Wada Wurrung cultural life,” Jenny says. She has been learning everything she can about the Wada Wurrung since discovering her aboriginal ancestry about five years ago.

“I have just finished reading a book about the Bunting Dale mission in Birregurra. It is highly informative and incredibly devastating. It was a horrible book to read but it had to be read. Basically the white settlers just had the right to kill.” The book, Campfires at the Cross, by Heather Le Griffon gives an account of aboriginal-settler relationships in south western Victoria in the 19th century and in doing so reveals the horrifying injustices many aboriginals experienced at the hands of the colonists.

A self confessed “fiddler” and avid beachcomber, Jenny’s art practice is process driven. She says the best part is scouring the beach for interesting finds.

“When I collect things on the beach everything else just shuts out. It is so relaxing to do. You let everything go. That is the really special part of gathering,” Jenny says. “By gathering and preparing seaweeds I acquaint myself with activities that have been happening here for thousands of years.”

Jenny Crompton beachcombingJenny beachcombing along the Surfcoast. Photo: Brett Kiteley
Jenny with her dog
Photo: Brett Kiteley.
Jenny Crompton-1Photo: Brett Kiteley

Seaweed is a tricky medium to work with and Jenny has had to endure many failures along the way as she developed her technique. She is fascinated by the seaweed’s different shapes and subtle hues and she uses a variety of drying methods to preserve the colour. Once the seaweed has dried on sheets of glass, which can take up to 12 months, Jenny rolls the seaweed in a watery binder and slips it over a foam mould, sometimes redoing it three or four times to achieve the right strength and consistency.

Besides pioneering new ways of working with unusual materials, Jenny also works in more traditional mediums such as paint and ink. Over the years she has developed her gift for making things to include basket weaving, woodcarving and metalwork. She travelled extensively in Indonesia where she learnt traditional woodcarving techniques and spent time in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, learning how to make filigree jewellery. “I’m a big soldering lady,” she laughs. “Filigree is one of my favourite artforms.” Her affinity for filigree can be seen in the intricate lacelike structure of Gathering at Godocut.

Jenny was surprised to win the Deadly Art Award but gratified that the judges could see what she was trying to express.

“I am still in shock. Having your work judged is a scary thing. I have worked really hard and I have tried to present what I feel, in here,” Jenny says, tapping her chest. “The judges got everything I said.”

Crompton, Jenny, Gathering at Godocut
Jenny Crompton, Gathering at Godocut. Photo: Nigel Clements

The fragility and strength of the work impressed the three judges, who independently chose it as the winning piece. They said they were impressed by the “delicate construction techniques, the sensory elements and the carefully considered installation”.

This year’s judges were Tina Baum, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, National Gallery of Australia; Tom Mosby, CEO, Koorie Heritage Trust; and Carole Wilson, Senior Lecturer, Honours and Research Degrees Co-ordinator, Faculty of Education and Arts, Federation University Australia.

More than $50,000 in prizes were presented at the Awards ceremony, with Wonthaggi artist Patrice Mahoney receiving the $5,000 Federation University Australia Acquisitive Award and Deanne Gilson of Brown Hill, Ballarat, receiving the Australian Catholic University Acquisitive Award, also with a $5,000 prize.

Other Award winners included Footscray artist Paola Balla, and Glennys Briggs, a Victorian-born artist now based in Maudsland, Queensland, who took out the Copyright Agency Limited’s Awards, for three dimensional works and works on paper, respectively.

The exhibition of the 35 shortlisted works is on display at the Art Gallery of Ballarat until 5 October 2014. The exhibition features a diverse range of works including basket weaving, woodwork, photography, painting, video and sculpture.

Group_Winners -1Indigenous art award winners (left to right) Paola Balla, Patrice Mahoney, Cynthia Hardie, Deanne Gilson, Jenny Crompton and Lisa Waup. Photo: Nigel Clements

If you can’t get up to Ballarat this week you can still see the works online here and cast your vote for the $2,500 Arts Victoria Peoples’ Choice Award. Voting closes tomorrow Monday 29 September so you will have to be quick!

Victorian Indigenous Art Awards 2014
Art Gallery of Ballarat
40 Lydiard St N, Ballarat VIC 3350
P (03) 5320 5858
Posted in Announcements, Art, Art Award, Australian Indigenous Art, Sculpture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

art@wintergarden celebrates ten years

Welcome to our new guest contributor, Linda Edgerton who is usually busy writing her health and lifestyle blog over at Lollypop but she also has an interest in the arts and has kindly contributed this interview with Jill Shalless, artist and proprietor of the art@wintergarden gallery. The gallery is celebrating its 10 years of operation and here we discover some of Jill’s highlights over the last decade and what’s ahead for the Wintergarden. Special thanks to Linda for organising this, and congratulations to Jill and staff at art@wintergarden for supporting the Geelong art community for a decade.


Jill Shalless at Wintergarden
Jill Shalless at art@wintergarden. (Image courtesy art@wintergarden)

Celebrating its tenth year in 2014 art@wintergarden is a vibrant art space that continues to evolve and build its presence in Geelong. Located upstairs in the iconic Wintergarden building, it includes an active art studio and atmospheric gallery that hosts a rotation of monthly exhibitions, traditional and contemporary, showcasing art works of excellence including landscapes, still life, portraiture and sculptures. The emphasis of the gallery is on local content with 90% of exhibitions showcasing the breadth and depth of talent in the region.

Jill Shalless, resident artist and proprietor of art@wintergarden, shared some of the highlights of the last decade and the exhibitions coming up over the next few months.

Congratulations on ten years of Wintergarden! Which exhibitions of the last ten years stand out for you?

The 2013 sculpture show transformed the gallery and received amazing feedback, and has now become part of the annual exhibition programme. The 2nd Annual Sculpture Exhibition at art@wintergarden opens 5 September and runs until 29 September 2014. This year sees the return of many contributors along with many new sculptors bringing together 19 artists. Visitors can meander between the plinths and gaze across the balcony, taking in stunning glass wear, various textures of steel bronze and ceramics with concepts both humorous and thought provoking, a feast for the eyes.

A stand out memory of the last ten years is the Plein air field trips to Marysville, before and after the devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. This led to two exhibitions validating the power of art as a vehicle to express and share deep emotions and memory.

I’m also proud that for seven consecutive years art@wintergarden has hosted an International Women’s Day exhibition and fundraiser.

The exhibition Le Jardin de ma mere was the first time we combined theatre and art, with booked out performances.

art@wintergarden has also hosted five consecutive years of Friday Printmakers exhibitions, the most recent in July 2014 was a resounding success.

Another highlight was the friends of Studio Girasole , a tribute exhibition celebrating the contributions of the late Bruno Callori.

The recent Ten 4 Ten exhibition was wonderful because it brought together some of the exceptional artists who’ve played a part in the gallery’s success over the last ten years, not only through their art, but their giving of time, ideas and friendship. The opening of Ten 4 Ten was a joyful celebration. Artists featured included Bruno Callori, Victoria Edgar, Lianne Gough, Mick Kupresanin, Jacinta Leitch, Mirjana Margetic, Faye Owen, Steve Parkhill, Louise Price and myself.

What are some other highlights and fondest memories for you at Wintergarden?

2012 saw art@wintergarden employ Chantelle Campbell as Gallery Assistant. This is an exciting development and she brings to the gallery a wealth of experience. Chantelle manages the social media, press releases, administration and supports myself enormously in an advisory capacity. Working at the gallery on Fridays, Chantelle’s contribution is a significant part of art@wintergarden’s success.

The Sculpture exhibition [currently showing during September] has been Chantelle’s brain child introducing some world renowned sculptors to our gallery along with emerging and familiar artists, due to her vast experience. Because of the success of the first dedicated Sculpture exhibition Chantelle once again put her skills to work and curated this second exhibition, bringing together more extraordinary contributors to mount a very impressive exhibition.

Being part of and watching the growth of Geelong’s art culture is extremely satisfying. Our focus remains on the world-class talent of the local art community. Being in a smaller community such as Geelong has made it easy to make close connections and friendships with other artists in the region. The great support, encouragement and ongoing patronage of the business has kept my enthusiasm to evolve and grow art@wintergarden.

In 2011 art@wintergarden received the Best Micro Business Award in the Geelong Advertiser Business Excellence Awards. This was a wonderful recognition of our commitment and achievements.

For five years I’ve also been involved with Council in submitting proposals for arts grants in conjunction with the Bluebird Foundation to present Masters in the Making, an exhibition for junior artists giving them an opportunity to reach for the stars. It is truly delightful to sit on my studio steps and chat with a young person and hear their ideas on art and be inspired by their enthusiasm. You never know what new door it may open.

The Wintergarden building, with its café and shops downstairs, has been a good fit for the gallery. Can you tell us about being part of Wintergarden?

The Wintergarden ambience adds a unique quality to the gallery and allows versatility of exhibitions, design markets and performing arts programs. Sometimes we’ve hosted music and theatre in conjunction with the artwork bringing a different sensibility to an exhibition. The compatibility of all businesses in The Wintergarden creates a complimentary clientele and sense of business community. The beautiful architecture has an extraordinary quality and continually delights visitors.

Wintergarden gallery view
Gallery view of art@wintergarden. (Image courtesy art@wintergarden)

Another part of the business is the studios. What’s it like having your studio located alongside the gallery? What are you currently working on in your own art?

art@wintergarden is a working studio space, as well as a gallery. The studio is the best space in the building with perfect south light. Despite being cosy, the adjacent mezzanine floor makes it feel extensive. The buzz of activity and interaction with the public is stimulating for me and painting in public breaks down the mystery of making art, I often find helpful comments are exchanged. Small classes and workshops are enjoyed by many here. Where else can you have roof top views from superb arched windows and coffee as required? My most recent body of work focussed on some of Geelong’s landscape features, such as the Barwon River, Botanic Gardens, Dog Rock’s and more. Currently I have some commission work to attend to and I’m exploring some art prize entries.

Jill Shalless_Nestled in a bed of Salvia
Jill Shalless, Nestled in a bed of salvias. (Image courtesy the artist.)
Jill Shalless_A day at the seaside
Jill Shalless, A day at the seaside. (Image courtesy the artist.)
Jill Shalless painting in her studio
Jill Shalless painting in her studio, upstairs in the Wintergarden building.

We also have other artists come in and give individual or small-group classes here. Currently we have Lucy Hardie presenting one-day drawing workshops.

What’s coming up during Spring and Summer at the gallery?

The last four months of 2014 will be huge for art@wintergarden, we have a wonderful program booked in.

I’m very excited about the 2014 Sculpture Exhibition from 5 – 29 September. Again the gallery will draw on outstanding artists from around regional and city centres throughout Victoria and interstate. These artists have employed varied mediums such as timber, steel, glass, stone and porcelain. [You can read about the inaugural 2013 sculpture exhibition here.]

This year’s exhibition features artists David and Lyn Dickson, Donal Molloy Drum, Cas Duff, Jia Xin Nong, Mark Cairns, Victoria Edgar, Brian Keyte, Jacinta Leitch, Philip Stokes, Deb Taylor, Stefan Nechwatal, Phillip Doggett-Williams, Gregor Wallace, Nadia Mercuri, Melinda Solly, Ana Hernandez Y Jensen, Steve Drew and Cinnamon and Rowan Stephens.

Core stoneware by Brian Kyete
Core stoneware by Brian Kyete. (Image courtesy art@wintergarden.)
Nadia Mercuri Trientalis Borialis
Nadia Mercuri, Trientalis Borialis. (Image courtesy the artist.)

In October, art@wintergarden will host the Waites Robson Stonemason 150th Anniversary Art Show, which also promises to be stunning.

Jo Kemerer Beautiful Sorrow
Joanne Kemerer, Beautiful Sorrow, created for the Waites Robson Stonemason 150th Anniversary Art Show. (Image courtesy the artist.)

In November, the gallery will present Red, artists exploring the pallette of Red. Themed exhibitions always show the diversity and extension of artistic ideas and possibilities.

December has become the month to focus on a specific Geelong icon or iconic view. Past themes have included the Eastern Beach steps, St Mary’s church, the You Yangs, and this year will showcase paintings of the Barwon River by regional artists.

This year was the seventh year of the Annual Gallery Program of monthly exhibitions. There’s still a lot of scope and support for art@wintergarden and I’m already looking towards 2015 for what we can offer. If only we could accommodate all of our ideas!

51 McKillop Street, Geelong
Open daily 10am – 4 pm

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2014 Geelong contemporary art prize winner

The blog has been quiet of late but it would be remiss of me not to cover the prestigious $30,000 Geelong contemporary art prize which opened last night to a buzzing crowd of about 500 people. Doors opened at 6.00 pm and there was almost a stampede to get in! This exhibition, encompassing what Geoffrey Edwards accurately described as “the astonishing vitality and sophistication of current Australian painting”, is a real treat for anyone interested in contemporary painting practice. Thanks so much to the Gallery and Dimmick Charitable Trust for presenting such an excellent exhibition that reflects the diversity in Australian contemporary painting and proves yet again that painting is as relevant as it ever was. There is only one winner but to my mind the quality of work on display suggests that the prize could have gone to any number of works. (Another blog post perhaps?) Congratulations to all the artists shortlisted for the prize and in particular to the winner of the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize, Rob McHaffie who took out the prize with his work Preserve this fruit which has been acquired by the Gallery.
Here is the media release from Geelong Gallery announcing the winner.


A bright, colourful and whimsical work by 36 year old Melbourne-based artist Rob McHaffie is the winner of the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize, Geelong Gallery’s biennial acquisitive award for contemporary painting.

Rob McHaffie’s Preserve this fruit is highly representative of the artist’s practice in which he presents small vignettes of observed everyday life: portraits of characters both real and imagined. His vibrant paintings skilfully simulate the appearance of collage: each of the compositions’ elements derived from various source materials or pages of magazines. This award winning work—the first by McHaffie to be acquired by the Geelong Gallery—depicts a singular figure of an elderly man in profile in a style reminiscent of Asian shadow puppets and temple paintings.

Rob McHaffie Preserve this fruitWinner—2014 Geelong contemporary art prize
Rob McHaffie
Preserve this fruit 2013
oil on linen
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.

The artist’s interest in these traditional art forms flourished during a 2011 Asialink residency at Rimbun Dahan, near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Following this he lived in Thailand for an extended period of time, where he worked with cut paper to create collages: ‘sketches’ that form the basis for his paintings. Just as the figure in this work is ‘constructed’ from paper cut from the pages of a magazine, McHaffie constructs an imaginary narrative between this elderly gentleman—representative of traditional Thai life—and the silk entrepreneur Jim Thompson, who in the years after the Second World War, reinvigorated the Thai silk industry.

As the artist states, ‘The figure in this painting is inspired by the traditional Thai folk painting styles that adorn the walls of great temples like Wat Pho [the Temple of the Reclining Buddha] in Bangkok. The old man represents the accommodating and good-humoured nature I have found in Thailand. He is part of a small narrative I was imagining about Jim Thompson first meeting with Thai locals. The conversation might go, “Hello Jim my name, I’m very interested in preserving your silk culture here.” The old man may answer, “You can preserve this fruit if you like”.’

‘Thai culture seems to have changed so rapidly from the idyllic life depicted on the temple walls to Thai Vogue and the Jim Thompson scarves you can now buy at Suvarnabhumi International Airport,’ Mr McHaffie explained.

The announcement of the prize-winning work was made by guest judge, Charlotte Day (Director, Monash University Museum of Art) at the opening of the exhibition on Friday 29 August, 6.00–8.00pm. Ms Day was joined in judging this year’s Prize by Geelong Gallery’s Director, Geoffrey Edwards, and Curator, Lisa Sullivan.

Geoffrey Edwards said, ‘Possibly even more so than in previous years, the 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize confirms the astonishing vitality and sophistication of current Australian painting within a wider stream of contemporary visual arts practice including the increasingly prominent screen-based and other new-media forms.’

‘Here in this exhibition we have both figuratively lavish and austere abstractions alike with aspects of the natural world featuring as strongly as social or political narrative,’ Mr Edwards explained.

Guest judge, Charlotte Day said Preserve this fruit, ‘reflects Rob McHaffie’s distinctive approach to painting involving processes of modeling and collaging. Although modest in scale, his paintings are sharply perceptive reflections on the paradoxes of contemporary life. As well as nodding to traditional Thai folk painting, this work can be appreciated as an allegory of Western and colonial attitudes to the East.’

‘In addition to the skillful ‘collaging’ of shapes, patterns and references, what most impressed us about this painting is its slow reveal. While seducing the viewer with its lush crimson background and bright, intricate designs in the first instance, it does not give itself away to the casual glance. It’s more like a puzzle that requires some thoughtful working out,’ Ms Day explained.

‘As well as creating dialogue with other contemporary and historical paintings in Geelong’s impressive collection, we envisage that it may also have resonance with artworks in other media, particularly the ceramic collection,’ Ms Day advised.

About Rob McHaffie

Born in Melbourne in 1978, Rob McHaffie completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drawing), Victorian College of the Arts in 2002. Additional to his recent Malaysian residency, he has been awarded the prestigious Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2007) and an artist’s studio at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (2005). He has also been the recipient of the Art & Australia/Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award (2012); Linden Postcard Award (2003); and VCA Contemporary Drawing Prize (2002).

He has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas in both solo and group exhibitions including the 2014 Basil Sellers Art Prize, Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne; Volume One: MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2012–14); Model Pictures: James Lynch, Amanda Marburg, Rob McHaffie, Moya McKenna, Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne (2011), Art for Nature, Rimbun Dahan Gallery, Selangor, Malaysia (2011) and Primavera 06—Exhibition of Young Australian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2006).

McHaffie is represented in the collections of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne; and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

Rob McHaffie lives and works in Melbourne. He is represented by Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, and Brett McDowell Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Geelong Gallery wishes to thank the Dimmick Charitable Trust for generously sponsoring this signature event, which assists with the development of the Gallery’s collection while fostering Australian artists and contemporary painting practice in general.

Some 500 entries were received from around the country with 42 works by 45 artists selected to showcase the best of contemporary Australian painting practice. The 2014 Geelong contemporary art prize will be on display at Geelong Gallery until Sunday 23 November.


Rob McHaffie wins Geelong contemporary art prize
Rob McHaffie with his prize winning work at the Geelong contemporary art prize opening. (Image: Artin’ Geelong.)
Geoffrey Edwards Geelong contemporary art prize
The inimitable Geelong Gallery Director Geoffrey Edwards delivers a speech at the opening. (Image: Artin’ Geelong.)

And here are just a few more images of paintings in the exhibition. There is much more to see so I do hope you can get to the Geelong Gallery and enjoy this exhibition.

10_Emily Ferretti
Emily Ferretti
Together 2014
oil on linen
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne
20_Joanna LambJoanna Lamb
Airport lounge 2014
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and sullivan+strumpf, Sydney
30_Stieg PerssonStieg Persson
Cat and mouse 2013
oil on linen
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne & Sydney
33_Victoria ReicheltVictoria Reichelt
Flood 2014
oil on linen
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects, Melbourne
2014 Geelong contemporary art prize
30 August – 23 November 2014
Geelong Gallery
53 Little Malop St, Geelong Victoria 3220
Ph:  + 61 3 5229 3645
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Rosemary Coleman (1930-2014) artist

On Wednesday the 23rd of July 2014, Geelong artist, Rosemary Coleman after a long illness passed away at her home of natural causes. She was 84 years old.

Rosemary Coleman’s life as a serious contemporary artist with a thirty-two year career deserves to be remembered. Rosemary Coleman was a determined woman with a vivacious personality that was expressed in her art. She had delayed her artistic career by a couple of decades to be a housewife and mother but with her art she was her own woman. Her paintings are frequently abstractions of landscapes with female figures, for example, Women at Play (1989) a large acrylic painting in the collection of the Geelong Gallery.

Her art was part of the return to painting and she was interested in linear forms and the calligraphy of brush strokes. Her art was experimental, not in the sense of avant-garde but in that she kept on experimenting with how to express her vision in media from printing to painting. Every mark was an experiment in creating the image.

She was involved with the development of local Geelong art scene. In the 1980s and 1990s her work was often in group exhibitions at the Geelong Gallery. In 1983 Rosemary Coleman was included in the annual exhibition, Survey 5 at the Geelong Gallery along with a younger generation of local artists: Robert Drummond, Lachlan Fisher, Don Walters. Later in the 1980s Rosemary Coleman was amongst a half dozen artists who initiated Artery, the first artist-run gallery in Geelong. Rosemary also taught art history at the Geelong TAFE in 1980s. She also exhibited in Encounter Confrontation–Australia–Itay, a group exhibition exchange with a city in Italy organised by the Geelong Gallery.

The Geelong Gallery has two of her works in their collection: Mixed Media Man (1986) a coloured linocut and Women at Play (1989) a large acrylic painting. There are four of her works in Swan Hill Regional Gallery’s collection: two from 1987, Media Man and Graffiti, and two from 1992, Icarus flees the crowd and Icarus flees the hand.

There is also art by Rosemary Coleman in the collections of the Swan Hill Regional Gallery, Warrnambool Art Gallery, Swan Hill Regional Gallery, Deakin University, Geelong Grammar School and private collections. During her artistic career she had eleven solo exhibitions and many more group exhibitions in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Geelong, Castlemaine, Swan Hill, and overseas in Italy and Japan. In 1991 she received a high commendation in the Blake Prize for Religious Art. Her first solo exhibition was at Young Originals Gallery in Melbourne in 1974 and her last exhibition was at Rinaldi Gallery in Brunswick in 2006. Unfortunately in the 1970s and 1980s Australia’s contemporary art gallery scene was still a developing and Rosemary Coleman did not have good luck with the galleries representing her; she complained that they kept on closing down.

I first encountered Rosemary Coleman’s art in the lounge room of a shared house in Clayton where I lived for a year. I was surprised to learn that this work was by the mother of one of my housemates, John Coleman. John was always happy that his mother had her own interesting life as an artist. It was a mixed media work on paper with ‘J’ai froid’ (I am cold) written amongst the calligraphic brush stokes. It was appropriately located about the single, inadequate gas heater in the uninsulated, run-down weatherboard house. I would look at it and sympathise with Rosemary painting in a cold studio.

Since then I have seen her art regularly, at several of her exhibitions and hanging in the houses of friends from that shared house. In 1986 Niagara Galleries had an exhibition of her large abstract paintings. I remember one in particular, as it currently hangs in a friend’s living room, a densely coloured field of flowers and faces that has been painted over, obscured by a thick white swirls of brushstrokes and a cyan calligraphic gesture.

Rosemary Coleman
A detail of a Rosemary Coleman abstract, 1986. (Image courtesy Mark Holsworth, Black Mark)
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Time for Change

I am so busy these days that I am not able to devote much time to this blog focusing on the visual arts around Geelong. Now that I am studying, all my energy is going into my own art practice. I don’t want to give up the blog, but I am going to take a little break from it so I can concentrate on my work.

So to keep the blog going, if anyone out there would like to contribute a reflection about an art exhibition you have seen around Geelong, please send it to me with an image or two and I will publish it, if it is of interest. It doesn’t have to be long or academic – it only needs to be a paragraph or two – just a genuine, thoughtful response to an art exhibition, in Geelong. My email is artingeelong [at]

Here is an image of a painting by Geelong artist Shelley McKenzie that I saw yesterday at Boom Gallery. I love how Shelley layers her paintings with motifs from both her inner landscape and the outer world, to create demanding compositions of bold colour, line and form. She nails it in a style that is distinctly her own. You can see more of her paintings over on Boom’s website and read more about her work in a previous post here.

On the BlowerShelley McKenzie, On the Blower, acrylic on canvas, 110cm x 110cm. Image courtesy Boom Gallery.
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NAIDOC art exhibition in Geelong

Being the first week of July, it is NAIDOC week, a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.

The Gordon Gallery will mark the occasion with an exhibition of artwork by students and local indigenous artists. The exhibition runs next week from Monday 14 July to Friday 18 July, 10am until 4pm daily. An opening evening will held on Wednesday 16 July from 6 – 8pm, and all are welcome. Drinks & nibbles provided, no RSVP required.

NAIDOC Art Exhibition

And don’t forget the excellent 3-part series Art + Soul exploring the work of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists presented by curator Hetti Perkins (Tuesday evenings, July 8, 15 and 22 from 8.30 pm on ABC1). If you missed the first program last night, you can catch up with it on iview for the next couple of weeks. It is genuinely engaging, poignant and inspiring in equal measure and offers a real insight into the art practice of indigenous artists, showing how their work is informed by the past as much as the present.

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Time and Place exhibition at Metropolis Gallery

Paint may be considered an old fashioned medium these days but for me, nothing can beat a good painting that intrigues, inspires and moves me and demands closer inspection or later reflection. A fine exhibition of paintings, Time and Place, is currently showing at Metropolis Gallery by four artists, Ben Davis, Michael Gromm, Steve Singline and Phil Suter and is well worth a look if you can get there before the weekend. If fascinates me how differently the application of paint is expressed by the artists yet they are united by the common theme of time and place – places both real and imagined, places of the past, present and future.

Phil Suter, The Mill of Mystery, Acrylic & mixed media on Belgian linen, 76 x 101.5cm. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.

Phil Suter’s precise and meticulous paintings of iconic buildings and streetscapes around Geelong verge on the surreal and his strong use of complementary colours almost bowl the viewer over. The retro buildings are celebrated in glorious detail such as The Mill of Mystery, an historic 1920s art deco textile mill (recently reopened as the Little Creatures Brewery) and Rendezvous at Burnham Flats, a classic art deco building on Latrobe Terrace.

5. yplcyfmzttrclarityegrytuyt. 2014. oil, polymer on canvas. 107 x 134cmMichael Gromm, yplcyfmzttrclarityegrytuyt, Oil & polymer on canvas, 107 x 134cm. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.

Surrealism is taken to a new level in the process-driven work of Michael Gromm where time and space get lost in a seemingly random assortment of contrasting shapes, lines and striped patterns. The figurative and the abstract collide in a mash up of control and chaos where opposites are held in fine balance.

Ben Davis, Incident, oil on plywood, 24 x 26cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Ben Davis paints in a fluid gentle style, depicting imagined and half-remembered places that serve as a backdrop for unfolding narratives. He employs an aerial view in many of his paintings giving a cinematic feeling for the viewer, as though we are watching a movie. Ben creates compositions from sketches, internet images and memories so that the places depicted are familiar but not exact.

SteveSingline_YearnSteve Singline, Yearn  oil on canvas and masonite, 30 x 30cm. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.

Steve Singline’s series of paintings The Signs of Life, are textured and multi-layered, sanded back to reveal what is underneath or to convey a weathered surface that has been marked by the elements, a reference to the transitory nature of life. He uses text to explore the relationship between feelings and place, choosing words that have an emotional resonance.

The exhibition evoked memories and feelings about particular places for me as I pondered the intersection between time and place. A place can be defined by its physical characteristics, as so carefully observed in the paintings of Phil Suter and a place can be described by the events that occur there as seen in the cinematic viewpoint of Ben Davis. Maybe a place is simply a construct of the mind and what we think of as ‘reality’ is simply an illusion which Michael Gromm’s work suggested to me. Or perhaps a place can be identified by the feelings and memories that we hold about it as described in the pared back paintings of Steve Singline. And all places are marked by time.

This is why I love art – it can can trigger new thoughts and ideas and offer a fresh perspective.

Time and Place: Ben Davis, Michael Gromm, Steve Singline and Phil Suter
6 -19 June 2014

Metropolis Gallery
64 Ryrie Street Geelong. Open 9-5.30 weekdays and 10-4pm Saturday.

Phone 5221 6505


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