Winners of Les Peterkin Portrait Prize named at colourful fancy dress ceremony

The winners of the Les Perkins Portrit Prize for 2018 have been announced.

First place winners for the three age categories are:  
·  Zac Dascoli (5-7 years) from Centaur Primary School, Banora Point
·  Billy Miller (8-10 years) from Mt St Patrick Primary School, Murwillumbah
·  Indira Mansted (11-13 years) home schooled.

Zac Dascoli, Donkey Kong 2018

Zac Dascoli, Donkey Kong 2018

Billy Miller, Space Rescue 2018

Billy Miller, Space Rescue 2018

Indira Mansted, Cat Woman 2018

Indira Mansted, Cat Woman 2018

The annual Les Peterkin Portrait Prize, on show at the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre from Friday 28 September until Sunday 2 December 2018, is a huge celebration of the artistic talent of local primary school students. The Prize is one of the Gallery's most popular exhibitions, and has once again attracted an enormous number of entries and participating schools.

Each prize winner, along with the creators of 37 other award-winning and commended works, will have the thrill of seeing their artworks professionally framed and hung in the prestigious setting of the Gallery.

A further 205 outstanding works will be displayed in folios for the duration of the exhibition.

Working on the theme Going to a Fancy Dress Party, primary school students sketched, collaged, photographed and painted images that capture their unique character in costume through portraiture. This year's theme was set for students to create a portrait that captured themselves in fancy dress. Students were encouraged to explore the pose, costume and facial expressions of their character.

The Prize is named after legendary local artist and art teacher Les Peterkin, and is made possible by the financial support of Tweed Shire Council and Tyalgum Public School, with assistance from the Friends of the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Arts Centre Inc., Derivan - maker of quality artist materials, School Art Supplies - leading supplier of art and craft materials, Bunnings at Tweed Heads South, Murwillumbah Services Club and Office Max.

The Gallery hosted an official opening and prize-giving ceremony last Thursday afternoon, where many children, family and friends came dressed in costumes. The exhibition was officially opened by the Principal of Tyalgum Public School, Janelle Cloherty, followed by the keenly anticipated announcement of winners and prize-giving presented by Marianne Galluzzo, Prize Coordinator; Alan Hann, President of the Friends of the Gallery and the Prize's namesake himself - Les Peterkin.

Forest Art Exhibition Oct 5-10

Opening this Friday October 5, Forest Art features works by Lindy Lynch, Dianne Ingram, Hannah Massey, Many Nolan and many more:

Forest Art oct 2018 100 DPI.jpeg

Art In the Pub: Marion Gaemers and Lynnette Griffiths on the Art of Collaboration


Artist Interview: Emma Walker

Emma Walker is one of the Northern Rivers’ most well-known artists. Her work was displayed on a grand scale at the 2018 Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, where her new collection Surface Immersion filled the Arthouse Gallery booth.

Interview by Nadine Abensur

Emma Walker photographed by Lisa Sorgini

Emma Walker photographed by Lisa Sorgini

Nadine. Of all the artists I know, the way you get involved with the paint and the materials is the most immersive I’ve ever seen anybody work. It seems like a really full-bodied experience …

Emma. Well, I can’t really comment on anyone else’s approach. I suppose immersive is a good word for it … I was once asked by somebody what I’m passionate about … and I said, Well, I’m passionate about everything that I’m passionate about … I almost didn’t understand the question … I think that the longer I practise and make work, the more I start to see how interconnected all these things are … My trips up the river on my paddle board, or my conversations, or my love affair, or the books I read, or any of those things — they all end up being part of the same melting pot. So I really don’t distinguish much between them …

Revelator , 2018, oil and acrylic on board, 150 x 180 cm

Revelator, 2018, oil and acrylic on board, 150 x 180 cm

Nadine. I want to talk about the fact that you’ve started working on board. Is it because you’d reached the limit of how physically engaged you can be with a canvas? Or is it because the board is so much more resilient, so you can push against it?

Emma. Absolutely. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go back to canvas — that’s entirely possible. But I think there’s been a sculptor trying to come out of me for a long time. And using power tools and sort of gouging and pushing against the surface, or playing with the edges of things, has always been very interesting to me. And you just can’t do that with canvas. And using power tools on timber — I can get quite messy with it, and quite rough with it, without destroying it entirely. Which you would within seconds with a canvas, obviously. Also the nature of the material is very interesting to me, in that you can make a variety of marks with it — the way that the timber itself behaves, the way it can be smoothed with sandpaper, the grain of the timber — it’s a whole different material. And it becomes more incorporated into the painting. Whereas canvas sort of remains …

Nadine. Flat?

Emma. It remains … itself.

Nadine. Your paintings — would you say they’re landscape-based? To what degree are you driven by a connection to an outer landscape, and to what degree an inner one?

Emma. Landscape is very much a part of my work. When somebody asks me, What sort of work do you do? I always bring out the old annoying ‘landscape-based abstraction’, and then I sort of roll my eyes inwardly. Because it’s such a small amount, really, of what I’m doing. In fact, I seem to be deviating further and further from landscape, as such — especially in terms of the Eurocentric version of landscape, the horizon line and upright trees. That sort of landscape is interesting me less and less. But what I continuously love and draw endless inspiration from is the Earth, and what it offers up. Whether it be trees, or trails of ants, or the colour of rocks, or a sensation of walking, or a memory of a tree on a farm. So it’s a combination of many things, I think. And a lot of them are to do with memory and a sense of place, as well as a connection to the materials themselves. So sticks, branches, mud, dirt, foliage — to me these are materials, as are my paint brushes or my charcoal. They’re all kind of interconnected, somehow. So I guess I’m trying to find a way of translating that experience.

Nadine. What does abstraction allow you to do that a figurative approach wouldn’t?

Emma. Abstraction allows me to investigate things that are not literal. Things that are beneath the surface, things that are not obvious. Things that are felt, intuited. I don’t mind references to the real creeping in, but I don’t like them to be too real. As soon as something starts to look too much like something, I have to leave it alone. If I could identify my main aim — of which there are many — it would be to try to evoke something. Evoke a quality of something, an essence of something, a feeling of something or somewhere. Or even just the feeling of a particular idea — or how that idea plays out within me. It is abstract stuff, so figuration just doesn’t seem to make sense to me as a means of expressing these very nebulous notions … I get something different when I look at figurative or representational work to what I get when I look at abstraction. With abstraction I feel more. I am a feeling person — as you commented previously — and I guess that’s what I want to feel in my own works, and perhaps what I want to give others when they view my work.

Nadine. As an aside, a painter that I think works like an abstractist in a figurative way is Rene Bolton.

Emma. Yes, I agree. Yes, it’s not even his subject matter that we’re looking at. And likewise, Georgio Morandi. There’s a sort of quiet stillness in Rene’s work that reaches through the imagery and almost obliterates it. But at the same time, the simplicity and sparseness of it is part of that beautiful quiet feeling that you receive from looking at those works. So yeah, you’re right — it can be done.

Nadine. I see you as a very emotional person. Is painting the survival mechanism?

Emma. I suppose so. Although there are times when it can cause me great anguish. So I don’t know how safe it is. But it’s certainly not injuring anyone else … I guess the beautiful thing of it is that through the difficulties, and moments of anguish — which do occur — can come something quite different, quite other, quite beautiful or powerful. And it is just an object, but it’s an object that somehow becomes imbued with all of that rich experience that goes through the maker, as the maker is making … And so sometimes it’s shit, and sometimes it’s glorious. It can be all of that, and more. Depending on what you’ve had for breakfast, or an argument you had yesterday. All of those things come into the studio with you, and get played out …

Ascension , 2018, oil and acrylic on board, 180 x 150 cm

Ascension, 2018, oil and acrylic on board, 180 x 150 cm

Nadine. Do you get painter’s block?

Emma. No, I don’t.

Nadine. Do you lose patience? And if so, how do you find it again?

Emma. I’m terribly impatient, but I’m not so impatient with my paintings. I guess I’m now familiar with the processes that I use. And I know that they take time, and I know that they have to go through this sort of undulating wave of struggle and search and discovery, before they’re really satisfying to me. So if I were to give up on the first day, I know I’d be missing out on the good stuff. So it’s not even really a matter of patience anymore, it’s just a matter of knowing how my process works. But it does drive me crazy sometimes, and I do wish sometimes that I could just set up a nice still life and just paint the damn thing, and not have to question and enter this constant territory of unknowing, which can be very confronting and annoying, and hard, quite frankly. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, working this way. I don’t even know if it’s mine, but I’m stuck with it.

Nadine. What has love got to do with it? It seems that love is the most controversial word in the English language now. It just seems like it has become so uncool, or airy-fairy …

Emma. Here is a quote from the current novel I'm reading: “This is the trick to creative work: it requires a slip-state of being, not unlike love. A state in which you are both most yourself and most alive and yet least sure of your own boundaries, and therefore open to everything and everyone outside of you”. This could be a description of me … It's from All That I Am by Anna Funder. Quite a superb book.

Salt lake , 2015, oil, acrylic and mixed media on carved board, 100 x 120 cm

Salt lake, 2015, oil, acrylic and mixed media on carved board, 100 x 120 cm

Artist Interview: Robyn Sweaney


Robyn Sweaney’s home is filled with other people’s houses. Since 2003 she has been painting the commonplace post-war, pre-fab, weatherboard and brick homes of the Byron Bay region. Many of the houses have since been torn down for new development, or they have been remodelled beyond recognition. The houses aren’t especially beautiful, nor are they architecturally significant, yet Robyn’s paintings capture a character — a depth — that is belied by the seemingly simplistic, mundane aspect of their presence.

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 1.10.07 pm.jpg

Interview by Alana Wilson

Alana.  What was your initial inspiration for painting the houses?

Robyn.  I had an epiphany one day that the landscape here was changing. It’s always going to change, but it just suddenly seemed to be at a moment when a lot of the houses that I’d been looking at were getting sold, and the older people, that generation, were moving on. I wanted to capture something… but not because I felt like it doesn’t need to change.

Alana.  How is Looking Sideways, Heading West a shift from your previous works?

Robyn.  Every year, usually around Autumn, a girlfriend and I head west- we go out to Moree, and out to Texas in Queensland, or to Lightning Ridge, and Broken Hill. This series is about creating a narrative of that journey. I’m still fascinated by people’s houses, but this is a bit different than the local content.

Alana.  How do occupants react to your attention to their homes?

Robyn.  There are some moments when I’m out west and it becomes a little like Wake in Fright, so sometimes I’m not as comfortable in front of people’s houses. And I also often don’t want to know who lives in the houses, because that would change my perception and the narrative. It’s urban landscapes, so usually the spaces that I like to paint are ones that are not totally wild, there’s always some human element in there — there’s planted trees, or there’s some symmetry or balance. And I think that people create their little area, or their front garden, for people to see.Alana.  Magpies or cockatoos appear in many of your paintings. Is there symbolism there?

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 1.19.59 pm.jpg

Robyn.  I often put birds in a painting, almost to kind of humanise it, which sounds funny. They’re always around in Mullumbimby and everywhere you go there’s birds. Well we’re lucky enough to have them anyway. So they kind of add something to the narrative, or they can be about composition. I play with composition.

Alana.  People must be interested in the nostalgia factor in your work.

Robyn.  When I first started the houses in Mullumbimby, it was very much the humble, simple home that had stayed the same for 50 years. But even though a lot of the houses are post-war era houses, I’m not painting them from photographs from that time — I’m painting them now. So people ask me about the nostalgia and being sentimental, but it’s not that … For example, The milk bar is a symbol of my youth because they used to be on every corner. You know, on your way to school you walked past the milk bar. Yet there was also just something very graphic about that whole red/blue, there were certain patterns in there that I really liked, and the simplicity of it. And in Moree, a lot of the shops and buildings are all closed with security screens. So the outside of these buildings can be quite simple and stark.

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 1.20.04 pm.jpg

Alana.  Do you find similar themes among the homes?

Robyn.  People are living in these houses, that are quite humble, for many years —yet there is a certain element of design in what they do, which is one of the things that I’m looking at. For example, the one emu statue that balances with a single window — there are certain patterns. There may be a white house with a red strip of roof, and why does somebody do that?

Alana.  It’s interesting to hear what kind of details you find significant…

Robyn.  Well, it’s also about how the light hits buildings, and how that affects the mood of the place. A moment of light, it’s so fleeting … and five minutes later it’s gone.


Robyn Sweaney is represented by Anthea Polson Art on the Gold Coast and Arthouse Gallery, Darlinghurst

In the Studio: Charly Wrencher

Charly Wrencher is a London-born artist who has called Australia home for 30 years. He attended the National Art School in Sydney. A keen surfer, he now lives in Byron Bay where, according to Charly, he has always wanted to be. He and his wife, four children and extended family reside on a 68-acre property that is a constant source of inspiration. He is a prolific and successful painter and shows his work nationally and locally.

Interview by Nadine Abensur

Charly in his studio in Byron Bay. Photography by Natalie Grono.

Charly in his studio in Byron Bay. Photography by Natalie Grono.

Nadine.  Have you always drawn and painted?

Charly.  Yes, always. From a very young age, there were unlimited supplies of  pencils, charcoals, paints, unlimited supplies of paper. My parents were never precious about it — they didn’t mind if we made a mess. I moved to Australia from London when I was 11. My brother reacted by becoming very physically active and I responded by drawing and painting obsessively. I couldn’t believe how much space there was. 

Nadine. Sounds like your parents were quite artistic themselves. 

Charly. Yes, my father was a photographer and art director. There were always layouts and storyboards lying around the house. My mother drew and painted and was forever going to to life drawing classes. I basically grew up in a photographic studio and on film sets. So, they were very relaxed about it all — not in the least bit precious and never critical.

Nadine.  Many would envy you that one! So I suppose that the idea of an artistic career was acceptable?

Charly.  Yes, totally. They encouraged me in all sorts of ways and my first work experience at the age of 16 was with Mick White, the leading advertising studio in Sydney, doing layouts. It was a great experience but I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I knew that I would never enjoy working to a brief and that I needed much more freedom to express myself and so I set my sights on going to art school. I applied and got into the National Art School and went there straight after school. I was there for three years, discovered oil paint, how to be very expressive, how to structure drawings and go from conception to execution; the fundamentals of becoming an artist in other words.

Nadine.  They really teach you how to draw at the National Art School too. How has that influenced you?

Charly.  Drawing had always come easily to me. I was a natural.

Nadine. You say you were naturally able to draw — this is something that intrigues me. The notion of natural propensity, the role of hard yakka… Can you say more about it?

Charly.  I recently found a drawing I’d made of a car at the age of four. It’s obviously a child’s drawing but it has three-dimensionality. Most kids at that age draw flat pictures but this had dimension. I really do think it came naturally.

Nadine.  Well, you must have enjoyed it and been encouraged too.

Charly.  Yes, for sure! My parents encouraged me all the way. All the same, I recently read that the happiest people are accountants and the most dissatisfied are the artists. They challenge things, they need to express things. I’ve always been one of them.

Nadine.  Anyway, big business now turns to artists for inspiration and out-of-the-box thinking, and apparently some of the biggest ideas are introduced into the sciences by artists. Coming back to you — your current work is, and for as long as I’ve known you, has been landscape based. Have you always been a landscape painter?



Charly.  No way! When I was young, that wasn’t cool at all. I wanted to be the next Australian expressionist artist. I was rebellious and political. Last thing I wanted was to be a landscape painter.

Nadine.  Not edgy enough, not confronting or political enough?

Charly.  Exactly. But then I did a huge road trip around Australia and I was absolutely bowled over. Superficially, my work is about the landscape. But I put everything in there. My political views come through in my gestures. Just as everything does. If I get annoyed with the kids, I pour it into the marks. If I see yet another house on the horizon I’ll rant and rave about overdevelopment, but I put all that energy into the painting. Every mark is a working through, an expression, a way of making sense of things, of reaching resolution.

Nadine. We talk a great deal about process in the art world. Do you think of yourself as process-driven, or are you focused on the outcome?

Charly.  I never have a finished product in my mind, if that’s what you mean. I like to throw in bright colours, a surprise line here or there, and one step, one mark leads to the next. I never start with a palette. It’s all very organic.

Nadine.  Interesting. I often speak to artists who tell me it’s important to start with a palette, often a very reduced one.

Charly.  Not me - I get bored too easily! I like the physicality of painting. The spontaneity. I like to work very close to the painting, so that it looks good, even when you step quite close to it. And of course, it has to look good from a distance. It’s not pre-planned but it is fully conscious. I am completely present with the work. So in that sense, you can say that I am completely in the process.

Nadine.  What about materials?

Charly.  I use the best quality paints possible. It’s like a musical instrument. You’re always going to get a better sound out of a good instrument whoever you are. If the tone is good, you’ll automatically sound good. So, I buy the best paints I can — series five or six — where one tiny little tube costs $60. Then I’ll squeeze it out in one go and think, “OK, here we go!”

Nadine.  Your paintings are very large – the mind boggles!

Charly.  Yeah – I worked out that a large painting costs me $1000 just in materials.

Nadine.  You paint outdoors these days. What does that change?

Charly.  I don’t get a headache! Plus being a landscape painter, it makes much more sense to be outside.

Over the Fence

Over the Fence

Nadine. Do you paint from memory, life, photographs?

Charly.  Never from photographs. I can always tell when someone does. It’s always flat.

Nadine.  Your painting is more left field, more intuitive, more emotional?

Charly.  Yes, absolutely. Also, I have great views from my deck and that gives me reference points and inspiration, and makes the experience really alive. And it encourages my kids to get involved. One of them, Khan, is always telling me what he thinks works and what he thinks doesn’t. He keeps me on my toes!

Nadine.  Favourite artists?

Charly.  Too long a list. The classics — Leonardo, Rembrandt. I was influenced by David Hockney in my early days. I have no art books in my studio. It’s too easy to be a sponge and then I lose me. So I don’t have too much around to influence me. I like to keep my head clean.

Nadine.  It’s interesting because these days, and probably always, everyone is so concerned with who’s who, who exhibits with whom, and where people position themselves. How do you feel about all that?

Charly.  Well, I was a finalist in the Wynne Prize in 2000 and in the Salon Des Refuses the year before that but it just made me quite cynical about the whole game and and I didn’t respect the judges’ choices, so I decided to go it alone and I’m much happier that way. I found that I wanted to paint for its own sake. Painting is its own reward for me. It’s my life.

Nadine.  You love to surf. Does that influence you?

Charly.  I’ve got a lot of energy and I need to burn it off. Watching the sunrise, taking in the landscape… riding the wave sure does influence me. That movement is all part of what I bring to the painting. When I surf, I’m immersed in the living landscape, and when I paint, I’m immersed in its painted representation. I can’t imagine life without one or the other.





Silly Sticky Fingers & All opens at JEFA Gallery

Silly Sticky Fingers & All - an exhibition featuring works of art by John Smith and Vitor Dos Santos - opens tomorrow night, 5:30pm, at JEFA Gallery in Bangalow.

Vitor Dos Santos,  SMOOTH SEAS  - MIXED MEDIA ON BOARD - 80 x 75cm - $1,500

Vitor Dos Santos, SMOOTH SEAS - MIXED MEDIA ON BOARD - 80 x 75cm - $1,500

Vitor Dos Santos, a bilingual artist who travelled throughout his childhood, uses an eclectic mix of materials often on plywood - Charcoal, graphite, pencil, newspaper and acrylic paint. The artist imaginatively explores a disenchanted popular mass culture by provoking questions about language, travel communication and social hierarchies.

"Through an almost compulsive drawing process I was able to generate ideas and follow certain narratives, which led me to the absurdity of these paintings. The loose line work, rapid application of paint and childlike irreverence to formal etiquette only adds to the ironic disposition of the work". - Vitor Dos Santos

John Smith has developed a mixed media painting practice influenced by mid-20th century European "Art Brut" and "Art Informel". His lyrical, gestural painting process draws little distinction between the abstract and the concrete, similar to the raw and intuitive manner of child-like scribble and pre-lingual development of sounding in "toddlers".

"I invent glyphs and symbols to draw attention to the beautiful irony of the way we try to learn language and make meaning of life. I use anecdotes of lived experiences with young children, social narrative and myths. Rememberence resonates interweaving the 'carnivalesque' spirit of child play and the existential dilemma of human mortality." - John Smith


Vitor Dos Santos,  EMPTY TANKS  - MIXED MEDIA ON BOARD - 120 x 90cm - $2,500

Vitor Dos Santos, EMPTY TANKS - MIXED MEDIA ON BOARD - 120 x 90cm - $2,500

John Smith,  SNAPPY JACK  - ACRYLIC ON PAPER UNDER GLASS - 59 x 42cm - $1,950

John Smith, SNAPPY JACK - ACRYLIC ON PAPER UNDER GLASS - 59 x 42cm - $1,950


Tweed Regional Gallery to host free Artist Talks this weekend

Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre will host talks by three diverse Indigenous artists this Sunday, 2 September 2018. 

Multi-media artist Judy Watson, along with regional artists Digby Moran and Michael Philp, will be discussing their artworks currently on exhibition at the Gallery.

Digby Moran with his painting Bundjalung Stone Axe Gift of Margot Anthony AM, through the Tweed Regional Gallery Foundation Ltd., 2018 © The artist

Digby Moran with his painting Bundjalung Stone Axe Gift of Margot Anthony AM, through the Tweed Regional Gallery Foundation Ltd., 2018 © The artist

Judy Watson will speak to her work The Names of Places, currently on display in the touring exhibition Experimenta Make Sense,  as well as her artist prints held in the Gallery's permanent collection, a selection of which are currently on display as part of the Gallery's 30th anniversary exhibition Three Decades: celebrating the Tweed Regional Gallery collection.

Digby Moran and Michael Philp, also featured in Three Decades, will give insight into their works Bundjalung Stone Axe and Spotting for Sea Mullet, respectively.


What:  Artist Talks

Where:  Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre

When:  Sunday 2 September at 2pm

Gallery Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Cost:    Free


Byron Arts Magazine is excited to announce the launch of BAM Art Series Dinners. The first dinner hosted at BARRIO, Byron Bay on Wednesday, October 17 will feature works by artist Michael Cook. Cook is considered to be one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary indigenous artists.  


A highlight of the evening will be a conversation hosted by art writer and author Louise Martin Chew, who will discuss the narrative behind Cook’s ethereal contemporary works.

Cook’s photographs restage colonial focused histories and re-image the contemporary reality of indigenous populations. His powerfully staged narratives have featured at both the Sydney and Venice Biennale. A selection of 15 works from the series Mother, Broken Dreams and Invasion will be displayed onsite at BARRIO. 

Guests will enjoy a Brookies gin cocktail on arrival and a delicious grazing table with matching wines curated by head chef Francisco Smoje.  The shared table menu includes pulled chicken, braised fennel & purple onion, herb roasted whole salmon side, rare roasted beef, gribiche sauce, potatoes, green beans, preserved lemons, chives & dill, brown rice, pecans, cranberries, feta & herbs and a delicious seasonal dessert.

The cost for the dinner and talk, including wines & Brookies gin cocktail is $140.

Artist BIO

Michael Cook is a Brisbane-based photomedia artist of Bidjara heritage. Cook’s photographs restage colonial-focused histories and re-image the contemporary reality of indigenous populations. Touching on the discriminatory nature of society, his images muddle racial and social roles ‘painting’ a picture of a societal structure reversed. Cook invites viewers to speculate Indigenous cultures living at the forefront, even a majority, rather than manipulated to live within the confines of a white man’s world. Cook’s images challenge our ingrained belief systems yet do not offer judgement – they are observational, asking questions without proffering neat prescriptive conclusions.

Considered to be one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary Indigenous artists, 2016 saw Cook present a solo exhibition at the global art fair, Art Basel Hong Kong. His work has most recently been curated into Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation at the British Museum, London; Taba Naba, Oceanographic Musuem of Monaco; Saltwater Country at AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art, The Netherlands; and Personal Structures at Palazzo Mora, Venice during the 56th Venice Biennale. Cook’s photographs have also been exhibited in the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014; the 2nd National Indigenous Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, 2012; and the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Queensland Art Gallery/ Gallery of Modern Art, 2013. A number of Cook’s works are currently being exihibited in a group show Colony – Frontier Wars at the NGV.

Cook’s work has been acquired by institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Museum of Australia and Parliament House, Canberra.

The Art Series Dinners are bought to you with the support of Byron Arts Magazine, McGrath & Brookies Gin and produced by

For further information and hi res images contact
or 0413 453320


Artist Interview: Gatya Kelly

BAM visited Gatya Kelly in 2016 - just prior to her leaving for an artist residency at the prestigious Hill End, whose first wave of artists included Margaret Olley and Russell Drysdale. While her paintings may seem redolent of Old Master still lifes, she asserts the similarities are limited. The reality is far more delicious.

Interview by Alana Wilson

Cherry Amour , 2014, 91 x 91 cm, oil on canvas

Cherry Amour, 2014, 91 x 91 cm, oil on canvas

Alana.  What draws you to your subject matter?

Gatya.  In 2009 we went to Tuscany. We were there for winter, for five months. And I wanted to paint there. I didn’t normally paint very much when we were travelling, because we were in a van, and it wasn’t really conducive to working with oil paint. But there, we were staying in this one amazing house for five months, and so I set up a studio in the house. And I didn’t have a lot of equipment, or really anything there — I had a very, very basic set up. And I just thought, well, what can I do here that works, that relates to where I am, but practically is going to work for me? Most people in that situation will paint the landscape, because it’s truly phenomenal. But I’m not drawn to that. I’m not a landscape painter … I mean I love it, and I appreciate it, and I walk in it … but I’m not drawn to it as an artist. So I started to look around me … it was winter so there was a lot of dried up leaves and crunchy things, and these fruits like pomegranates and persimmons, walnuts and chestnuts … So it ended up being 14 paintings that I painted over that five-month period, in a particular still life style. A bit more contemporary looking than this series, actually — lighter backgrounds and so on. And so really it was not so much that I’d said that I wanted to do still life, it was because I was in this certain circumstance and that’s what I could paint in that situation. It was a wonderful old Tuscan farmhouse, so there were all sorts of vessels and things there, so that I was able to arrange all these compositions. I like the authenticity of working with things that are real and are actually in my environment. It’s not so much coming from my imagination, or derivative, but it really relates to my circumstances … I’m directly relating to these things right in front of me … It’s authentic to me. That matters a lot.

Alana.  Do you find that you are drawn to details?

Gatya.  I am. I enjoy figurative painting, because I guess I get a kick out of seeing something come to life on the canvas. I actually really get a kick out of that, personally.

Alana.  And an object that you relate to …

Gatya. Yes. So I like to see that metamorphosis. Again, that’s a personal thing. People often refer to the detail … there’s careful painting, but it’s not meticulous in a hyperrealist sense. It’s actually quite rough. If you get close up … somebody used the word contemporary recently. It’s quite loose — even though the overall effect is of something that’s quite tightly controlled and designed. So that’s also something that I enjoy, to have a certain lack of tightness in a painting, while it has this three-dimensional, realistic quality.

Alana.  What is it that you aim to portray in your paintings?

Red Chilli, Rose Garlic. 2014. Oil on canvas, 91cmx91cm.

Gatya.  What I aim to do with the paintings is to get a response from people. What I love is when somebody looks at a painting of mine and they go, wow That exhibition was titled Luscious because it was all this luscious, yummy, succulent stuff, and people respond to it that way … there was one woman who was looking at the strawberries, and I felt like I was going to have to stop her from licking the painting. You know, when they’re engaging with it so much that they’re actually experiencing it as the real thing. A lot of people say, “I want to eat it, I want to smell it, I want to touch it” … I love that that’s the response to the work, that they’re seeing it beyond a painting, that it’s actually doing something … really connecting very deeply inside at that level where they’re just reaching out for it. That’s very pleasing to me.

Alana.  The detail, depth and perspectives in your paintings are incredible. Do you incorporate photography as part of your process?

Gatya.  I do. I use photography. I go to quite a lot of trouble at that stage. I guess because of my design background, I think of paintings as designed — they’re not spontaneous. They’re put together in a very deliberate way. So they’re designed, they’re composed, they’re constructed. And when I’m sure that I’m happy with what I have, then I start to paint it.

Maganolia Raphaella, 2015. Oil on canvas, 45x45cm.

Alana.  How do you arrive at your compositions?

Gatya.  Often it’s what’s in season. These magnolias that I’m painting come from a tree at Brunswick Heads that I drive past when I go to the beach. So if I see that tree and think, I have to paint that, it’s almost like an obligation to paint it … and then it’s like, that means I’ve got to do it now, because it’s not going to be there in a week’s time. So it’s generally driven by the subject matter itself, in the case of these paintings. I’ll see a pomegranate somewhere, or somebody will lend me a beautiful bowl … that’s usually the initial inspiration. And from that I build what I feel goes with that first key element.

Alana.  So it’s not about symbolism?

Gatya.  It’s not, but this one — which is called Magnolia Vanitas Vanitas paintings were something that were done, I think, in the 16th and 17th centuries … Flemish and Dutch master painters … the whole still life tradition is very interesting and meaningful — it’s not really about just painting what I’m doing, painting things in front of you. Originally it was very symbolic, and the Dutch had this Calvinist Christian thing going on, so they had a lot to say about money, and wealth. So paintings were allegorical — they meant something to the people who were viewing them then. They didn’t have photography, and so on. So they served that function, that they don’t today. So vanitas paintings were to do with the vanity of life, the inevitability of death, that vanity is futile, basically … So those paintings — you would have seen it — they often have a skull in them, or a flickering candle. There are certain elements that occur in these paintings, so there is something dead, something that represents knowledge or the arts, something that represents wealth … So, I put this painting together, and I’m painting it and thinking, somebody is going to ask me, what does this mean? And I thought, maybe I can concoct a story retrospectively, because actually I didn’t have one. And I was looking at it and I thought, it’s a vanitas painting! And I checked it out, and all the elements were there … I liked that about it, that it was an allegory for life and death. But generally they’re not. Generally, they’re just bowls of fruit.

Fig Paradiso , 2015. Oil on linen, 122x122 cm.

Fig Paradiso, 2015. Oil on linen, 122x122 cm.

In The Studio: Nikky Morgan-Smith

Gallerist Nadine Abensur visited painter Nikky Morgan-Smith in her Eureka studio for a glimpse into her artistic process. Nikky Morgan-Smith will be featured in the Art 4 Art's Sake gallery and exhibition at the Federal School of Arts from 29-30 September, 2018.

Photography by Natalie Grono.

nataliegrono (1 of 1)-24web.jpg

Nadine.  Where were you brought up? And how do you think this affected your artistic career?

nataliegrono (1 of 1)-25web.jpg
nataliegrono (1 of 1)-28wweb.jpg

Nikky.  I was brought up in Eureka. The space, the hills, the weather, the mess, the damp — it all has an effect. For example, working on paper always seemed hard to manage because of the weather and lack of control over the environment. I would wake up and my paper would have muddy cat footprints, or the damp made it behave differently. I never liked the fragility of paper and canvas. Early on I chose wood as my mount because it’s solid and forgiving, it doesn’t rip or stretch out of shape. I could paint on it and know that the next morning it would still be there, unaffected by external forces.

Nadine.  Did you always want to be an artist?

Nikky.  I never wanted to be an artist, but having both parents as artists and art lecturers, art was inherent in our family — part of the air we breathed — not necessarily a career choice, but just part of day-to-day life. It wasn’t until I was about 18 and in between school and jobs and a bit bored that my mum said I should do some painting. She showed me how to use dioxazine purple over yellow to create shadows. She talked about being able to tell a story through painting. I will never forget the way the purple affected the yellow, the depth it created. It was like I had experienced alchemy for the first time. My painting came alive in front of me and I was in love. It was like finding words for the first time. I could communicate without having to worry about spelling and grammar! I painted obsessively in the following weeks and produced my first body of work. I was hooked. After that I decided to study art.

nataliegrono (1 of 1)-31web.jpg

Nadine.  Where do you think your ideas come from?

Nikky.  I feel like my practice is one big body of work that leads on from the last painting; it is evolving and growing, but still connected to that original work. My ideas mostly come from my painting practice, I will see the way a certain colour looks next to a texture, or an image that feels like it has more to say. I just listen to my practice and let it lead me.

Nadine.  Describe a typical day. Do you have a routine?

Nikky.  A typical day would be get up, wish I was more organised, find food, ignore mess, find clean school uniform/socks for child, get child to school without a tantrum. Go to studio. Paint. Get distracted by carpet snake shedding its skin at my studio door. Paint. Have array of emotions about my practice that swing from inflated ego to extreme self doubt, question everything from why I am painting to why am I wasting my time questioning why I am painting and not just painting. Paint. Decide I can’t paint any more unless I have a new paint brush, realise I can’t afford a new brush unless I finish painting and sell it. Paint.

Nadine.  What inspires you to keep painting?

Nikky.  I am inspired by life and people and the accidental beauty of it all. I keep painting because I have to. Without it I would have no language.

Nadine.  Tell us about your process from the start to completion of a painting.

Nikky.  I work on plywood, so I start by sourcing the best quality ply I can find, then I have it framed, backed. I don’t prime or underpaint because I like the texture of the wood. I will have an idea but nothing solid, I don’t keep journals or have any working drawings. It all happens as I am painting. I draw from memory. I don’t use projectors or images. At the beginning I just have my charcoal pencil and white paint and I start to draw. When I’m happy with it I start to use colour, and build layers. There is a lot of layering in my process because of the lack of planning. I will do something, paint it out, then work over the top. But I always leave a trace of what came before, even if it is just a tiny fleck of colour or a pencil mark … it is all just as important as the more contrived stuff, it makes up a whole that speaks of a past.

Nadine.  What’s the most exciting thing about being an artist?

Nikky.  The most exciting part of being an artist is that no day is ever the same. I go into my studio and am excited about what I might discover in my practice. Also, the opportunities like artist-in-residence programs that become available.

Nadine.  And the hardest thing?

Nikky.  The hardest thing is being broke.

Nadine.  What would you do if you weren’t an artist?

Nikky.  If I wasn’t a painter I would be an art therapist or dead.

nataliegrono (1 of 1)-30web.jpg

'Life is a Marathon': Geoff Todd at Mitchell Fine Art

The common analogy ‘Life is a Marathon’ is explored by artist Geoff Todd in his new exhibition showing at Mitchell Fine Art in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane from 25th July.

'Cul de Sac',    122 x 122cm, acrylic, charcoal and cotton gauze on canvas

'Cul de Sac', 122 x 122cm, acrylic, charcoal and cotton gauze on canvas

Culminating thirty years of artistic observation, Todd presents a series of poignant, powerful and sometimes aggressive artworks of two young female muses besieged with the contest of life. 
Each muse whilst from different backgrounds, share remarkable similarities in the successes and failures they have persevered through in their lives. Todd’s paintings centre around intimate and personal connections with his subjects, whilst exploring the broader themes of life’s challenges.
With his recognisable figurative style, Todd presents the positive with the pain. This is an exhibition about life and its struggles. It is about running the gauntlet, running to win or even just running to participate”.
Marathon explores life’s hardships, its challenges, successes, failures and ultimately our ability to endure. The exhibition is showing from 25th July – 18th August 2018 at Mitchell Fine Art in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
Join Geoff Todd for the opening of his new show on Friday 27thJuly from 6 – 8pm. This is a free event.
On Saturday 28th July at 2pm, Geoff will also hold an Artist talk in the gallery discussing his work and inspiration.


OFFICIAL OPENING: Friday 27th July from 6pm – 8pm

ARTIST TALK: Saturday 28th July from 2pm

Artists explore Australia as an exotic land

Australian exotica, a new travelling exhibition from Monash Gallery of Art (MGA), opens at Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre on Friday 20 July.

Drawing on MGA's nationally significant collection of Australian photographs, the exhibition showcases the works of some of Australia's most celebrated artists, engaging with the theme of the exotic antipodes.

Peter Dombrovskis, Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, south-west Tasmania 1988, pigment inkjet print, 74.5 x 94.2cm

Peter Dombrovskis, Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, south-west Tasmania 1988, pigment inkjet print, 74.5 x 94.2cm

Joseph McGlennon, Florilegium #1 2014 from the series Florileigum, pigment ink-jet print, 127 x 100cm

Joseph McGlennon, Florilegium #1 2014 from the series Florileigum, pigment ink-jet print, 127 x 100cm

Since the 15th century, when European cartographers began including the contour of Terra Australis Incognita ('the unknown land of the south') in their speculative maps of the globe, the continent of Australia has been thought of as an exotic place. And when European explorers finally reached the southern continent, reports of unfamiliar flora, fauna and indigenous people only perpetuated this striking vision.

The characterisation of Australia as a land down under, where things are out of the ordinary and colourfully unconventional, remains a key feature of this country's national identity. No longer just a projection of a European imagination, Australians themselves have come to celebrate the topsy-turvy nature of life in the land of Oz, where marsupials lay eggs, Christmas celebrations take place at the height of summer, and water supposedly goes down the drain in an anticlockwise direction.

MGA Curator, Stella Loftus-Hills, said of the exhibition: "Our aim is to provide people with the opportunity to achieve a deeper appreciation of photography. This exhibition includes prominent Australian photographs that relate to what it means to be an Australian, or at least what someone looking in might think about this country."

"I hope people would leave the exhibition feeling as though they had experienced something new about photography and Australia, something  that perhaps they hadn't realised before," she said.

Australian exotica features the work of 11 prominent Australian photographers, including Brook Andrew, Michael Cook, Destiny Deacon, Peter Dombrovskis, Marian Drew, Leah King-Smith, Joseph McGlennon, Tracey Moffatt, Darren Siwes, Robyn Stacey and Christian Bumbarra Thompson.

All are welcome to attend the opening celebrations at Tweed Regional Gallery on Friday 27 July at 6pm with guest speaker Craig Tuffin, Photographic Artist.

The exhibition will be opened in conjunction with Experimenta Make Sense and Alison Allcock: Exchange. The exhibition runs from 20 July to 23 September 2018.

Dynamic drawing classes in the Northern Rivers

Ron Curran has been facilitating Dynamic Drawing classes in Byron Bay and Melbourne for 17 years.


What does ‘Dynamic Drawing’ mean?  Isn’t it a life drawing class?

Ron.  Not really ... Its focus isn’t on figure based/textbook-style drawing, even though we use a model. Dynamic Drawing, in a sense, is about the stuff that operates you - your uniqueness, your coding, so to speak - in particular, the visual language that you are inhabited by. That’s the dynamic part of the drawing forum that is called dynamic drawing and how it has evolved.  Everyone’s different. Just as in the history of art, it is the greatest and most striking differences that have defined the best work/the greatest work. These ‘differences’ are real and are characterised by  potent intimacies that ultimately set up their own perspectives and structures. The best work is ultimately the most authentic and often, at the time of its emergence, the most delinquent, raw and rule smashing, the most ambiguous, uncompromising and often exotic in nature.  It doesn’t abide to any particular academic tradition but demands its own territory and voice.


Don’t you need a few basic rules?  Shouldn’t you first learn how to draw properly?

Ron.  As soon as you start using words like ‘should’ or ‘properly’, you immediately set yourself up in a classic trap because you assume there is a position or a particular way in which to see the world.  The whole history of art has been all about traditions being constantly challenged and swept aside by new and more relevant voices and structures by radical new intimacies and brilliant adventures. Great art is deeply informed and all about the practitioner’s ability to sign off on their experience in a way that is compelling and unquestionable in its dimension and vision.  Van Gogh did not go out into the cornfields with a ‘how to draw dogs’ book under his arm.  He was consumed by passion and inspiration and simply did what he had to do.  In fact, at least 50% of the major artists in the last 100 years were not ‘institutional’ products but driven individuals with vision.  The other 50% found it necessary to depart the tradition to be able to go to the place where their vision was calling them. They were ‘flag bearers’ – in fact the very history of art is all about cultural shift and people getting in proportion with new realities.  The academic notion of drawing can be compared to a hairdressing salon where, in the end, everyone tends to walk out the door with the same haircut. This is the very last thing I want to happen in my classes.   Originality is the only way. Ultimately, art is not a fashion parade or a trade fair. Art should not be mistaken for boutique – its currency is risk, inspiration and vision. It’s an odyssey and an exploration into what operates us as individuals into our core realities. It is a search for voice. Structures are the things we build from inside out to house our experience and to explain the often very fractured nature of that experience. It is different for everyone.  There is no fixed tradition - only the evolution and total emergency of translation. The best art is uncompromisingly intimate and self-governing. The best art does not work from the outside in but inside out. The best art does not hide its own debates but makes glorious our uncertainties.

But what of all the traditions and skills and the hallowed and established techniques that one needs to learn in order to draw and paint?

Ron.  Techniques and skills are vehicles that are used to transport ideas and images. There are thousands of ways that this can be engaged, that is to move ideas to ‘house’ one’s experience. One needs only to flick through any reputable art history book to see this. There are as many visual languages as there are dialects and structures on earth. These exist both inside and outside of our selves. The major artists have had to make a claim on and rebuild from the ground up their own realities. To engage in comparisons is ultimately meaningless, as it is to talk in ‘shoulds' and ‘shouldn’ts’.  What is important is, is the work any good? Does it communicate? Does it have a continuity, tuning or power? No matter how ambiguous, visceral, contradictory, raw or unsettling it may be, good work in the end is good work. Techniques are decided upon/chosen only when one has finally met oneself in language and knows to some extent where one is coming from and possibly going to.  It’s a traveller’s decision.

How do you mean ‘meet yourself’?

Ron.  Through a ruthless process of self-appraisal, through a process of abandonment and inside-out drawing, through a kind of radical meditation and witness, through a process of deliberate fracture, mark-making and challenge so we are able to bust our own preciousness barriers. For example, if you create a kind of no-man’s land between yourself and the subject/your experience, then you’re simply not engaged, you’re just a bystander.  That is, if you just balance images on the end of your nose all day and externalise yourself from your feelings, then you’re only ever a fence sitter and your work will increasingly be derivative and ultimately you will be short-changed of your own best and most total possibilities.  And you will never make the big break or do the mighty quantum leap needed to get back home to your signature experience where creatively all the really important stuff sits - in the factory of the sensibility/in the language depot.  In the end it’s a kind of hunch, a stab in the dark, an act of blind faith.  But if you’re serious about all this you’ve got to let go of the academic apron strings.  Otherwise you’re only ever going to be a Sunday painter.   Great art doesn’t happen on the edge of your eyeballs or at the end of your thumb, it happens where the machinery is, the machinery of the blood, the intuition and the instinct. As practitioners, we need to establish our territory through a sense of real responsibility and set up mark-making invitations from which our structures can visit and emerge.

What is your role as a teacher/facilitator?

Ron.  Again, it’s the same thing. I do not have any fixed or nameable role in relation to what I do. Each day’s a new day with a different and unexpected mix. I take it as it comes. I pick up on the people and the signals in the room and ask the questions that need to be asked. I can offer strategies, either from the floor or one on one, depending on the mix.  Each person, each day, new scenario. Art is all about the nature of the unexpected; about both inspiration and destruction. It is elemental, bouncy and fluid and never behaves in the way we think it should.  But it’s within these very contradictory panoramas that some of the best work emerges. I offer base line strategies as a kind of meditation and witness process into simply letting go, into busting assumptions and developing trust with one’s sensibility.

Why do you only do short poses?  There doesn’t seem to be time for people to finish their drawings ...

Ron.  Again we get into the land of assumptions. In this case, what is a drawing? And more particularly, what is a finished drawing? The fact is good drawing is not at all about quantifying stuff, whether you’ve got all the ‘bits’ in … it is about the quality of translation, the potency and personality of the mark-making and the kind of panoramas that are being set up within the work.  That is, the sort of magic you are practising. It is not at all, necessarily, about the outside, visually identifiable world.  It is about the kind of language you are talking and where that takes you … and there is no end to that process.  It is alchemical and transformative, it’s about invocation and tuning. About the song you sing. So really a drawing is never actually finished, it’s dimensional and ever-expanding in its metaphors ... it’s about finding your starting points and letting those expand and invite, in whatever way necessary,  the things that are needed to explain what it is you are experiencing.  Good drawings are, in fact, clock smashers … in a sense, time’s got nothing to do with it. We find our timepiece, our real calibration, within the work itself.

For more information on dynamic drawing classes in the Northern Rivers, visit:


Art in the Pub: BAM's Sharne Wolff and Jane Denison on Australian Art and Walking

Join us at the Courthouse Hotel for Art in the Pub, as BAM Associate Editor Sharne Wolff and contributor Jane Denison speak about From Here to There: Australian art and walking.