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.

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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?

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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.

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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.





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.

The light touch of Kathryn Dolby

Still in her twenties, Kathryn Dolby’s artistic career is off to a strong start. In 2014 she won the Lismore Regional Gallery Graduate Award for her final exhibition installation work, Fluid and Fixed. The Lismore-born artist gained professional placement time in Sydney with Archibald-winning painters Ben Quilty and Guy Maestri. She has since become one of the region’s most recognisable emerging artists, as well as a new mother.

Interview by Jamie-Lee Rowley

Misty Morn  2016, acrylic on board, 81.5 x 61 cm

Misty Morn 2016, acrylic on board, 81.5 x 61 cm

Jamie.  What inspired you to become a professional artist?
Kathryn.  When I was in high school the thought of feeling stuck in a profession I didn’t like scared me more than anything! So in a sense there was a kind of fear that motivated me to put my energy into what I loved. It never really felt like a decision to become a professional artist, it just felt like the most natural progression for me as nothing else ever really made me feel as myself, or as alive as when I’m creating or working with creative people. I think the inspiration began right back in primary school when we had guest artists doing demonstrations for the class and then through high school where my escape was the art block. My family were always supportive as they could see it was where my heart was, so it didn’t ever feel difficult in that sense. I know a lot of people struggled with family pressures but I was lucky to bypass that one.

The Trees Are Purple  2016, acrylic on board, 40cm x 50cm

The Trees Are Purple 2016, acrylic on board, 40cm x 50cm

Jamie.  How has your work developed over time, and what are your influences?
Kathryn.  The quality of materials for one thing; when I was young and starting out I'd raid the cupboard for tumeric, coffee and chocolate sauce to paint with! One of the first influential moments was when I was a teenager and saw an abstract expressive painting in a magazine, I don’t remember who it was by, but I felt the power of it leave the page and hit me right in the guts. So in the very beginning it was Abstract Expressionists like Pollock and De Kooning who excited me the most because of that sheer freedom in the expression. Over the years those influencers have changed after study and my appreciation for conceptual art grew. I fell in love with artists like Robert Ryman and Joseph Marioni and how they tease the viewer with a sense of space. So now, even if I’m painting in an abstract way I’m more conscious of loading the image with specific experiences or using the painting or installation to ask questions and challenge the eye. I really like to create a tension in the works. How simple is too simple? What happens if I just focus on this one colour? Or add a hard edge line next to all the gestural marks? It’s the most stimulating for me when each new body of work departs from the last and takes on new questions but it’s still steeped in your own experiences. I also spent some time over the last few years with some landscape painters who influenced my most recent paintings. I’d never perceived myself as a landscape painter but once you start looking you realise everything is a kind of landscape.

Two  2016, acrylic on board, 66 cm x 32 cm

Two 2016, acrylic on board, 66 cm x 32 cm

Jamie.  Is there a representational aspect to your works?
Kathryn.  Some work more so than others, but usually yes, although my work isn’t purely abstract or representational. They’re painted in an abstract way but subtly reference very real spaces, objects or encounters. I’m continually collecting and drawing from information in my daily life and then I return into the studio with it to pull it apart, deconstruct and reduce. It becomes a very intuitive process of reduction, where I might start with looking at a landscape, and by the end of the process the painting heroes just a single colour that I found most intriguing from that landscape. Abstraction allows much more freedom in the studio to be playful, to be able to mess with things and bend the rules so you’re not just creating a pretty picture. The works then become much more ambiguous and open for interpretation and I like that sense of not spoon-feeding the viewer but giving subtle clues.

Jamie.  What are your influences?
Kathryn.  I like looking to the poetry that is everywhere in the mundane routines of our daily life, the colours in the landscape and the spaces in the home.  The repetitive action of washing and stacking the dishes, washing windows, moving house, walking, and sounds in the landscape. I’m very sensitive to the spaces I occupy and I think that really filters into the paintings. I’m a bit addicted to dramatising that sense of spaciousness in a lot of my work, as I love the quiet tension it creates. Like in music, the space in between the notes is often far more interesting that the notes themselves. An interest in that silence stems from being bombarded in our digital age with information and imagery, so it really began as a kind of reactionary respite to that.

Jamie.  Has having a child affected your work?
Kathryn.  It’s such early days to really see how she has affected my style, as she’s still so fresh, being 8 weeks old now! I’ve really just begun venturing back into the studio again, but having a child definitely shifts things and changes you in more ways than you can anticipate or ever be told. Artistically I think the whole experience has become rich fodder to work from and I feel like there will be a shift, even if it is in a subtle way … like drawing from the nature of sleep (or lack of it), of time and waiting. Throughout the pregnancy I had a lot of time to think and reflect on where I wanted my work to go. I love working from an intimate, personal and experiential level as I think it’s when you create the most honest and interesting work. I feel like this whole experience of becoming a mother has just given my practice another gear in that sense. But it will definitely be a time juggle. I was chuckling about it with another artist and first-time mumma friend of mine who said I’ll have to just go in there and throw the whole paint tube at the canvas and hope for the best! But really I think it’s a very interesting topic and I’ve been brewing some ideas about getting other artist mums together for a project or two. 

Emerson Road  2016, acrylic on board, 42 cm x 60 cm

Emerson Road 2016, acrylic on board, 42 cm x 60 cm

Mitjili Napurrula: Solo Aboriginal Art Exhibition

A solo exhibition showcasing Aboriginal artworks that portray stories relating to the ancient ritual of the spear straightening ceremony will open at Mitchell Fine Art in Brisbane on April 4th, 2018.
Mitjili Napurrula, a Pintupi artist from Central Australia paints Watiya Juta the Desert Acacia, a source material for Aboriginal spear making and the central motif in her father’s dreaming - the story of the spear straightening ceremony.

Mitjili Napurrula, Watiya Juta, acrylic on linen, 200 x 200cm

Mitjili Napurrula, Watiya Juta, acrylic on linen, 200 x 200cm

Her paintings show the iconography of the trees, red sandhills and rocks of her father’s country to the west of Haasts Bluff in Central Australia.

Under the tutelage of her mother Napurrula began painting the female side to her father’s dreaming in 1993. Her works Watiya Juta portray the topography of her father’s country, Uwalki, and the recurring tree motif, Watiya.
The Spear Straightening ceremony is an important Dreaming story dealing with tribal rivalries and ancient rituals and the process of spears being made for battle.

Watiya Juta'   , 60 x 60cm, acrylic on linen

Watiya Juta', 60 x 60cm, acrylic on linen

Watiya Juta'   , 60 x 60cm, acrylic on linen

Watiya Juta', 60 x 60cm, acrylic on linen

In Napurrula’s paintings the figurative and topographical elements are applied in bright, vibrant colours on a translucent veil of white. These colours reflect her own style and playful personality.

Napurrula stems from an impressive artistic family. Born at Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) an area 200kms west of Alice Springs, her mother was one of the principal female artists at Kintore in the Western Desert and her brother was one of the founding members of the Papunya Tula Artists cooperative.

Napurrula’s works are part of numerous international and national collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Australia and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

On Saturday 7th April at 2pm a floor talk on the life and artistic practice of Mitjili Napurrula will be held in the gallery with Director Mike Mitchell. This is a free event.

Paul McNeil | Side On at RVCA Gallery

Join us for the opening of Side On by Paul McNeil at RVCA Gallery this Thursday 6-8pm.

And see McNeil featured in the Summer '17 issue of BAM, out early December!


Mahala Magins: 

In 2013, Bangalow artist Mahala Magins undertook an artist residency at the Baer Arts Center in Skagafjordur, Iceland. It was an experience that changed her painting, so that when she returned to Australia she felt the influences everywhere. The transformation that took place connects to a different way of seeing and exists in a purist’s pursuit of Abstraction and Painting. Put simply, Magins found a new “template” for thinking about painting, although this word denies space for the nuances that are integral to her work. Ultimately, what the trip did was provide her with a place to soak in the idea of being an artist, giving her conviction that she is a Painter.  


Applying this logic to her painting when she returned, Magins found her work was not of a single place. Her painterly language was informed by flickers from the landscape of her memory, of source material, and her immediate surroundings.  

“One thing Iceland taught me was to utilise the environment I am immersed in, to allow anything and everything to influence me,” Magins describes. “I might see a photograph and will respond to this by thinking of a memory of travel, write this experience down, then respond to this moment in time visually, even as simply as a clipping of colour. I will then establish the work from these experiences.”  


This current body of work encompasses her travels while exploring the affected and affective nature of encounters with place through a considered and emotive material response. Magins does not try to replicate the landscape around her but let it in through thoughts and the edges of her vision, until the paintings found their own life and direction, separate from but informed by their initial inspiration.  

Mahala Magins is an emerging artist based in Bangalow, New South Wales. She completed her Bachelor of Visual Art at Southern Cross University in 2006. Since graduation Magins continues to be shown and represented in various local and national group shows, including being twice selected for The Portia Geach Memorial Award, The Gold Coast City Art Award and most recently the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize with her portrait of art collector, June Blanchett.




Mahala Magins


8 September - 4 October 2017

Opening Friday 8 September 6PM – 8PM

Lone Goat Gallery
28 Lawson St, Byron Bay NSW 2481

Exhibition to be opened by Brett Adlington, Director, Lismore Regional Gallery.

Mahala Magins will be donating 20% of all profits from sales of artwork in this exhibition to Breast Cancer Australia.


Excerpt from ‘Post Iceland’ Essay 2015, Kezia Geddes Curator Lismore Regional Gallery. Text courtesy of the Artist and Lismore Regional Gallery.    

 All studio photographs by Andrew McDonald.

Joshua Yeldham Shares Uncoventional Story of Endurance

The unorthodox life journey of artist Joshua Yeldham will be laid bare when he gives a free talk at Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah on Sunday 27 August.

The unconventional Sydney-based artist will speak about his exhibition Endurance, on display at the Gallery until 10 December, and his story of a "sensitive boy" who endured bullying, a literacy challenges and an unsympathetic school system to become one of Australia's most original artists.

Yeldham giving a previous talk at Tweed Regional Gallery.

Yeldham giving a previous talk at Tweed Regional Gallery.

Yeldham draws from a deep spiritual affiliation with the land and a love of nature, creating art that entwines narrative and myth, imagination and experience.

Working across painting, photography, drawing and sculpture, he has developed a singular aesthetic that combines various mediums such as his pierced and carved photographs, his characteristic oil paintings, and large-scale paper works.

Yeldham is also an enthralling and humorous storyteller and will share his learning journey - from the heart-breaking to the bizarre.

A small boy struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia, he was a boarder at an exclusive Sydney school from the age of eight and was regularly taunted and tormented by his "big-boned" fellow students.

He seized an opportunity to reinvent himself when he was 14, moving with his mother to Switzerland and studying at the prestigious Aiglon College.

Yeldham was inspired by his "mountain men" teachers who were "strong men but they weren't aggressive" and he threw himself into physical challenges.

It was another chapter in his unorthodox approach to physical and academic challenges and introduced him to skiing, navigation, mountain climbing and caving, throwing him into nature.

A succession of great art teachers throughout his education was also telling and he went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design, then became an award-winning film maker.

 Endurance is the product of Yeldham's term at the Gallery's Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence Studio in February, when he was invited to explore the waterways and surrounding scenery of the Northern Rivers.

His free talk will be held in the Withey Family Gallery from 2pm.

For further information, visit or phone (02) 6670 2790.

Guy Maestri chats to BAM

Sydney painter Guy Maestri won the Archibald Prize in 2009, and has now been announced a 2017 Wynne Prize Finalist. He chats to BAM about his nomination, and his residency at the Margaret Olley Centre earlier this year.

BAM.  Congratulations on being a Wynne Prize Finalist. Please tell us about Self Portrait for Posterity.

Maestri.  With these works, I am playing with the idea of the heroic classical bust and questioning what use there is in leaving a lasting reproduction of my own image for future generations. These sculptures are originally made in clay and then cast in bronze and painted. So they are very permanent, but appear malleable and ephemeral.

Guy Maestri,  Self portrait (for posterity)  2017,  bronze, 60.0 x 24.0 x 40.0 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

Guy Maestri, Self portrait (for posterity) 2017,  bronze, 60.0 x 24.0 x 40.0 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

BAM.  What were highlights of your residency at the Margaret Olley Centre?

Maestri.  It was a privilege to be there, looking over that magnificent valley to Wollumbin in the distance, and to have such access to the gallery and a great studio to live and work in. I live in the heart of Sydney, so that in itself was a highlight. But I originally went there to investigate the surrounding area and make landscape work about it, however, I was inevitably drawn to the incredible recreation of Margaret Olley's home and studio. And with access to that space and permission to borrow objects to paint from, my focus shifted to these precious things, and to making intimate works about them.

Echo  installation. Courtesy of the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

Echo installation. Courtesy of the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

 BAM.  Your exhibition Echo recently closed at the Tweed Regional Gallery. What was the process of developing the concept, and choosing the pieces for the show?

Maestri.  The show became all about objects and their meaning, and also intimate space. I knew the exhibiting space that I would be using and it is this beautifully dark, quiet gallery space with dark grey walls and museum quality lighting. This had a great influence on the work I made, and on the pieces I chose to exhibit. I wanted it to feel like a museum, with relics and documents. I became interested in the flowers in Margaret's house, and of course the only ones remaining are her plastic ones, but what does it matter when you're making paintings of them? They become another form of reproduction anyway, but also an extension. I also thought a lot about my own grandmother's house, and what remained after she was gone, and the things I now have and cherish from that home. Everyday things with huge personal value to me. And so the show became about preservation too. And reflection. And of course, about painting. The joy of painting. Reinvigorated in me from being in Olley's world.

Echo  installation. Courtesy of the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

Echo installation. Courtesy of the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane.

Congratulations Robyn Sweaney, 2017 Wynne Prize Finalist

Robyn Sweaney has been announced a Finalist in the 2017 Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

"Time and tide is from a series of paintings that I am currently working on about the Australian coastal landscape. These paintings are about time past and the promise of slowing down in the future; the anticipation, contemplation, sunlight and shadows, still salt air and silent static moments.

Time and tide  2017, acrylic on linen, 40 x 50 cm. Image courtesy Anthea Polson Art.

Time and tide 2017, acrylic on linen, 40 x 50 cm. Image courtesy Anthea Polson Art.

Approaching the landscape as a living vessel of memory, the work considers how certain places conjure images from the past, tempered with the transient shadow of the present. They express personal embedded ideas about my own experiences of place and of those that have been here before.” Artist Statement: Robyn Sweaney, 2017

Read Robyn Sweaney's full interview in BAM Spring '16 Issue

"We were delighted to host Robyn's Fade to Blue exhibition in 2016 which formed part of this body of work," said Anthea Polson Art, on the Gold Coast. "Robyn is extremely accomplished and throughout her career has won or been a finalist in a significant number of prestigious Australian art prizes. We encourage you to consider Robyn for your own collection."

Experienced Landscapes | Emily Imeson at Lone Goat Gallery

Lone Goat Gallery in Byron will soon present emerging Northern Rivers artist Emily Imeson.

Emily Imeson's exhibition Experienced Landscapes is the result of a painting led inquiry that investigates the diversity of environments around regional NSW, and involved journeying to Tenterfield, Tamworth, Hill End, Bathurst, and Nymboida.

Golden,   250cm x 120cm

Golden,  250cm x 120cm

Emily is the recipient of an Arts NSW Young Regional Artist Scholarship, enabling her to explore regional NSW landscapes and connect with established artists and art foundations. Experienced Landscapes presents the current stage of Emily’s ongoing investigation. Emily will continue her research and travels throughout NSW until mid-2018.

 “Growing up in regional NSW I have developed a deep appreciation for Australia’s ‘great outdoors’ and am intrigued by nature. I am determined to mature these values into a comprehensive understanding of the natural world, articulated with brush marks and colours,” says Imeson.

Utilising both en plein air painting techniques and studio work, Emily’s arts practice documents her experience of being in the world.

“Methods of embodiment, observations, and documentation, have created endless inspiration and guide new ways to re-connect with the land. Spending time in one place allows a truth to reveal itself; textures, colours, flora, and fauna are uncovered. Understanding these elements in multiple landscapes has allowed me to create and share a contemporary archive of regional NSW," she says. 

Thunderbolts Hideout , 80cm x 120cm

Thunderbolts Hideout, 80cm x 120cm

"The project aims to develop images that push beyond the desire to create a visual sameness, encouraging a confidence to trust idiosyncratic mark making. I recreate and redefine the landscape as perceived by engagement. These paintings search to describe Australian geographical identities, and the constant changes of nature - moving away from the representational, heading towards an embodied form of art making,” says Imeson.

This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Robyn Sweaney: The summer that was

Robyn Sweaney has a new body of work opening at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney next month. The show, The summer that was, will run 26 July – 12 August.

The practice of Robyn Sweaney excavates the complexities of Australian identity and place by responding to the suburban mundane of rural environments. Tightly refined homes and streetscapes function as repositories of identity -  aesthetic incarnations of the belief structures influencing human behaviours on emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels. The Summer that was explores the psychological currency of the artist’s often‐annual pilgrimage to Victoria, where she recently spent the summer reconnecting with the coastal landscape that she grew up in.

Shadows of self , 2017, acrylic on linen, 40 cm x 50cm

Shadows of self, 2017, acrylic on linen, 40 cm x 50cm

Historically, pilgrimage journeys have been taken for spiritual and cultural reasons, and in our contemporary technological era of widening urbanity and prolific digitisation this need to escape is sown in collective consciousness.

"Even though a pilgrimage is usually voluntary, there can be also a strong urge or desire that feels involuntary," says the artist. "This deep motivation could be the need to externalise feelings that give meaning and structure to our lives."

Robyn Sweaney: The summer that was

26 July – 12 August 2017
Arthouse Gallery

66 McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay NSW 2011
Phone: 02 9332 1019

Sydney artist Amanda Penrose Hart wins 2017 Gallipoli Art Prize

Sydney based artist Amanda Penrose Hart has won the $20,000 acquisitive 2017 Gallipoli Art Prize with her painting The Sphinx, Perpetual Peace (below) depicting the towering rocky outcrop at Gallipoli that the Anzacs called The Sphinx. Penrose Hart's winning work along with thirty eight finalist works will be on public exhibition at the Gallipoli Memorial Club in Sydney from April 20 - 28.

 "My painting of the landscape that faced our soldiers who landed by boat on the morning of April 25th 1915. The extreme height of the hills and sharp barbed wire like vegetation slashed the men trying to advance over the hills," Penrose Hart said. "I walked this hill on two trips to Gallipoli and while in good shoes and good clothing I struggled to reach even half way. To some the land is now a mere tourist site, but to others it is a sacred burial ground. The trees have rejuvenated and the grasses spread like wildfire – they camouflage the thousands of body parts within.”
A respected Australian contemporary painter, Amanda Penrose Hart often paints landscapes in-situ. Born in Brisbane in 1963, she holds a Diploma of Fine Art from Queensland College of Art and a Bachelor of Visual Art from Griffith University.
Penrose Hart has held twenty solo exhibitions and has shown in many more group exhibitions. She regularly has work selected in prizes such as the Portia Geach Memorial Award (2011, 2008, 2007, 2006) and the En Plein Air Art Prize.
Represented by King St Gallery, her works are also included in public and private collections including Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW; Brisbane Polo Club; Gold Coast City Art Gallery; Hawkesbury Regional Art Gallery, NSW; Redcliff Regional Gallery, Qld; Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney; and University of Sydney Art Collection.
Every year Australian, New Zealand and Turkish painters are invited to submit works to the Gallipoli Art Prize that reflect upon the themes loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship as expressed in the Gallipoli Club's 'creed'. Artists can interpret the broad themes in relation to any armed conflict in which Australia has been involved from 1915 up to the present day. The works do not need to depict warfare.

“The Gallipoli Art prize continues to attract the support of the visual arts community who have once again responded with innovative works that preserve the best of the ANZAC spirit,” said judge Jane Watters “The broad range of imagery represented in the Prize demonstrates the level of inquiry by the artists into the stories and people from not just the Gallipoli campaign but from other conflicts and also from daily life experiences.”
Amanda Penrose Hart’s winning painting and the thirty eight 2017 finalist works will be on public display at the Gallipoli Memorial Club at Circular Quay in Sydney from Thursday 20 April to Friday 28 April (excluding public holiday), 10am -4pm.
We believe that within the community there exists an obligation for all to preserve the special qualities of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship which were personified by the heroes of the Gallipoli Campaign and bequeathed to all humanity as a foundation for perpetual peace and universal freedom.
Public Exhibition 20 April - 28 April (excl public holiday) 10am-4pm
Gallipoli Memorial Club, 2nd Floor, 12 Loftus St, Sydney
General enquiries: (02) 9235 1533

Previous Winners
2006  Margaret Hadfield Ataturk’s legacy
2007  Lianne Gough Glorus fallen
2008  Tom Carment Max Carment, War Veteran (the last Portrait) 
2009  Euan Macleod Smoke/Pink landscape/Shovel
2010  Raymond Arnold  The dead march here today
2011  Hadyn Wilson Sacrifice
2012  Geoff Harvey Trench interment
2013  Peter Wegner Dog with Gas Mask 
2014  Idris Murphy Gallipoli Evening 2013
2015  Sally Robinson Boy Soldiers
2016  Jiawei ShenYeah, Mate!

2017 Gallipoli Art Prize Winner
2017 Amanda Penrose Hart The Sphinx, Perpetual Peace

2017 Gallipoli Art Prize Finalists
Alison ChiamTied, Aussie Digger; Wombat skull and string
Alison Mackay136,000 to 1 
Amelia Willmer Murrumbidgee Flowing
Andrea Malone Thommo
Bernadette Harrigan A Mother’s Lament
Bob Marchant The rifle designed by William Scurry that saved lives at Gallipoli
Carmel Cosgrove  The Reconnaissance
Christian Morrow   Malcolm
Craig Handley Lewis
Craig Roach The hidden French gun of Cape Helles
Capt.Darlene Lavett The King’s Letter
Darrell Miller The Gaffer
David Hayes Man Down
David Porter The Avenue of honour at Mortlake
Deborah Walker Le Grande-Père (My Grandfather remembers 1915)
Fleur Macdonald The unknown soldier
Geoff Harvey Margaret Preston helps the shell-shocked service men
Glen Preece The Soldier’s Wife
Hugh Ramage The Goodsir Boys
Ian Chapman Buried Where They Fell
James Jian Shu HuThe First Day, Gallipoli 1915
John Colet School Yr 6 Interwoven Cultures
Judith White Mortarium
Karen Macdonald   Anzac Centenary Reflection
Kent McCormackHope Rallies Courage
Kim ShannonBoots On the Ground
Kristin Hardiman The Great Adventure
Lynne Mullane Les and His Boys
Margaret Hadfield Known Unto God - AEI
Maryanne Wick Sons
Max Berry Piebald hill with shrubs
Noel Kelly The Last Fuzzy Wuzzy
Peter Smeeth Anubis and the Soldier
Phil Hawke We are in it now
Rex Turnbull In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Steve Bowden The Last Post
Susan Sutton Love, Loyalty and Separation
Tony Costa Murphy and Kirkpatrick No 2.

Maria Paterson and Jay Foley to Exhibit at Byron’s Lone Goat Gallery

Well-known and respected Ocean Shores pastel, oil and new mediums Artist Maria Paterson kicked off 2017 with a bang, being one of only 94 candidates selected from around the world for the Paris-based FID drawing competition, and she follows this with a three week art exhibition at Byron Bay’s Lone Goat Gallery, opening this Friday, April 21.


Maria says her re-emergence follows a three year period of extreme change and transition: “Sometimes we need time to make sense of our world, and this is what I have been doing through my art.”

The Construct , graphite ink watercolour on paper, 60cm x 80cm

The Construct, graphite ink watercolour on paper, 60cm x 80cm

 Her style has changed along with her technique and use of a more monochromatic palette.  “I can communicate more depth in my emotional responses to the environment around me, allowing more scope to create contrasts, emphasising the lights and darks. I use the materials in an intuitive sense, sometimes pulling apart and reconstructing the work, letting the work dictate direction,” she says.

Pastel Artist and respected judge Leoni Duff says of Maria’s work: “Maria demonstrates a masterful understanding of pastel techniques using the translucency of an underpainting overlaid with a variety of opaque pastels to create a scintillating surface to the painting.”

Joining her at Lone Goat Gallery is fellow artist Jay Foley, who works with paint and printmaking mediums, and is known for his printmaking workshops at the Tweed Gallery, where he says he finds inspiration and enjoyment in the very process of feeding other people’s creatively.

“It’s an inspirational, and yet humbling experience,” he says, having taken the decision to stop teaching and focus on creating his own exhibition work.

Jay Foley’s inspiration comes from tending his rural garden. “My sense of place here on the North Coast is my inspiration. Home is my studio. The gardens and orchard are like a love story that I then record. It nourishes my soul”.  Having taught visual arts in high school for 22 years, Jay exchanged inspiration with his students.  Now retired, he sometimes teaches adults at Tweed Gallery, in the sense that the tradition of teaching means transmission, reception and adaptation in learning.

Sense of place is the common thread that weaves through Maria Paterson and Jay Foley’s art works in this exhibition Between. What is and what is imagined - evoking the thoughts and feelings of the artists using a variety of mediums and techniques such as paint, drawing and collaborative printmaking.

View more of Maria Paterson's work here.