Many of the jacarandas, poppies, roses, cornflowers, magnolias and other floral beauties that feature in Tamara’s first solo exhibition at the Orchard Gallery in Waterloo almost spill from their frames, pulsing with energy.
It’s the same vitality she brings to her work as a massage therapist, acupuncturist and Reiki master. “I heal people,” she says, conspiratorially. “Touching is important.”
Many decades ago, Tamara worked as a travel planner in St Petersburg in Russia.
Home between tours she noticed some dried sticks on her windowsill. She put them in water and was delighted when they began to bud.
“Straight away I started to draw. It was so wonderful. Flowers! And leaves. I didn’t realise I could do this. It was my first experience of drawing, and it felt incredible.”
Tamara’s emerging artistic talent went on the backburner when she joined her husband Leo in running his busy tourist agency in St Petersburg. It stayed there, simmering, until 1995 when the couple moved with their 15-year-old-son Daniel to Australia to escape anti-Semitism in Russia.
“My husband is Jewish, and my son has his surname,” she explains, “and anti-Semitism was all around us. At school they’d ask my son, ‘What is your surname? What is your nationality?’ I was scared – and I wanted to save him.”
Renting in Bondi, Tamara took art classes “on Bondi Road near the Russian restaurant, do you know it?” When she and Leo moved to Redfern 11 years ago, the classes at Poet’s Corner helped to further refine her practice.
For the last four years, the Saturday Art Class at South Sydney Uniting Church (SSUC) has given her space to pour herself into her painting. “Even with portraits I don’t do proportions,” she says – dismissing convention with the sweep of a hand. “Painting is a kind of meditation for me. I focus on the body’s chakras, and work through them.”
Flower Power is the first show for the Orchard Gallery in 2018. As the gallery is co-located with SSUC, Tamara’s flowers filled the church for Palm Sunday. They were still there “blooming” on Easter Sunday and into April as a reminder of abundance and new birth.
On opening night, Tamara is flushed with pride and points to a crowd favourite of pink roses. “I like this one,” she says wistfully. “I painted it here at the Saturday Art Class. I painted it very slowly over four hours. Amazing stuff.”