Thursday, August 4, 2022
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Painters shed light on lockdown drear

With galleries closed during lockdown, I hankered after colour and beauty and a sense that the world was larger than the humdrum knick-knacks I could see in my house.

For some reason, online exhibitions (though varied) quickly fatigued me. Eventually, I stumbled upon Maria Stoljar’s Talking with Painters – and discovered a much-needed source of distraction and illumination.

Stoljar interviews Australian painters for her podcast and YouTube channel – and I’ve now listened to and watched more than 10 of the many episodes she’s created over the last four years.

I started with Tasmanian-based painter Georgia Spain who spoke about winning the Sulman Prize in 2021 with her painting “Getting down or falling up” – a strikingly energetic work depicting people caught at tipping point, limbs akimbo.

Less than a year earlier, Spain was one of five to receive the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship. She also won the Women’s Art Prize Tasmania in the same week she won the Sulman. She’s a singer too and released her debut full-length album Trouble Isn’t Something You Can Hold in 2019, a response to the environmental crisis and personal tragedy, the latter the devastating loss of her older sister.

Natasha Walsh is another emerging artist who talks articulately with Stolja about her creative process and her struggle with depression. As well as winning three prestigious art awards; the Kilgour Prize, the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship and the Mosman Art Prize, she’s been a finalist in the Archibald Prize for the last three years with self-portraits.

Walsh said her main interest lies in transforming materials like wax, copper and marble into ideas. She loves how copperwork changes depending on how it’s lit and how wax can be made to look like flesh.

“I was sitting with my grandfather as he was dying and holding his hands and his skin was so fragile and I wanted a material that could evoke that,” she said.

Stolja helpfully provides online links for major topics, art movements, techniques and quirky facts each artist touches on in their talk. For example, in a recent episode featuring Kim Leutwyler there is a link to Gamblin’s “Torrit Grey” because Leutwyler speaks of craving this paint – a different grey each year, that’s made from recycled pigments.

I also really enjoyed getting a peek inside Wendy Sharpe’s studio in St Peters and hearing her talk about her 2018 show Paris Windows at King Street Gallery on William. Marc Etherington was also endearing, especially when speaking about the imaginative breadth he sees in his children and how this inspires him.

Despite the radiance these interviews showered on my lockdown dreariness and times since, I have yet to pick up a paintbrush! Still, I’m pretty sure Talking with Painters will appeal to other people who don’t paint and also those who do.










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