The paintings in this exhibition are the result of a journey of some 70 years, seeking to understand art.
In the early years, I drew and painted with gifts of pencils and paper from my grandfather at a small table and chairs he built to accommodate my habitual artistic efforts.
In 1944 my grandfather, FTGA Yarrow, introduced me to Sydney Ure Smith’s publication, Australian Landscapes’, and in doing so unearthed an admiration for an artistic focus that would become a key component of my adult body of work.
At Brisbane Girls Grammar (BGGS) the art
classes brought immense joy, and it was here that my first connection with art history was made. This introduction sparked a lifelong quest for knowledge of what artists had created in the past.
BGGS published my drawings and paintings in their school magazines in 1952 and 1953.
Winning the Sunday Mail Open Art prize at seventeen was a great thrill and prompted a visit to the Art Branch in George Street, Brisbane. There, however, the principal, Cyril Gibbs, refused to allow me to study painting and suggested as I was a female I should take commercial art.
My stint at the Art Branch classes lasted 6 months, as the course covered a range of principles, many of which I had practised since childhood, learning these techniques at a young age from the ‘Saturday Evening Posts’ lent to the family by a neighbour.
In 1962 Margaret Olley suggested I enrol at the Art Branch, as celebrated artists, Roy and Betty Churcher, were teaching a Wednesday morning class, The ‘Wednesday Group’ formed soon after, and group exhibitions with the women who attended soon followed.
It was here that I met Irene Amos, and that connection sparked a 50-year friendship filled with lively discussions on many subjects.
The spiritual component of art was a frequent topic, and thus began my search for ways of expressing this fascinating phenomenon. I always felt there was a mysterious factor which made a painting “work”, the name of which escaped me for a number of years until I attended a talk by Shri Nirmala Mataji who spoke about the vibrations which flowed from the surface of great paintings when all the co-efficients of the work of art are in balance.
What are co-efficients? They are the building blocks of all art-line, form, shape, tone, pattern, colour, texture, design, structure, rhythm, repetition, contrast and harmony. Each element has energy capable of resonance which flows from the artwork.
Another factor applied – the creators of these works were all realised souls, and their works emitted vibrations which nourished the hearts of the onlookers, uplifted their spirits and stilled their minds.
Then began an exploration of various ideas for subject matter for my paintings. This was influenced by many factors, including Greek legends of the Minotaur; scenes remembered from my childhood home overlooking the Brisbane River; my mother’s pink chair; medieval landscape paintings by Jacopo da Valencia of rocky theatre backdrop-like mountains (Through cut-outs in his mountains
appear distance landscapes); the blending of oriental and western art, and Arabian, Japanese and Indian patterns; structure lines in Cezanne’s paintings and Duccio’s altar piece, The Mother of God; the triangle arrangement of many depictions of Mary and the Baby Jesus; people at work; and life drawing.
Over the years I worked on paintings in series such as ‘The Mountain of the Apple’ in which flying apples appeared. The final painting in this series, ‘The Mountain of the Apple`was a prizewinner in 1977.
The Flying Apple
The Mountain of the Apple
From the ‘Tom and the Minotaur’ series came another 1977 prizewinner,’Onlookers.
In 1986 the Self Portrait Symbol emerged while I was playing with pastels. Artists have long used hidden structures to build well-balanced design into their paintings.
This way of working dates back to the Renaissance and is present in many Madonna and Child images, which are held together by triangular structures.
Many early artists used a simple cruciform structure hidden within the finished work. Horizontal parallels, and oblique and curved lines can secretly create critical points in a design.
These linear details are most often found running top to bottom and side to side of the boundaries of the designs.
Subtle use of structure lines can be seen in some key Impressionists’ work, ensuring a strong scaffolding on which to hang shapes.
Architects and engineers also explored this technique by introducing steel girders to enable their buildings to rise above single storey to multi-levels. Today, entire glass facades hang on hidden steel structures.
First introduced to structure lines by Betty Churcher at the Art Branch (now a part of the Queensland University of Technology campus), I have used the Impressionists’ hidden structure lines in many of my works.
During 1986, the first series of ‘Self Portrait Symbols’ was created. For the next five or six years this symbol appeared subtly in works on paper and on canvas.
Self portrait symbol # 5
“You can be torn”
Self portrait symbol # 6
“Go Straight Ahead”
These two works form part of the initial ‘Self Portrait Symbol’ series of 7 pastels.
Quite often, the eye of the artist will seemingly unconsciously place shapes, the edges of which will form a critical structure line. These ‘off the top of the head’ placements are a great source of delight to the artist when discovered.
Subtle structure lines give parity to a painting and, as one of the co-efficients, help each work of art to attract the attention of the viewer.
Salcombe Lowtide with Self Portrait Symbol
A common theme is looking through cut-outs featured in works.
Salcombe Christmas Tree
In paintings I blended the Self Portrait Symbol as a hidden structure and landscapes with cut-outs through which appear other images.
Salcombe Christmas Tree with Self Portrait Symbol
From 1982 I travelled in Europe, UK, France, Italy, Holland, India, Japan and the USA to see the works of the Masters and to paint and sketch these new environments. Many sketchbooks then overflowed with impressions of foreign lands and their light.
During a trip to India in 1990, I sketched Ganapatipoule on the Arabian Sea coast.
This sketch became the centrepiece of my final painting completed at Queensland Art Gallery a year later when I was invited to be their visiting artist.
Ganapatipoule’ is famous for a Ganesha swayambhu.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, has the qualities of humility, wisdom, childlike innocence and great good humour.
A Swayambhu is a sacred place where Mother Earth has produced rocks and soils, which are renowned for emitting subtle vibrations. Uluru is one such place. The Matterhorn in Switzerland is another. These vibrations reflect the qualities of various spiritual entities. At Ganapatipoule is a temple built on the site of a swayambhu from which flow vibrations that have Ganesha’s qualities.
The ‘East West Frames’ series was developed during a 1991 stint at the Queensland Art Gallery’s Education Department studio as visiting artist.
Alma Bay Headland with East West Frames
Prince of wales Island
Ali Bagh Tree
This series featured the proscenium, patterns from oriental papers and miniature paintings.
The series featuring scenes remembered from my childhood shows images of the riverbank and Hamilton Cold Stores, and my mother’s morning teas on the verandah with the Shelley Teaset. The final painting in this 1996 series was ‘Hamilton Wharf’, which won the Moreton Bay Festival Award.
The Pink Chair appears in many interior themed paintings. This chair was one from the family home on the hillside overlooking the river at Bulimba.
Pink Chair and Red Gerberas
People have always featured in my work, as I began drawing family members as a teenager.
People I met during Australian Flying Art School years as painting tutor fill the sketchbooks. One such sketch is of Bob Hickson in his Dirranbandi woolshed.
Bob Hickson paying the men
People outdoors is another interest. After leaving the Rockefeller Centre in New York in 2006, while I was sheltering from a fierce storm and watching people catching yellow cabs in the pouring rain, the idea of a painting sprang to mind.
W 50th New York City Stom
People from the ‘Grand View’ series crowd my sketchbooks.
People in coffee shops and life drawings fill the folios.
While waiting out a rainstorm in a Plymouth, UK, coffee shop, I did a few sketches in oils pastels.
There were numerous paintings on paper from a visit to Cornwall in 1987.
Sketches in pastels and watercolour from windows, riversides and meadows form a great body of reference for later paintings.
The works in ‘A New Millennium’ feature an artist’s eye-view of Scotland, Lindisfarne, North Sea, Cornwall, New York, London, Sydney, Whitby, Liverpool, Lands End, Normandy, the Savannah land of Far North Queensland, Cairns, Brisbane, Ireland, Torres Strait Islands, India, Magnetic Island, and Interiors and Still Life images from my home environments.
Painting represents my life’s work; indeed, you might say, it’s why I am here. Painting and drawing are my heart’s delight.