Women of Substance - Exhibiting February - Red Hill Gallery

Red Hill Gallery is dedicating the month of February to the femme fatales of the Australian Art World. Meet Madeleine Ekeblad, Rebecca Pierce, Danielle McManus and Emma Middleton in this exclusive interview on their work. Stay tuned to Red Hill Gallery’s facebook page and website for updates and sneak peeks of the upcoming, collaborative exhibition featuring these four talented artists. “Women of Substance” will run from Friday 15 February – Sunday 3 March. Madeleine Ekeblad

Describe your art in one sentence? Music and Dance are my greatest loves and this is portrayed in my energetic style of ‘freeform’ painting.

What/who inspired you to first start painting? I am fourth generation Artist, and growing up in an artistic family allowed for creative thinking and experimentation, although I didn’t embrace the arts until well into my 20’s. Rebellion is part of my spirit. My mother is an artist painter/sculptor, my grandmother was a designer milliner and her father-in-law was an artist/engraver for the British Mint. Do you have a particular process you use to get into the creative zone? I’m never out of it!

When I can’t paint, I am writing. Or I create different art structures in my artistic getaway garden. My teapot, tinker, time tree is amazing. I am currently filming a documentary about a 1930’s piano.  ‘The decomposition of an Upright Piano”.   This is in my backyard under a double gazebo with the flowering Indian Glove vine over it.  The filming will take 18 months.

When I need other influences I go to the Art Gallery & GoMA and walk around visiting all the Australian Masters. Remember my life has been surrounded by artistic influence. Art is my life.

Do you think living in a creative Island community has affected your work in any way? Artists and artisans living on a small isolated island seem to have a significant awareness of their surroundings. This tends to provoke deeper thinking and awakens the artistic inquisitiveness to capture the movement and rhythm of the landscape or seascape.  I keep wanting to paint the water but end up painting music or dance.  Even when painting something as simple as a tree it ends up being a female form ‘dancing’.

Musical overtones are always prevalent in your work, what music do you listen to while you paint, and do you express yourself differently when listening to different genres?

JAZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love me, love my Jazz.

If I’m out ‘en plein air’ painting  then I listen to the sound of the landscape around me.  Standing silently in the Bamboo Grove at the Botanic Gardens you start to feel the sway of the bamboo then the drums start to beat and the wind whistles its flute.  Get the picture. I hear music everywhere.  Allow the Bohemian mentality to be at the forefront of your creations!

Lastly, you have written a number of books about art and art making, which are currently on-sale in the gallery, can you tell us more about these?I was asked many years ago to put the artistic quotes that I term at my art school, OMSA, down on paper. This produced the first book “The Reluctant Artist!” and of course, as I am talking all the time, I write like I speak, which can be unfortunate for the public as having suffered a minor stroke at 43 I lost the use of my peripheral vision and my speech for a short time, everything is fine again now, but my speech and words were very dyslectic.  I am making the most of every single minute of every single day and enjoy every moment.

I help artists to understand not ‘what’ they paint, but ‘why’ they paint!

Rebecca Pierce

Describe you art in one sentence? Semi abstract contemporary art that closely references the Australian outback and flowering coastal plains.

What/who inspired you to first start painting? No particular person inspired me. I have always loved colour and texture.

Do you have a particular process you use to get into the creative zone? No not really, I love to be able to paint at every opportunity, and enjoy the idea of my work as a form of escapism.

How did it feel to be selected in 2000 to create a limited edition collectors design for Wedgewood and The Royal Australian Mint, Canberra? It was a brilliant opportunity as I had over 20 government appointed licensees to work with straddling all areas of retail from limited editions to general keepsake.

You’ve had an enormous career, what have been the highlights? I now have the opportunity to work with my children and to watch them embrace art in all its forms.

Danielle McManus

Describe you art in one sentence? My paintings are colourful, whimsical and for the most part simple images inspired by everyday life.

What/who inspired you to first start painting? My earliest inspiration were book illustrators like May Gibbs   and Beatrix Potter. I originally wanted to illustrate books.

Do you have a particular process you use to get into the creative zone? No. With three young children I just grab any spare time I get to paint! They do give me plenty of inspiration though!!

How did you develop your figures? Have you always painted people in this way or did it develop with your style? I developed my figures from the artwork in illuminated manuscripts and religious icons I had seen while visiting Malta and Italy. I studied illustration at University so my earlier works were realistic portraits and illustrations. This style developed over time to break away from the rigidity of my original work.

Are your paintings of a particular person or a made up character? No. I usually think of the subject or situation depicted in the work first and then place people into it. On some occasions they might bear resemblance to one of my kids, such as in works like the pink horse series. It was my daughter who inspired that.

Emma Middleton

Describe you art in one sentence? On the one hand it is an expression of the beauty of women, and on the other a physical manifestation of emotions.

What/who inspired you to first start painting? From the very beginning my Grandmother, whose studio was filled with landscapes, nudes and flowers, and later on the dancers in the Vienna ballet who offered to model for my sketches.

Do you have a particular process you use to get into the creative zone? I have a constant companion; music. Often classical harp, or the other extreme; alternative bands.

Emma your nudes are gorgeous. Do you always use models to paint, do you find an advantage? I use models, however to capture the effects of natural sunlight, that I find so intriguing, I photograph the models to record the moment in time.

Each woman I paint brings her own unique and beautiful quality that together with my interpretation forms the essence of the work.

You were a professional ballerina at some stage... do you think this has had an impact on your style and subject matter? Yes, an enormous impact. A dancer’s instrument is the body, and at the same time it is a conveyor of artistic expression.

My more recent black and white works represent the struggle I face to become more conscious of a broader spectrum of self-realisation. Including the dark emotions and the light, with all the greys in between, and the full range of beauty, challenge, and possibilities.