My friend and fellow illustrator, Nadia Raineri, and I recently banded together to put on a joint exhibition in Winn Lane, Fortitude Valley. I’d been approached to be part of a larger amalgamated big-top affair of fashion, music, design and art, a recent American import to Brisbane that goes by the name of RAW and purports to promote independent artists in an independent manner—but, not having the fortitude to stomach having myself filmed saying, ‘I’m a RAW artist!’ nor to bother my friends and relatives with the prepurchasing of $15 tickets, I passed this up and got on with the actual independent method of organising a show with a small band of friends and acquaintances. Winn Lane puts on a monthly event to showcase local creatives and to attract people to their cute-as-pie neck of the woods, and graciously agreed to host our pop-up show. It doesn’t get much more grassroots than that.
Nadia was very secretive about her works, but had nothing to fear: her intricate black and white pen drawings—stippled, lined and washed—were striking and inviting, with slightly offbeat subject matter—authors, messy rooms and vintage cameras and bikes—that exuded a quiet intimacy and a certain solemnness. All framed in black, they were pitched well against my own bright paintings all framed in white, such that we presented a complementary wall of illustration.
I held onto many newer, unseen paintings for the show, half of Brisbane and half of Europe, mostly exploring the crevices of cities. Since moving back to Brisbane just over a year ago, I’ve been thoroughly in love with the place, and indulging my passion for it in paintings and drawings. It’s important to me to embrace the place where I am, and to wholly own it—to call it and no other place ‘home.’ When I left Brisbane last year, for a brief and unsuccessful sojourn to Canberra, I was determined to claim Canberra as home, but my efforts were thwarted. Brisbane, Round Two, thus cemented itself in my heart as a true home, neither my birthplace (Sydney) nor the place I grew up (Far North Queensland), but my true stomping ground. I don’t think I’ll ever get it out from under my skin.
Painting Europe has been difficult—it is both an escape and a torment, because I cannot be there right now. I slip into my ever-vivid European memories and elaborate on old photographs, injecting my paintings with colours and patterns that recreate the happy dizziness of travel.
The Valley—a creative hub of Brisbane—turned out to be a fortuitous place in which to stake one’s artistic claim. I’ve even been noticed by The Weekend Edition: Thank you, Emily Nelson, fellow illustrator and also photographer, for sharing the glittering evening in a local online sheet.