Life’s Beach – A Journey from the Garden to the Sea

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FRAN BARRATT

Tell us about your artistic background – where/how did you start your creative journey?

I’ve been making art for years, since my early 20s, first sculpting, then gradually moving more into drawing and painting. I still like to make a bit of sculpture though.

What will be on display at your current exhibition at Haven Fine Arts Gallery?

We’ve called this exhibition Life’s a Beach – A Journey from the Garden to the Sea. It’s about the environment that we live in and those aspects of the environment that have a major influence on us and therefore on our work – from our garden, through the seaside bushland, the sand, the waves and out to the reefs where we snorkel.

A major influence for me since moving to Port has been the local koalas. They regularly visit the trees in our yard, I’ve volunteered at the Koala Hospital, and I even had one named after me having initiated and helped in her rescue. Inspired by them, I made a couple of large meditating koalas in terracotta when I first moved here and more recently I painted “Percy” (Koala P Crossingsafe III) for Hello Koalas. And now part of my exhibition will be five portrait paintings of “Lake Private”, a past resident of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. I went to the hospital to do a photo shoot of a number of koalas, but Lake Private was so engaging, stalking me up and down the branches and leaning into my camera, that he stole the show and became the sitter for all the portraits. Five percent of the sale of each of his paintings will go to the Koala Hospital.

I also recently started making small terracotta koalas. There was to be six of them at this exhibition, but the 6th koala – Vincent – lost an ear in the firing, so now there are five koalas and a frog. As I don’t think there’s an official word for a group of koalas, being solitary animals, I’ve been playing around with words to describe them – a cuddle of koalas? (a bit too cute), a cacophony of koalas? (good one for the mating season!) or these little sculptures I’ve just done, cross legged and inward looking –  a contemplation of koalas. I like that one.

Are there other local influences in your work for this exhibition?

Yes, absolutely! Our local Shelly Beach is a big influence. Some time ago I did a series of paintings of the turkeys at Shelly’s. For this exhibition I’ve painted a Shelly Beach scene on a kitchen table, which is a bit of fun with the lagoon centre stage and a couple of tea bag people in the lagoon (representing all those people, me included, who just bob up and down in there), Wobbegongs, the caravan, Steve surfing, a dolphin, me catching the wave of the day (as the artist I get to create the life I want, and I really like catching the wave of the day – on the rare occasion that happens).

There will also be a number of small framed pieces with a beach theme. Each of these has a unique story. I like the feeling that every piece forms a world of its own with characters that then turn up again and again in my other work, so that taken together the series creates a larger story. A story about being in the sunshine, feeling the sand between your toes, the air sparkling around you and the world full of hope and fun. Even Skippy has been making an appearance in my drawings. Occasionally swamp wallabies come down to the beach in the early mornings at Shelly’s, so now they’ve turned up in my work. I grew up with Skippy and have always felt great affection for her and admiration for her amazing abilities!

Well known in the Port Macquarie region for your art, what mediums are used to create your works?

Oils are my first love, and that’s what I’ve used for Lake Private’s portraits, but this year I’ve also enjoyed being in a very intimate creative space using coloured pencil on paper. Sitting cross legged like my little koalas on my lounge drawing stories based on my daily experiences and in that relaxed and safe place, the unexpected pops up in my work.

Why do you enjoy using bright colours in most of your paintings?

Maybe because I’m greedy. There’s all those colours available, and I want to use a bit of each one.

 

STEVE MCGRATH

Tell us about your artistic background – where/how did you start your creative journey?

I started playing with clay about 30 years ago when I moved to the Mid North Coast, met a group of wood-firing potters and soon became an habitual potter myself. I’m still here making terracotta sculptures at Little Frogwood Gallery and Studios at Port Macquarie. Over the years I’ve made domestic ware, water tanks, ponds and sculptures. Sculptures, often quirky and humourous, are a favourite of mine. I also enjoy making garden lamps. I’m a keen gardener and love seeing a lamp flickering with candle light amongst the foliage or on my deck.
What places and/or things in our local region give you inspiration for your art?

My life is totally related to the ocean and its surrounds, and my artworks reflect this salty relationship I have with the sea. Surfing characters like Lulu and the Surfing Dodos are regular creations, and they’ll be at our exhibition.

A favourite of mine in this exhibition is a piece called The Traveller. He’s my alter ego. I love living here surfing, but there’s a part of me that wants to throw my sack over my shoulder and go travelling. The Traveller will also be at our exhibition along with garden lamps and devas, a grunty garden sculpture and more.

 

The Plug:

Exhibition at Haven Fine Arts
522 Ocean Drive, North Haven
www.havenfinearts.com

Little Frogwood Gallery
5 Cross St, Port Macquarie
Open Saturdays 11 – 2
Phone. 0478 640 686

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