From potter to painter, Norm Aldridge is one of the Mid-North Coast’s most versatile artists.
> You have a current exhibition at the Red Hill Gallery. Tell us about your background in the local area.
My wife Norma and I came here in 1979 from Sydney, where I trained as a potter at East Sydney Technical College. I attended master classes with Shegio Shiga, the first Japanese potter to come to Australia after the second World War. I also worked with Richard Brooks in his pottery at Terry Hills. Richard trained with David Leach, a master potter in the UK. I also attended many seminars with other world renowned potters from overseas.
Upon arriving at Red Hill I established my avocado orchard, which has been my primary business these past 30 years. During that early startup period, I built my own wood fired homeware kiln – making all my own glazes, often using local natural materials, i.e. oxides, kaolin clay, etc. I used to make my own pottery decorating brushes out of dog hair.
During this period I commenced teaching pottery at Kempsey TAFE for two years. I believed my drawing and colour skills could be improved by attending art classes at Kempsey and Wauchope TAFE. I became hooked on the broader field of art and started painting landscapes, eventually changing to abstract expression.
> How would you describe your art style?
Pure abstract expressionism, with the accent on expressionism. My art does not involve taking any image and changing it, but I work intuitively with one brush stroke suggesting another, and so on.
> Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Largely, the landscape suggested by aerial type viewpoints, which sometimes dissolve into another type of perspective. The interplay of various colours and methods of achieving balance must always be taken into consideration.
> What are some of your favourite pieces from the exhibition?
My favourite painting is ‘Aquarian Interlude’. The interplay of fish, blues, yellows, reds – simply, a not overstated, good painting. It’s not what you place in the painting, but what you leave out. A question of good balance; a bit like a good music score.
> Do you spend time gathering ideas and information for your paintings like your fellow artists?
We collect, we gather, we organise, we disseminate information – especially ideas. We reproduce, we interpret, we nurture and respond to all that is ‘shoved’ before us, present and past.
We take what is worthwhile and leave alone that which is bland, repetitive or mundane.
In art one moves forward and moves backward … even to rediscover cave painting. Nature is the greatest abstractionist.
> How have you developed as an artist?
Thoughts on my development as an artist … learning commenced as a potter, subsequent to learning basic skills to enable shapes for decoration. What to decorate a pot with led to abstractionist skills, relaxed methods e.g. meditation practiced at seminars with Irene Amos.
It is necessary to clear the mind and tap into the right side of the brain before abstract thoughts can arrive; this means intuitive painting or decoration – without even thinking about what you are doing.
Passmore and Fairweather are more recent artists whom I admire; Kandinsky and Klee are giants of the ‘older school’.
Organised shapes come and go, but colour is my main preoccupation. Working left handed and then with the right also provides stimuli – tricks of the trade! Working fast and chaotically, ideas come quickly then disappear if not used immediately. Go and chop the bloody wood if it doesn’t come!
> How do you think your painting will evolve in the future?
With my painting, oils have been my main medium so far. But of recent times I have made the switch to acrylics, which allows me to superimpose one brush mark over another due to quick drying. This leads to contemplation and rearranging images – it helps to keep the creative juices flowing.
Where this will lead, I don’t know. That’s the great thing about creating artworks – you just don’t know what’s going to evolve next. There are more mountains to ascend, which means more mistakes, more agony, more ecstasy … the usual painter’s lot!
Oh well – back to ‘the cave’.
> Thank you Norm.
Readers can view Norm’s works at the Red Hill Gallery, a 7 minute drive off the Pacific Highway at Telegraph Point.