Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn

Syd_Tunn_self_portrait_s

Syd Tunn ©  I Dips Me Lid. A self portrait  (detail)

There's magic in the air at Bend of Islands, just north of Warrandyte. The magicians responsible are artists Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn. Married for over thirty years, they work there together in their enormous studio in the bush.  Between the two of them, they've created a place and space where their art can flourish. They built the studio themselves.  Ona proudly tells me she built the floor and Syd the roof.  Rustic, warm wood throughout. Surfaces covered with completed and unfinished work, equipment and treasures gathered from the nearby bush.

SynOna_2_s

They are each muse for the other.  Encouraging and nurturing in words and gestures.  That's where the magic really kicked in.  As their guest, I was briefly bathed in that encouragement and nurturance. I started to believe that any creative idea I've ever had might just work...that it was at least worth a try.

If the essential ingredient for creativity is an ability for playfulness, Syd and Ona have perfected that one. There was great hilarity during the photo shoot with Syd donning a hat here and pair of sun glasses there.

Syd_Tunn_2_s

Syd_Tunn_1_s

From photographs on the wall of the studio. (above)

Syd_throwing_hat_s

As a good friend of Deborah Halpern, Syd painted this portrait which appeared in The Archibald Salon some years ago.  All the Deb 'references' are there... mosaic, Angel, ceramics and of course a love of wild colour. The two panels in the second photo hinge on each side of the central panel, like the wings of an angel. When Deb sat for this portrait, Syd used a light with green cellophane over it to get this gorgeous green light on her skin.

Syd_Tunn_Deb_Halpern_2_s

Portrait by Syd Tunn ©

Syd_Tunn_Deb_Halpern_3_s

Portrait by Syd Tunn ©

Syd_Tunn_painting_s

Work by Syd Tunn ©

Syd_Tunn_Waratah_s

Syd Tunn © Waratah

This beautiful portrait of Syd by Ona (below) describes their love story.   Here's what Ona says about it...

To see a face reflected in a pool of water is a mysterious way to paint my husband's portrait, but it's a mysterious relationship. We are literally an upside down partnership of  complements, skills, personalities and roles - personally and professionally.

Ona_Henderson_Syd_2_s

Ona Henderson © Answers in the Mirror Pool Acrylic on canvas 143x92cm

You get a flavour of Ona's playfulness from this print of a portrait for the Archibald (below) by Eliza Darby © .  For her fiftieth birthday, Ona dressed up as Carmen...

Ona_Henderson_50th_bday_s

Ona's preoccupation with the environment is evident in all of her work.  Living at Bend of Islands provides a plethora of inspiration.  In the studio, there's a glass cabinet which holds precious natural objects collected locally and in other places.  Curly leaves, lace leaves, long leaves, all have a collection point within the cabinet. (Nests are a recurring theme for me at the moment.)

Ona_Henderson_2_s

Ona_Henderson_4_s

Ona_Henderson_3_s

Ona_Henderson_5_s

Ona_Henderson_work_2_s

Work by Ona Henderson © 

Ona_Henderson_work_s

Work by Ona Henderson ©

Ona_Henderson_in_Studio_2_s

The three of us chatted and laughed and chatted some more for several hours.  At one point Ona told me the gut wrenching stories of loss during the Black Saturday fires. The tales were so affecting that I struggled to maintain my composure.  It's a recurrent theme within the arts community up here.  The wounds are deep. Efforts to heal those wounds through art have led to some wonderful projects.  Ona was involved in the Nillumbik Shire's exhibition, Symbols of Loss and Recovery.  Click on this link to view a documentary about the exhibition featuring Ona and Nillumbik Shire's Arts and Culture co- ordinator Irene Pagram.

A love of their community coupled with a deep commitment to serve that community has seen them participate in many projects, both big and small.  A history of Montsalvat, Dunmoochin and the Butterfly Studio will record their generous input. Ona and Syd have been leading lights in the Nillumbik Open Studio's Program since it's beginnings more than twenty years ago. Twice a year they welcome hundreds of art lovers into their studio.  If you missed them earlier this year, the November opening dates are 19th, 20th, 26th and 27th.

SydOna_studio_2_s

This Michael Leunig cartoon sits in a prominent place within the studio.  It pretty much sums up my experience there.

OnaSyd_Leunig_s

Still under the Syd and Ona spell, I set off through the bush back to Warrandyte. On the way, I needed to stop the car for a phone call, so headed for a driveway to get off the road. A great big old kangaroo was standing like a sentry at the beginning of the driveway.  He didn't move a muscle until I'd completely pulled in very close to him.  He turned around and in one bound effortlessly cleared the fence.  I watched him until he disappeared out of view... enjoying the moment. I realised the phone had stopped and I'd missed the call. I just sat in the car amazed by my own good fortune to be surrounded by such loveliness. Sadly, the phone rang again, this time I managed to answer it....the spell was broken.

Parent Category: Arts
Facebook Image

Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Awards-2

Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award Camilla TADICH©, 6.23am Kangaroo Ground 2009, oil on canvas, 94.5cm. x 125cm. framed. "Ekphrasis is a genre of poetry that explores works of art… More…

Emmy Mavroidis

Emmy Mavroidis and Aldo Bilotta Emmy Mavroidis' work was shortlisted for this years Nillumbik Prize. It's a big brave drawing of a 'moving' figure. She loves the figure and has… More…

Barbara Hauser's "London Carnival"

Barbara Hauser's "London Carnival" (Detail) Big, gutsy, unforgettable work! Pictures don't adequately show the scale and the impact of Barbara Hauser's work. Their size represents… More…

Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn

Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn Syd Tunn © I Dips Me Lid. A self portrait (detail) There's magic in the air at Bend of Islands, just north of Warrandyte. The magicians responsible are… More…

Bountiful Birrarung Dinner

Bountiful Birrarung Dinner Now I’m in love with the Eltham Library. I sit in the section that stores house and cooking magazines in glass cabinets…reminding me of how clever we… More…

Fulling

"Fulling" I'm back home now. Yesterday I was working on my deck and kept looking over in the direction of Birrarung, wistfully wondering if the frogs were missing me as much as I… More…

First Train to Allwood

First Train to Allwood "The first train to Allwood [now Hurstbridge] arrived on June 25th 1912 and we're going to yarnbomb a fence to celebrate". So say the organisers of this… More…

George Baldessin's Studio-formerly The Baldessin Press

George Baldessin's Studio Just before I went to New York last year, I went out to George Baldessin's Studio to meet Silvi Glattauer. It was a busy time for me, packing to go away… More…

Birrarung Symphony in Bird Minor

Birrarung Symphony in Bird Minor When I was at uni, way too many moons ago, I often hung out with the music students. One in particular, who would share the progress of his… More…

After the Storm

After the Storm Days are filled with quiet pleasures here, no bells and whistles. But then bells and whistles are here and gone in an instant, bouncing off the surface of things.… More…

Stephanie Mew (2)

Stephanie Mew (2) I've come across a great publication, "Creative Spaces. 21 Years of Nillumbik Artists Open Studios." If you can get your hands on a copy before you see the… More…

Birrarung House, Day Two

Birrarung House, Day Two Every cloud has a silver lining. Two days of trying to hook up to the www to post my blogs have led to me making a temporary 'office' in the courtyard at… More…

isiiad Red Chair Event

Isiiad Red Chair Event I've been a bit distracted this week by my presentation at the Red Chair Event. This is an event which is scheduled on the first Wednesday of the month and… More…

The Tree Project

The Tree Project It's a rare day that I'm not reminded of the 2009 Black Saturday fires in some way. Whether it's blackened tree trunks that still punctuate the landscape, or… More…

Birrarung Alchemy

Birrarung Alchemy There’s a howling wind today. Just now a big branch came loose from its trunk mooring and thundered onto the roof, threatening the structure of the house and by… More…

Nillumbik Open Studios in November

Nillumbik Artist's Open Studios in November Detail of work by Stephanie Mew. Time to get your diary out and mark two weekends in November for some serious 'studio hopping'.… More…

Ev Hales

Ev Hales Informal and formal patterns. I've been seeing them everywhere since I visited Ev Hales at her Hurstbridge studio. She's fascinated by them...See the pattern in the floor… More…

Expanding Dimensions

Expanding Dimensions (Photograph of 'Expanding Dimension' on the balustrade of the Roystead Building- copyright Silvi Glattauer) Remember Lloyd Godman, ecological artist.… More…

Red Chair, Arts and Artists

Red Chair Photograph by Kerry Cross "Red Chair" is a series of artists talks held at 7.00pm. on the first Wednesday of every month in The Barn at Montsalvat. It's an initiative of… More…

Congratulations Nerina Lascelles

Congratulations Nerina Lascelles! Long-Leaf Box Nerina Lascelles© (Winner of 2011 Nillumbik Prize Peoples Choice Award) Late last night an email came through letting me know that… More…

Copyright

THIS ENTIRE SITE © 2010-2012 ISIIAD. ALL OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND WRITTEN MATERIAL HEREIN, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED, ARE COPYRIGHTED BY ISIIAD. NO PART OF THIS SITE, OR ANY OF THE CONTENT CONTAINED HEREIN, MAY BE USED OR REPRODUCED IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.