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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 studios, it would be a great bit of research.  There’s a piece by Elizabeth Vercoe.  I’ve quoted her before, in Leanne Mooney’s post.  Elizabeth is a local painter, but also a very accomplished writer. Here’s some more of her written offerings,

“To look at a list of Nillumbiks artistic alumni, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon a who’s who of Victoria’s vibrant arts heritage.  Walter Withers, Clara Southern, Albert Tucker, Arthur Boyd, Penleigh Boyd, Danila Vassilieff, Max Meldrum, Clifton Pugh, to name but a few…” Pg. 9 “Creative Spaces”.

As I travel around studios and research artists currently working in the area, I wonder what it is about Nillumbik that fosters such talent. Maybe Stephanie Mew has the answer.  She enjoys living on what she calls the urban fringe, somewhere with the bush on one side and the city on the other.  Access to the beauty of the Australian bush while being able to enjoy the energy of the city.  There’s definitely energy in her work. Her need to create art permeates every corner of her life. She encourages it with her three children and practices it daily in her studio. At first she was reluctant to have me visit her studio, concerned that there wasn’t enough work for me to see there.  She needn’t have worried.  We spent several hours there together, unravelling a long roll of baking paper to reveal “Smoke”, opening up drawers storing copious drawings and paintings done on family holidays and in faraway places like Florence (see the Ponte Vecchio below) and pulling out finished canvases stacked up against the wall.  What a treasure trove.

Stephanie is very articulate about her work and the process by which she arrives at a finished piece.  She loves having an opportunity to talk with visitors during the Open Studios.  I feel pretty confident, that like me, they go away enriched by the experience. 

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(Detail)

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(Detail) Stencils are used here, again bridging the divide between art and craft.

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 (Detail) 

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I’ve mentioned Stephanie’s earlier training in sculpture before.  These sculptures (below) hang in her studio, reminding her of 3D forms and influencing her painting. Some of them are a bit macabre and gruesome (to use Stephanie’s word).  As such, they’re an important part of her creative history.

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This is called “Smoke” (below). Stephanie painted it after losing a very dear friend in the Black Saturday bush fires. She loved the idea of using a domestic product like baking paper.  The whole work is many meters long.  It would be best displayed from the bottom to the top of a wall, with the ‘smoke’, billowing along the ceiling (as smoke would).  It’s quite stunning and had me rethink the many ways we could display 2D art within a space.

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Visitors to her studio are invited to flick through sketch books and explore drawers of sketches and drawings.  Lots of surprises emerge, like, the Ponte Vecchio (below) done on a trip to Florence in 1997.

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As a mother of young children, Stephanie has delighted in sketching them.  There are sketch books full of them, plus single drawings within these drawers (below).

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Stephanie is interested in exploring pure abstraction in the future.  I can’t wait to see where that takes her work.

Nillumbik Artists Open Studios website

STOP PRESS!  A selection of Stephanie’s work is also on show at the Stonehouse Gallery on the main drag in Warrandyte, until 30th April.