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This weekend will see artists across the Yarra Valley open their studios to the public.  I’ve had a great time catching up with many of the artists over the last couple of months,  Jenny Reddin, Margaret McLoughlin, Tim Peel, Sioux Dollman, Ali Griffin, Mim Kocher, Amanda Ruck,  Alistair Whyte and Malcolm Peel amongst them. Justin Purser and Antonio Villella featured last year in the early days of Isiiad.

On Tuesday of this week I was delighted to meet yet another member of this fine group of talented people- Ember Fairbairn.  I really need you to know that you MUST SEE this work ‘face to face’ to appreciate the full beauty of her aesthetic, photographs are not sufficient. The painting below, sat on the floor of her studio. It’s just back from a gallery in New York. The colour and the soft wafts of leaves across the canvas had me immediately picturing my bank balance in the hope that a purchase would be possible!  I wanted that painting so badly and have been gazing longingly at the photo of it for several days now.

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Photograph provided by the artist.

Her work hits just the right note for me…soft, round, layered works often infused with the energy of the sun in shades of yellow. I love the way it’s unashamedly feminine.  It’s an aspect Ember is very aware of.  She is completely comfortable in her female skin. She credits a great deal of personal growth with the opening up of her work…coming from feminine spirituality and feminine consciousness. We chatted at some length about feminism and life and the great power and joy of motherhood.

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I learned that Ember’s mother, Kaye Fairbairn, is an artist. “Mum would sit me down with pastels or take me to life drawing or get me to prime her canvas.”  Ember remembers (at the age of eight) attending RMIT with her mother (there was no day care available). She says that’s when she “fell in love with art”. Andrew Sibley was one of her mother’s lecturers, that clinched the deal! 

After studying art at Queensland University, Ember took a career detour and studied massage and healing arts. While she worked in that area for some time, after the birth of her first child, painting called her back and she has been painting ever since.  Since then she’s exhibited a couple of times a year.  Three or four of those exhibitions have been shared with Nerina Lascelles. Both artists have been influenced by eastern philosophy and Buddhism. In addition, both artists have embraced encaustic painting.  In Ember’s work, the technique creates a soft muted quality.  Over many years she has refined her use of it and now teaches others that ancient craft. Ember loves “the dimension, mystery and sensuality of encaustic painting.” She admits to being very much influenced by Shawna Moore and says, “I’ve been doing encaustic for some time now, but she showed me the way I could go with it.” Other artistic influences include John Wolesley (highly influenced by nature) Belinda Fox, John Firth Smith and Nicholas Wilton.

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There is also an exquisite serenity that embues each work. Ember’s painting process provides the key to this. Her paintings come from a quiet place of contemplation and stillness…”Just picking up a brush takes me into that place of stillness and contemplation.”  References to nature abound in her work. She has always sought to live in a peaceful natural environment. She says,  “I relish being in nature.  I don’t really want to be influenced by the urban landscape.” The natural beauty of the Yarra Valley is not lost on her.  This makes her participation in the Open Studio Program for that area all the more appropriate. Along with all of the other participants in the program, Ember is exhibiting a single piece of work at Sticks Winery from 10th-18th September.  I recommend a visit there before you settle on your itinerary. It’s a great way to get a little taste of each artist’s work, not to mention a great opportunity for a little wine tasting.  

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Ember’s studio can be found at Lot 1/4 Douglas Pde. Yarra Junction.  The Yarra Valley Open Studio Program is running over two weekends this year- 10th, 11th September and 17th and 18th September. If you would like more information go to their website.

For more information about Ember’s work, go to her website.

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PS.  I’ve been listening to Pavarotti while writing this post…it seems appropriate!  Thank you Ember.

All work in this post is Ember Fairbairn©.