The Artist and the Art

Stella paints landscapes in oils. She has exhibited in metropolitan and regional galleries in Victoria. She works from a studio in Ballarat, a lovely old city with easy access to inspirational landscape, down to the Bellarine, the Great Ocean Road, and across the Bass Strait to Tasmania.

Stella’s landscapes are not plein air, impressionist, realist, or abstract.  They are studio compositions, painted, primarily, as an invitation, to contemplation and release from your present moment.

By exploring the concept of landscape in poetic and imaginative ways, Stella invites the spectator to experience nature in all its emotional resonance, sensual dimensions and visual drama. She creates compositions of both elemental energy and consoling tranquility.

Stella’s paintings propose a harmonious relationship with the natural world, though this may be accompanied by an elegiac note. Her art begins with observation, but has a dream-like edge. She seeks to combine the sublime with the mundane; the wider view with the immediacy of plants, leaves and twigs that you move through as you walk. Immersion in the closest foreground rolls out to the seductions of a horizon of luminous skies and cloudscapes.

Stella’s paintings can be understood in terms of biophilia, the idea that humans are wired with the urge to connect with nature, and that it is essential to our well-being. 

 

Artist's Autobiographical Note

Over the years, my life has turned out to be far from linear, it has been a fascinating garden of forking paths. My working life has moved, at various stages, through lecturing at universities, writing as a freelance critic, gallery work and, throughout all this, practicing as an artist, which has become my focus over the last decade. During this time I have also had a very busy family life, raising three daughters.  There has been a nomadic element to my life, which I have enjoyed, being curious about the world, challenged by encountering new environments, and fascinated by diverse cultures and landscapes.  After living in various places in the UK, growing up in East Anglia, studying and teaching in the Midlands, the Cotswolds and the West Country, living and travelling in Europe, I immigrated from the UK to Australia; here, my life has moved interstate several times, from Perth in WA, to Armidale in NSW, to Canberra, to Melbourne, and most recently to old, gold, and cold, Ballarat.

Art has always been of great importance in my life, and studies. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (University of Warwick, First Class Joint Honours), a year in Florence attending Florence University and art classes where I could, and travelling around when possible, I completed my post-graduate studies in the UK (Masters and Doctoral degrees).  I taught literature, philosophy and cultural theory at universities in the UK, and on moving to Australia I continued to teach arts and humanities subjects.  I also wrote regularly, for many years, for the national press, before I started devoting more time to painting.  I gained gallery representation, with good sales and recognition building over time. Since then I have been exhibiting and selling in galleries around Melbourne and Victoria.  In my work, I have explored themes that focus upon both cultural memory and the experience of landscape.

Wherever I have lived, I have sought out and remembered the most arresting and beautiful aspects of the place. It has always been important to me to have easy access to the natural world. After moving to Australia, I enjoyed the landscapes of WA, the experience of living on large acreage on the NSW tablelands, by the Bay in Melbourne with easy access to the Mornington Peninsula, and now in Ballarat, surrounded by the unique beauty of Victorian country, and the Great Ocean Road, as well as having easy access to captivating Tasmania, just across the Bass Strait.  It has been my great privilege in life to have encountered such a sequence of wonderful visual dramas, and this has been important in my development as an artist.  My current work is taking me in the direction of a strong focus upon landscape; whilst loving the natural environments around me, I have consistently been aware of their fragility and transience, as they are consumed by the relentless encroachment which results from human need and desire.  This situation tends to lend a new depth and urgency to the role of the landscape artist.

 

Solo and Themed Exhibitions:

2018 January, new work at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong (forthcoming) 

2018 April (forthcoming), new work at Tusk Gallery, Melbourne

2016 'Island Moodscapes' at Gallery on Sturt, Ballarat

2016 'The Rail Trail Works' at Gallery on Sturt, Ballarat

2016 'The Art of Nostalgia' works at The Convent Gallery, Daylesford

2016  Artist of the Month, 'Ocean Story' at Qdos Arts Gallery in Lorne (forthcoming, July)

2015 'Summers in the South' at Qdos Gallery, Lorne

2014 'Domain of Memory' at Qdos Gallery, Lorne

2013 ‘To See the Summer Sky is Poetry’ at Suburban312 Gallery, Brighton, Melbourne.

2012 ‘Vintage Funfair by the Sea’ at Suburban312 Gallery, Brighton, Melbourne.

2012 ‘Vintage Funfair: Small Works’, at APTE, 538 Heidelberg Road, Alphington, Melbourne.

2011 ‘Bayside Reflections’ at Suburban312 Gallery, Brighton, Melbourne.

2010 ‘Shorelight’ at Suburban312 Gallery, Brighton, Melbourne.

2010 ‘Bay Dreaming’ at Suburban312 Gallery, Brighton, Melbourne.

 

Selected Group Exhibitions:

2018 Biennale of Australian art

2017 Albert Park College Art Prize

2017 Flanagan Art Prize

2017 Camberwell Art Show, Melbourne

2017 Metropolis Gallery, Storeroom Show, 1 - 30 June

2017 'January Summer Salon' at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong

2016 Christmas Show at Metropolis Gallery, Geelong

2016 'The Lost Ones' Gallery, Ballarat, Synergy Art Auction, March 19th

2015 Puhoi Art Exhibition, New Zealand

2015 Albert Park College Art Exhibition, Melbourne

2015 The Flanagan Art Prize Exhibition

2015 Camberwell Art Show, Melbourne

2013 ‘Ocean Light’ at South Yarra Art House, Melbourne.

2012 ‘30th Professional Artist’s Exhibition’ Caulfield Grammar, Melbourne

2012 ‘Grand Opening Pop-Up Exhibition’, The Equilibrium Art Centre, East Brunswick, Melbourne

2012 ‘Canterbury Art Exhibition’, Melbourne.

2011-12 ‘Annual Christmas Show’, Manyung Gallery, Mornington Peninsula.

2011 Art Melbourne

2011 Opening, The Breslin Gallery and Arts Hub, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

2011 ‘Subjectivity’, Gallery 577 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, Melbourne.

2010 Art Sydney

2010 Sandringham Yacht Club 

2010   ‘Pink Lady Art Exhibition’, Brighton, Melbourne.

2010 ‘Bayside Rotary/Porsche Art Exhibition’ Melbourne.

2010 Art Melbourne

2010 Flinders Art Show

2009 ‘Postcards from Oz’, Without Pier Gallery, Hampton, Melbourne

2009 ‘Our Melbourne, My Victoria’, Without Pier Gallery, Victorian Artists’ Society, Melbourne

2009 ‘Pink Lady Art Exhibition’, Brighton, Melbourne

2009 ‘Bayside Rotary/Porsche Art Exhibition’, Melbourne.

2009 Castleman Galleries, Black Rock, Melbourne

 

Galleries:

     Tusk Gallery, Camberwell, Melbourne

     Metropolis Gallery, Geelong

     Convent Gallery, Daylesford

     

 Past exhibitions:

     Gallery on Sturt, Ballarat

     Qdos Gallery, Lorne

     Pantechnicon Gallery, Daylesford (now closed)     

     Surburban 312 Gallery (now closed)

     Manyung Gallery, Mornington Peninsula

     Without Pier Gallery, Hampton and Cheltenham

     Australian Online Art

 

 Collections and Awards:

 

2017 Flanagan Art Prize, Finalist (awards August 25th 2017)

 2015 Flanagan Art Prize, Finalist

2010 Bank of Queensland Emerging Artist Award Pink Lady Art Show Brighton, Melbourne

2003 Contemporary Art First Prize New England Art Show

Epworth Hospitals Geelong

Sir Zelman Cowan Centre, Melbourne

Victoria University Art Collection

Beaumaris Primary School, Melbourne.

Numerous private collections, across Melbourne, and Victoria, nationally and internationally.  

Related Activities

2017 April-May assistant curator (inc. writer & research consultant, social media promotions) 'The Prodigal Son' exhibition of works by Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Jamie Boyd, at Gallery on Sturt

2016-2017 Gallery assistant and art marketer, Gallery on Sturt, Ballarat

2015  Art prize judge at ACU, Ballarat

2014 Art prize judge in Haddon, Victoria

Donations of work to charities, and fundraising activities, including for the Heart Foundation, Anglican Church fundraisers for the homeless, and the Royal Neurosurgeons Foundation.

Education:

Bachelor of Arts Joint Honours First Class, Warwick University, UK (including one year at University of Florence)

Master of Arts, Warwick University UK

PhD, Warwick University UK

 Media:

 Interview on Mornings with Gavin McGrath, ABC Radio Ballarat, September 2016

'Stella Clarke at Qdos', Surf Coast Times, July 2016

Channel 9, 'Postcards', May 2016

'Waves of Creativity' in The Geelong Advertiser July 9 2016

Social media coverage in fine art and design blogs (see Facebook page for details https://www.facebook.com/StellaRClarke/).

Law Institute of Victoria Journal, 'Portrait of a Legal Life' May 2015

Art NationABC, Feature Article, 2010

Various articles, including in Art Almanac, NGV Gallery Magazine, 3MBS The Score, The Bayside Leader, The Melbourne Weekly Bayside.

 

 
Notes on the Paintings
 
 
Landscapes:
 
My landscape paintings in express the need to get outside of our present state, our present moment, into a reflective or regenerative space, into silence;  they are reconnections with the natural world, increasingly of psychological and emotional importance to all of us.  They may be inspired by a particular place, but in the process of composition they are recomposed to carry an interior impulse, a thought, a feeling, a longing, a 'nature fix'.  The idea of the 'island' is a conjuring of the solitary; because to be alone, and not mind, and to be immersed in silence (apart from the sound of wind in branches, air moving through grasses, waves breaking on sand) are becoming the rarest and most valuable experiences in our jangling, wired present. I paint scenes with a degree of representational motivation, in deference to the places that have inspired them, because I want to keep trying to understand the language of the natural environment, and keep its forms and patterns, the shapes of trees, the activity of light, respectfully in view.

Many of the works are loosely inspired by actual island environments, by the landscapes of Tasmania, Bruny and Victoria.  Sometimes, the manner is stylized, moving toward the romantic and baroque, lyrical and poetic interpretations of these environments. Crossing the unpredictable waters of the Bass Strait to visit those actual islands, with their austere but lovely wilderness domains, and dramatic, brooding coastlines, is a journey into an internal as well as a geographical space.  It also an encounter with that liminal space, the continent's edge, the interface of vast sea and ocean exanses with mutating shorelines. These are places where the lives of teeming wild things can function to push our own lives back into less significance, a chance to stop being so anthropocentric, to meet with some kind of otherness, if only temporarily. On the other hand, here is where the moving foward edge of of the wave of relentless domination by humanity of all natural places and things is concerningly visible.

 

The 'Art of Nostalgia' series: 

There are recurrent motifs in some of my paintings, the child adventuring, the old holiday caravan; these motifs are there not only to give scale, but to carry the solitary observer into an evocative place, in a visual vehicle that momentarily claims simplicity and innocence, creating an openess to the experience. These motifs invite mental immersion into removed spaces - time out or time past - detached from the wired tumult of the present, a way of just being, living lightly, feeling at home with silence, the sky above and the ground beneath our feet. These are landscapes inhabited by figures, animal and human, which are almost emanations of place, situated in questioning relationship to each other. 

The core of my work, regardless of subject, has often been both emotional and representational.  Whether I am focusing upon an old photograph, a memory, a face, a sea, a beach, a child, a machine, or a landscape, my aim is to discover the artistic composition that will best express for me the visual or emotional charge created by what I see or remember. There are often landscape elements to my figurative or narrative work, and figurative elements in my landscape work that give rise to a story elements, so there is ongoing cross-over. 

It is important to me that any viewer of my works can find a way in, and experience some moment of recognition or enhanced awareness as a result.  They do not require long paragraphs of text to complete them, or make them comprehensible.  I am happy if my paintings communicate something directly, if a profound personal or thoughtful response follows. I hope that what has moved me to create a work will move others too. There is always an emotional key that opens the aspect of reality that I have chosen to represent.  I try to paint in a way that creates visual drama, challenge, stimulation, or beauty.

 

Notes on Previous Exhibitions

 

'Metropolis Gallery Summer Salon' and 'The Christmas Show'

At Metropolis Gallery, Geelong

My artworks in these group exhibitions were seascapes (perhaps with evocative vintage elements, a child on the beach, a caravan).  They were inspired by local coastal scenes, and designed to capture iconic structures (a lighthouse, a pier, sea baths) within compositions that focus upon visual drama and mood, and the evocative play of light.

 

Notes on 'Island Moodscapes'

At Gallery on Sturt, Ballarat

These small paintings were poetic interpretations of landscapes and seascapes, which are currently froming the basis for new work.  They were created from memory, reverie and visual notes collected with my camera.  I think of them as moodscapes, rather than simply landscapes, because their final form was filtered through an interior process. I explored natural environments that appeal to me, including explorations of Tasmania and Bruny Island (further afield than my recent Ballarat Rail Trail collection also shown at Gallery on Sturt, but for Victorians only a ferry ride away).  These were expressive palette-knife paintings, with Langridge hand-made oils and wax; there is pleasure in the fluidity, sensuality and texture offered by these materials.  Palette-knife painting allows for the translation of harsher elements in the Australian landscape, but also, as the knife slips across the canvas, making its own way with and through the paint, it can suggest some of the random, beautiful, and chaotic aspects of a natural environment. The energy of these places is magnetic and challenging, but I particularly enjoyed the challenge of resisting the epic urge to represent them on a wide canvas, and instead like to distil them into a series of small studies, sonnet-sized canvases. 

 

Notes on 'The Art of Nostalgia' works

The Convent Gallery, Daylesford

My 'Art of Nostalgia' paintings are figurative, human, iconic and narrative.  They may have landscape elements that pull them toward romantic compositions, or they might move toward a more stylized style and design. Often, they are inspired by childhood, personal or cultural memories.  I delve into old documents and archives of photos for inspiration. They about finding a place to get outside of the present, this time not physically but in the domain of memory.  From further away, we gain, after all, a better perspective on where we are now.  

 
Where there is a vintage thematic, I try to go beyond decorative appeal to a psychological and emotional revival.  Sometimes these paintings are about female experience, catching a keynote of life decades ago, when girls had fewer freedoms and were more socially constricted, and more importantly were less visible than they are today, certainly in art. So, the girl-child or hand-bag carrying housewife is commemorated in these works, given visibility, and also, in some cases, unusual freedom, whimsically projected into wild landscapes where they can travel freely, even taking flight.  
 
Vintage depictions of female characters are also offered in juxtaposition, whether the outcome is negative or nostalgic, to our present condition.  I think it surprises some people to find these figures iconized in paintings, but others, especially women, tell me they love the sense of unexpected recognition and familiarity they offer.  As figures, they may also be metaphors for certain emotional states.
 
There are expressions here of other psychologically inflected aspects of my experience; for example, I grew up with the subterranean resonances of wartime memories from my parents and grandparents.  Each of us carries, of course, a psychological hinterland of mixed-up memories and images of the social crucible from we emerged more or less to be the people we become. Colour, form - good underlying drawing - and composition are a focus of my artistic enjoyment in these works, as is the pleasure of paint.
 
 
Notes on 'Ocean Story'
 
Exhibited at Qdos Gallery Lorne
 
Many of these works are now displayed in the Epworth Hospital Collection
 
This group of paintings again includes both nostalgic, story elements and a group of seascape studies that respond to the uniquely beautiful but incredibly wild and dangerous coasts of Victoria.  They capture the experience of being immersed in its sights and sensations, and the caravan paintings are an extension of this idea.  When I put a figure in a landscape, I imagine a story.  The women and their vintage caravans are playful, dream-like projections into wild corners of this windswept coast. My work imagines what it might be like to be alone and part of the silently evolving chronicle of sea and air, land and sand. They also express the need for physical freedom that all of us, but particularly women, expereince.  The paintings 'retro' vibe harks back to another epoch. They evoke a 'blue-sky' space, somewhere beyond our present moment; a place either to dream or to remember. 
 
 
Notes on 'The Rail Trail Works'
 
Exhibited at Gallery On Sturt, Ballarat
 
This is a group of small studies based upon landscapes local to where I live, which are now in the collection of owned by The Epworth Hospitals group. The Rail Trail is cherished by those who know and use it, at over 50 km long, it removes you from traffic and people.  The trail stretches ahead between land and open sky, through eucalypt forest, paddocks with watching cattle, kangaroos and horses, birds dipping down over dams, hawks balancing in thermals, old wooden bridges and higgledy back blocks of small 'places'.  This is fairly tough country, not soft, not pretty, but with its own raw character.  In summer the country is dun-coloured or bleached out against a singing, high blue sky, aching for rain.  Occasionally it is cut through by charcoal swathes in the wake of grass fires.  In Winter the sky lowers, a lazy wind cuts through you and the tones become muted and subtle.  At all times, though, it offers silence and an austere beauty, its subtle slopes and hues closer perhaps to a Lloyd Rees painting than calling for the obvious prettiness of impressionism. Mornings and evenings, or under storm clouds, the slanting light wakes up the colours. Having grown up in wide, flat, 'Constable country' in England, in cold weather and under fleeting cloud shadows, this stern country, of all Australian landscapes I have seen, resonates interestingly against my visual expectations. It is resistant, and a challenge to tame it into paint.