Faced with the prospect of packing this morning, in preparation for (yet another) house move at the end of the month, I escaped to the Tweed River Art Gallery. It is always like stepping into Wonderland there, with the stunning views of the Tweed River Valley framed by Wollumbin and the Border Ranges, and the several spaces within the gallery that house the current exhibitions as well as permanent ones; and the lovely cafe, where you can have excellent coffee, delicious snack and meals, and a glass or two of wine if you want.
Before I entered the exhibition spaces, I was arrested by the Les Peterkin Portrait Prize for Primary school students in the Tweed region. The commended and prize-winning portraits line the foyer walls, and there is also a portfolio of all the entries you can browse through. These quirky portraits are delightful, fresh, vivid and inormative, giving students the opportunity to ‘transform themselves into stone age hunters and gatherers, Vikings, Goth, Renaissance courtiers, Balinese dancers and gods and goddesses from other realms’.
The stand-out exhibition on show is the Caldera Art Awards, wherein artists promote awareness of the biodiversity of Australia’s Green Cauldron, using diverse media. As with all visiting exhibitions, you are invited to select the People’s Choice Award. I was torn between several: the wall-mounted triptych of giant moths, constructed from woven grasses and plant material, supported by a portfolio of research on the table below (this was the first prize winner); the painting of the gorgeous red-belly black snake in a carpet of leaves on the forest floor, close-up (also a prize winner); two pastels, one of a glider possum, one of a koala, ‘the king’; and a magic basket, conical shape, about 2 feet high, woven of grasses and reeds, by Granny Breath Weaver, of Nimbin. This was not a prize winner, but was my choice; I’d love to take it home.
I can’t give you pics of current works, but if you go to this site, you can look at images of previous exhibited works: http://www.calderaart.org.au/exhibitions.html.
I spoke to one of the Friends of the Gallery at the desk, and she told me that one of the judges of the exhibition gives art classes at the Murwillumbah Visitor Information Centre. So after I’d had coffee and cake, I drove there and found my way down to the basement, where I met Andy Reimanis, Director of Caldera Art. Take a few minutes to visit their lovely website, and connect with the images of this magnificent landscape, its flora and fauna, created by local artists.
Andy gives classes in pastels every weekend, open, for just $10 an hour, materials provided. I’m going next weekend. I’ve long loved pastels, and have taught myself a little, but got a bit stuck with technique, and life — family, moving, my work as a writer and editor — took over again, and my pastel set has been sitting in the cupboard since I moved across here. No more! I have found the answer to those empty weekends, and patches when I have no work to do. Somewhere I can go, be with friendly people, learn to develop my eye and my hand, and create some pictures of the beautiful world I live in. Andy is a fount of information, re the type of paper to use, how to prime it, applying the pastels; he gave me a preview, which made me eager to learn more. He has a vast array of pastels there you can use, and paper is provided. Pastels are me.