I am an artist and writer based in Rozelle, Sydney, although I spend a lot of time painting in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and writing at my old family home on the Hawkesbury River.
I gather my thoughts and share them on the web. This site is about practicing art. It is definitely a work in progress and there is a lot of catching up to do. My work includes photography, drawing and painting in different media although I prefer working in oils. In 2015 I completed the Advanced Diploma in Visual Arts at WSI-Nepean with a major in painting.
Although I started oil painting in my teens, it wasn’t until after I came back from two years in remote Central Australia that the desire to paint became overwhelming. I started painting pictures inspired by the blues of the Blue Mountains and the reds of the Red Centre. I had no idea what I was doing but I loved doing it. Time passed, loved ones died, suddenly the past was slipping away and I wanted to explore the places I had lived and experienced, the aesthetics of time and memory. This went along with a dedicated exploration of my own genealogical past and the writing of several family-history memoirs some of which will soon be published.
In the photo here, taken by my father on a day when I wanted nothing to do with fishing, I sit on a pole and stare morosely into Dad’s old German Leica camera. I thought I might use this image as the basis for a monochrome self-portrait but that hasn’t happened yet. The house in the background was built by my father and uncle in the late 1950s and replaced the original family house which was built from random bits of tin and board in the 1920s. This old house and the people it drew together provided the basis for my series Monochrome and Memory.
Hawkesbury River people.
From the early 1920’s on, my father’s family in various combinations lived at the Hawkesbury River, mostly in this house but also in other nearby shacks and houses in the area. They gathered together every Christmas and Easter and celebrated the abundance of the river environment with the very few other neighbours of the time. Many residents on this part of the river today are the descendants of those original people and I have known them all my life, watched their children grow and marry and have children themselves while the old people pass away. Now it’s getting close to my turn. My adult granddaughters are the fifth generation connected with this place. I am beginning a project documenting my family’s life on the river in a new book with photographs and illustrations, to be called Fluvial.
The people in the photographs below are relatives or neighbours. All have passed on, although they have populated my memory and inspired my research and writing for decades. In the first go-round for this project I painted a series of black and white oils, each 20 x 20 ins. One or two of them came out well, the others … disappointing.
Apart from the Hawkesbury River, Sydney’s inner-west has always been my home town. I have lived in the same house in Rozelle from 1981 and loved it so much when it was part of a mostly nineteenth century working-class suburb full of early openers and butcher shops and timber yards. No longer. By the mid 2010s it was obvious that the good times were over. There was constant arboricide. There was nowhere to park. The traffic, the aircraft noise and above all the ceaseless sounds of “renovation” made it a daily struggle to be there. Those who had taken over this gentle historical area were gleefully engaged in the destruction of century-old streetscapes, destroying sandstone cliff-faces and overgrown gardens. It hasn’t been possible to leave this place, but it is equally difficult to be there all the time. We found another house in the Blue Mountains and I live there when I am not well enough to face the Rozelle madness.
Being in the mountains has always inspired me. I tried to paint the amazing landscape, the greens, blues, the extraordinary shapes. I wasn’t trying for a classical landscape look. I liked the idea of flatness, in the way that indigenous people draw on the surface of the earth, but my painting teacher Tim Allen said that wasn’t right, I needed to use more painterly approaches, with brush-strokes and proper perspective.
Then I started on the built environment. A recent series, Views of K-Town, is based on photographs taken in and around Katoomba, where unique buildings and streetscapes from the 1930s and earlier meet modern demands for tourism and development.
The series tried to capture some of the bizarre juxtapositions and the historical structure of this mountains town. I had hoped to complete a full set of 10 paintings. I more-or-less finished around six for my graduation assessment and intended to keep going. But other things intervened. In 2013 I had to give up my studio in Leichhardt and destroyed many of the half-completed paintings which I thought were terrible. One or two survived: the sketch painting below shows a travelling man waiting for a donation, with two of the most beautiful dogs imaginable, outside the historic Gearin Hotel near the Katoomba Railway Station.The Gearin Hotel is now no longer: the building is there but the pub is closed, a sad loss after its long history.
In early 2018 I moved into a studio space in Katoomba and planned to start work again on the Katoomba series, along with some new multimedia works focussing on the close details of the mountains landscape – its botany, geology and visual forms. But in the aftermath of illness I had to be in Sydney again to visit doctors, hospitals, physiotherapists and counsellors. I spent most of my remaining time editing and re-writing memoirs and fiction hoping they could be published quickly.
In the aftermath of a very traumatic time I tried to spend more time back in the mountains and to take workshops with painters such as Luke Sciberras, John Wilson, Robyn Collier, Robert Malherbe and others. Then the bushfires hit, then the pandemic and the lockdown. I was going to spend the year painting but it didn’t happen and I still couldn’t finish the writing either. The year flew and by November it seemed maybe everything might come together again. My new works were included in a group show in Blackheath. I will be putting some of these works up here. The landscape work is continuing and I am experimenting with acrylics in my Rozelle house which is becoming a second studio for non-oil works.
Visit Annette Hamilton Art Writing here
The Writing Zone is here
The Image Field photography site is here
Visit my Instagram: Instagram.com/anndemot
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