Collaboration exhibition

The beginning of the opening. Sue’s paintings are towards the back of the gallery, my drawings are to the right of this photo. Portrait collaborations to the left, the concertinas on the table. More work was upstairs.

For nearly four years I have been working in collaboration with another Australian artist, Sue Rawlinson, on small portraits and concertina books, with them passing between us at regular intervals for us each to add our contribution. We now have 70 portraits – 35 started by Sue and completed by me and 35 started by me and completed by Sue – and 6 concertina books, each with a theme. We took it in turns to start a book, then pass it to the other, and back again till the books were filled. So, we decided it was time to exhibit them.


Sue found a small gallery in Woolloomooloo that we could hire, and we agreed it was a great opportunity. Woolloomooloo is down by the wharves in Sydney and for many years had a reputation for being rough and dangerous, but now, like so many similar areas across the world is more gentrified and feels safe, but still interesting. The gallery was a terrace house, originally a two-up, two-down workers cottage, but the owner has opened it up and renovated to make a two storey open, airy gallery, with a small courtyard.

The main focus of the exhibition was to be the array of portraits and the concertina books, but we each were adding work of our own. It is interesting that the individual work we showed was very different – Sue works in a realistic manner, with people and landscapes her main focus, and I decided my main objective was to show my recent abstract drawings – but for the joint pieces we worked together in a very sympathetic way that enhanced each piece. I think the essence of that was that we both love to draw, and I think it is something we are both good at.

Working in collaboration did push both of us to think differently, sometimes use materials we don’t often use, and be brave about making marks on someone else’s work!


The exhibition opening was in the afternoon of Saturday 22 February, a lovely, sunny day. We had a good crowd there, so the place was buzzing with activity, and we did make sales – not our number one consideration, but a great boost nonetheless. We both hoped to cover our expenses, but we did that and more! Upstairs, Sue had a row of 9 exquisite small landscapes in oil pastel, depicting favourite places from her travels in the outback and down the coast and sold eight of the nine, a well-deserved achievement. Below are some of them.


I sold my large drawing of some of my collected objects, the only non-abstract I exhibited, to a buyer who connected to the small objects as things she would collect too.


Of the six concertinas we sold four – The Garden, Australian Animals, Household Objects and Australian Landscapes.


Although I didn’t sell any of my abstract works, I had a great deal of interest in them, from both a technical and subject matter point of view, which made me happy! On the Sunday we did an artists talk, where we both talked a little about the collaboration, and our own work, and answered questions. We had a good group of people who asked insightful, intelligent questions. For us it was fascinating to see what was of particular interest to our audience, and it was an opportunity to articulate our ideas and techniques.

Me with the pieces in the upstairs gallery.
Some 3D work of mine.


It was not easy to get good photos of all the work – and easy to forget to take photos in the excitement of the opening, so please excuse odd shadows and strange crops! I did make videos of the whole exhibition, but they are unfortunately very poor, so I’ve decided not to inflict them on anyone. In conclusion, we both thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, the gallery had a lovely feel to it, Spencer, the owner was a friendly and helpful host, always ready for a philosophical chat about art and the state of the world. Sue and I started as friends and ended as friends – what more can you ask!

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

19 thoughts

  1. This looks like a very classy exhibition. The gallery space is perfect, the works are sensitively presented (whether framed or not), and the drawings/paintings/objects are glorious and so varied, but at the same time, absolutely in tune with one another. Not only are you friends but your and Sue’s artworks are friends. I can imagine what a lovely atmosphere reigned in the gallery; light, bright and welcoming.
    This is a stunning collaboration of nearly four years’ work and I can see what a fulfilling exercise it was.
    Congratulations Anna and Sue!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is interesting how works so different can happily co-exist together, and even enhance one another – we were talking about this, and agreed if our work had been similar it wouldn’t have worked so well, inevitably there has to be comparison, if, for example, we both worked in oils, or were both figurative artists. The gallery was lovely, small and intimate, just right for what we were trying to display. Thanks Julie!


  2. Anna, this is so wonderful to see! I’m not sure I put it together that you were also sharing artwork. The results must have been so interesting to see, how you integrate ideas, styles and medium. The gallery looks so fresh and inviting. So good to read that the artwork also sold, small objects!! Congratulations on the exhibit! The actual artwork is stunning, you both have created large bodies of work, really substantial and beautiful. And so nice to see you and Sue, such talented and creative women!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cathe – the main object of the exhibition was to display the collaborative works, the portraits and the concertinas, but with the space available it seemed a great opportunity to show our individual works too. We were both happy that the individual works sat so happily together. (There are way too many pictures of me, but I realised when I was collecting up the pics that I had neglected to take decent photos of everything, so relied on photos taken by kind friends!)


    1. It was very exciting Carol! So pleased you like the concertinas. We were surprised so many of them sold, but they do fold up into a small object, so are very transportable. The buyer of the one of Australian animals was giving it to visiting German friends as a keepsake, so we can say our work is international now!


  3. It’s good to see this on my desktop Anna as I can have a great virtual wander around looking close up πŸ˜‰ The gallery looks a perfect venue for displaying the collaborative project AND both yours and Sue’s individual art work πŸ™‚ I knew it was ongoing and have followed various updates, but perhaps hadn’t quite appreciated it was over 4 yrs gosh . Congratulations to you both for commitment and the final result . Truly an fabulous achievement all round . Loving seeing the walls hung with framed/unframed paintings and table displays … to both have some sales although as you’ve mentioned not the main drive with this exhibition must have been very pleasing . Hurrah to you and Sue !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Poppy – I wish my videos had been better, because they do give a better idea of the whole gallery set-up, but I’m glad you can get an idea of it from these photos. Yes, it has been a long time, but it has been in fits and starts, so we would produce a batch of portraits, or work on a particular concertina, then have a break of a few weeks while other things intervened, then off again. It was a really enjoyable time – a bit stressful finishing things off leading up to the exhibition, but once it was up we could relax and enjoy!


      1. Yes …phone / camera videoing has really become so popular now and maybe worth persuing ? The clips on Instagram from techniques and tutorials to some of just a few seconds for brush work I’ve found very helpful and enlightening. I’m glad you encouraged me to have a look πŸ™‚


        1. It was my phone I was using, I might have done better with my camera which actually does good videos. I think operator error was the biggest problem, I was going too fast for one thing. I also need to get some good editing software to streamline a bit. A new skill which could be very useful!


  4. This looks like a really terrific exhibit. So interesting to see the shared work. I like the casual feel of it, too. It would have felt more formal had you put the portraits under glass. Congrats!


    1. Thanks Jean – it’s been interesting to build the shared work over a period of time, and a joy to see it actually all together. The cost of framing 70 pieces would have been prohibitive, but having the works just there on the wall gave them a greater sense of immediacy I think. Visitors could get really close to see the details.


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