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.
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!