Kicking things off with their Live in Design competition, Contemporary has teamed up with highly esteemed Perth artist Genevieve Montgomerie, whose captivating portrayals of Western Australia’s coast have won hearts locally, nationally and abroad.
The image above is Western Australia’s iconic coastline, worth $4800.
Her paintings will have you doing a double take to ensure they’re not photographs, while her easy going nature makes you want to instantly sign up for one of her classes. One thing is for certain; artist Genevieve Montgomerie’s flawless depiction of the magic of Western Australia’s coastline will leave you captivated.
At age 11, Genevieve’s parents were planning a holiday to see relatives in Ireland and England when her mum suggested to her and her sisters that if they all took on a pamphlet delivery round for six months, they would be able to afford a visit to Italy and all the galleries, museums and architecture that went with it.
Genevieve recalls the memory fondly, as it was her mother’s way of exposing their hearts to artistic beauty on the grandest of scales at an early age.
Looking at her now and what she has accomplished, it’s hard to believe that for years Genevieve was selling her pieces off the beach, before moving to the walls of the Cottesloe Beach Hotel restaurant and a number of joint exhibitions.
Years of non-artistic career moves and raising a young family followed, and it wasn’t until a spiritual healer friend of Genevieve’s stopped her in her tracks and encouraged her to see a future in art.
“As though the voice of our creator was speaking through him, he said to me: ‘Stop wading in the water, sister. Come swim with me.’ From that point on I have worried less about my weekly blow-dries and more about my need to watch and to capture, to dive in and reinvigorate by breathing in all that is mesmerising about the waters that surround us and translating that through paint.”
Once described as ‘technically traditional with a refreshing twist on the realist’, Genevieve has carved a career out of capturing the beauty and essence of the iconic West Australian coastline.
We caught up with the down-to-earth artist, and upon seeing her collection of paintings it is impossible to not feel a huge sense of WA pride.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I am not sure I ever knew I wanted to be an artist, as we always seem to be pushed away from such financially temperamental callings. My eye for realism and my passion for colour and how uniquely stunning our environment is – where water meets land – lured me in to a place where I found myself unwinding and yet working at the same time. I realised that what I was doing had purpose for not only myself but also for others by enabling people to feel pride about their surrounds and their way of embracing life at the water’s edge.
What interests you most about your particular area of expertise?
I am told that my technical ability – which I guess stems from breaking down what I can see into shape, form and color and translating that to a canvas – is rarely seen in an age where less traditional painting practice is popular to execute and to collect. My work seems to weave between environmental realism and a contemporary take on the techniques of the Old Masters. Painterly yet rendered, inviting yet intimately personal reflections, my work is a testament to the depth and mood of the cleansing water of life I find myself immersed in.
What is unique about the way you work?
I was once told by a lecturer at Melbourne University that my work was “technically traditional yet refreshingly contemporary”. At the time I was desperately trying to loosen up my very ‘tight’ and detailed style, so I wasn’t convinced that this was a compliment! After all of these years, however, I believe I have embraced it by combining both traditional techniques with contemporary framing of my subject. My sub-major was photography, so in using (mostly) my own photos I can crop images to create frameless works which serve as an open window to the mesmerising water worlds – an illusionary space that leaves the four walls of a gallery in a distant past. Eighteen years into my Western Australian artistic career, I feel it is my technical refinement, use of pure luminous colour and ever changing vaporous atmosphere – all flooded in golden light that could only ever be Western Australia – that makes my work unique.
Apart from creating your own pieces, what else are you involved in?
After years of raising children and following different career paths, I am finally back teaching students – both adults and children in a beautiful creative hub called ‘Studio 124’ in Mosman Park. The studio brings together art classes, framing, antiques, interior design and a gallery, all connected by a leafy central courtyard, which is the perfect spot to unwind, reflect and be inspired. Teaching with the creator of this collective and fellow artist Cher Van Schouwen is a wonderful way to balance my own practice by inspiring others to get in touch with their creative souls.
Is there an artwork you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of a large piece – ‘One Incredible Morning – South Fremantle’ – which can be seen on my website. It was a balancing act of light and dark, perspective and that perfect aqua/primary blue that is so uniquely Western Australia! It also brings back vivid memories of the day I shot the photos that inspired the work, when my then 18 month old daughter Grace (by far my biggest water baby of all three children) was shrieking with sheer glee in the water, naked other than a hat. She was mesmerised by the wash of water on the sand, and had Grandma Margie hot on her heels so that I could lose myself in hundreds of snaps.
How do you know when a work is finished?
I wish I did! I have been known to overdo a piece, however I am getting better in my process of observation and painting so that when it looks as perfect as I feel I can make it, I try to step back and observe it as though I am looking at it critically for the first time. My husband plays an integral role in this process. While he may not be an artist, he definitely has an eye for what looks ‘right’ and isn’t afraid to break it to me when something deviates from perfect!
Your biggest career moment?
I guess my biggest career moment has been my last solo exhibition when I had the opportunity to accumulate work over three years. As an artist who survives on the sale of work, making a commitment to accumulate pieces and not sell them is an emotional and financial risk, particularly when pieces take so long to execute. At my solo exhibition I had the opportunity to speak about a wonderful Aboriginal Spiritual Healer that I had met in the months leading up to my show who really got my attention. While pushing our toddlers on a swing down in Denmark, he commented about the significance of the growing baby I had within. This was a pregnancy that only my husband and I knew about and one that definitely did not show to the outside world for another 12 weeks. Feeling swamped at the time with early pregnancy fatigue and balancing life with two other little ones, I was wondering how I would survive the few months of painting ahead leading up to my exhibition. I certainly felt that I met Joe at the right time, and that in itself was a pivotal career and spiritual moment.
Who/what are your top influencers?
The Australian Heidelberg School (sometimes referred to as the Australian Impressionists) would have to be my top influencers. Artists from 1885 onwards including Streeton, McCubbin and Roberts were applying the ‘plein air’ impressionistic theories to painting the Australian landscape, which is flooded with light and colour. More recently, Western Australian artists Larry Mitchell and Leigh Hewson-Bower blow me away with their detail, their depth of field and their light on water.
I can’t not mention the role my children have played in shaping what I do and what I see. On our walks in the early days with the double pusher complete with scooter, books, a plethora of food, camera, buckets, spades, trucks, bottle, sketchbook and dare I forget Mollie the kelpie (RIP), their journey of “exploring” with mum – another river bank, bit of scrubland or virgin beach – so that I could snap away with my camera and sketch inspired me greatly. They have opened my eyes to the smallest details, otherwise missed with a quick squiz or hectic schedule.
Professionally, what is your goal?
My goal is to be a wonderful teacher, to inspire others to feed their creative soul and to create works of art that move people emotionally. I like to think I am heading in the right direction!
Where can people in Perth see your work?
Studio 124, Mosman Park
The Studio Gallery and Bistro, Yallingup, WA
A & A Art Display – various installations (see website)
The Art Label (see website)
Tags: design competition