Adelaide designer Margie Kenny’s illustrations at Gallery 1855 are vibrant, charming and yet thought provoking.
Her latest exhibition Connected explores the idea that all creatures and nature are connected and that life is an incredible force.
A childhood spent in the Adelaide Hills impressed on Margie a love for nature and a passion for conserving native habitats and species. Her illustrations aim to capture nature in a way that brings joy to viewers and an awareness of the role we all play in preserving the environment.
Tell us about your artistic background.
I always loved art and design in school, and went on to university to study a Bachelor of Education specialising in Design. I then worked as a graphic designer and illustrator in the areas of health and education, and began teaching design at UniSA. I have exhibited in several group exhibitions, and this is my first solo exhibition.
What is your current exhibition at Gallery 1855, Connected about?
Connected is about how nothing happens in isolation on our planet – all creatures and habitat have an effect on one another. Creatures are so closely connected to their habitat. It’s a celebration of the beauty of nature – from wildlife across the world to a ladybird in the backyard garden. The exhibition also highlights a connection we may not be so proud of – the rapid loss of habitat and wildlife through deforestation to feed our consumption of palm oil in processed food and household products.
Why is the natural world so important to you?
My love of nature goes back to my early childhood growing up surrounded by scrub and native wildlife in the Adelaide Hills. The natural world supports the life of all creatures including humans, and without it we could not survive.
What concerns you about the world we live in?
There is an alarming rate of change in the natural world primarily at the hands of the human race, and I believe as individuals we can have a more positive influence on change. For example, there are critically endangered species losing their habitat and lives through rapid deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations – while we continue to consume palm oil which is hidden in a high percentage of supermarket products and processed food. It can go completely unnoticed to many of us, even to those who are nature lovers.
Where and how do you make your works?
Several of my pieces are detailed and realistic in tone and form and are produced in my studio by hand, using graphite pencil or biro with my own photographs as reference when drawing (e.g. Turning tide, Nature’s fine line and Microclimate).
Some of my most recent pieces (e.g. Habitat and Uncertain future) begin with an idea that is drawn roughly on layout paper then progressed to a final accurate line drawing. These drawings are then scanned onto the computer, and hand drawn/painted colour textures are also scanned and cut to shape and combined with the line work in Photoshop software. The final illustrations are then printed at a high resolution onto cotton rag paper for a high quality finish.
What you hope people take away from seeing these works?
I hope the work brings joy and inspiration to the audience, and perhaps a renewed awareness of the role we all play as consumers. Informative bookmarks are available to take home to enjoy and to help identify palm oil in products we buy.
What are you working on next?
I’d like to further explore the idea of habitat and endangered species, focusing on the concerns but also on the positive work being done in Australia and overseas on rescuing and reintroducing wildlife into habitats. In the process I will also be exploring illustrative styles for my own development as an illustrator.
Connected is a Gallery 1855 exhibition at 2 Haines Road in Tea Tree Gully, from 12 October until 12 November 2016.
One of Gallery 1855’s featured artists in this year’s SALA 2015 exhibition, Susan Long, says her featured work, ‘Evening Glow’, was initially a work she had cast to the side in her studio, without a second thought.
But seeing an artist scraping through layers of paint during a visit Gallery 1855 created a desire to return to her work.
‘It was a complete surprise because it was a work I had finished and thought I was done with, but not long afterwards I saw an artist scraping through layers on a painting at Gallery 1855 and I knew I had to go home straight away and start working on it again,’ Susan says.
‘I had to get going and working on it very quickly, as the hands and mind must work together when inspiration strikes.
‘I tend to work in layers and bright colours and when I started to scrape through the painting, it started to reveal itself to me.
‘But I’ve also learned to stop, wait and step back from a painting and read it and see what it’s saying. Paintings do have their own mind!’
Susan’s work, titled ‘Evening Glow’, depicts a sole tree in the middle of an undefined landscape, allowing the viewer to imagine where it could be.
‘To me it is a Tree of Life…and it could be anywhere, it could be on a farm, by water, it doesn’t matter. This tree is very grounding and by painting it, it has helped me to ground myself in the landscape and identify with landscapes I have been in.’
‘Often when I start a painting I have no idea where it is going to go. I have to get into the rhythm of painting and then allow the creative process to take over.
Describing herself as a ‘colourist’, Susan approaches her work with a bold and colourful brush technique.
‘Vibrant tones always feature in my work, especially orange, which is my favourite colour and you will always see it somewhere in my works.’
Susan is a regular exhibitor at Gallery 1855 and local resident of the area. She has held careers in cooking, teaching and now focuses full-time on her work as an artist and freelance food writer.
Her work is included in Gallery 1855’s SALA exhibition, titled ‘Looking but seeing…something familiar for the first time’, which opens Sunday 9 August. Other featured Adelaide artists include Jane Greet, Amy Herrmann, Judith Rolevink, Greg Geraghty and Talia Dawson.
‘I think it’s a great time to be an artist in Adelaide, with the support of councils and their involvement in the SALA Festival.’
During the 2015 SALA Festival, Susan’s work will also be on display at the Pepper Street Arts Centre, The Red House Member’s Group Exhibition and is part of a pop-up artist open day on Walkerville Terrace on Friday 28 August.
‘Looking but Seeing’…something familiar for the first time’ runs from Wednesday 12 August until Saturday 19 September.
Gallery 1855 is located at 2 Haines Road, Tea Tree Gully, and is open Wednesday – Saturday from 12-5pm.
For more information visit the Gallery 1855 website or phone 8397 7333.
Looking but seeing features 25 South Australian artists using various media to respond to the experience of seeing something familiar for the first time.
There is no other festival like the South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA) in Australia or the rest of the world. SALA embraces professional and aspiring artists at all levels and interests, while helping to grow the broader public’s awareness and curiosity in visual art.
During the month of August this state-wide festival encourages South Australians to go and visit (in addition to galleries) a whole lot of different venues (hospitals, restaurants cafes) to see visual art.
At Gallery 1855 we provide a platform from which our community can engage with the visual arts and we think this approach connects well with SALA’s ethos of inclusivity.
We’ve all experienced a difference or momentary strangeness in a familiar environment, object or person. These experiences can be unsettling but they can arouse one’s curiosity and call for deeper interpretations.
Looking but seeing proposes the importance of looking deeply, visually excavating and actually seeing or attempting to understand through the process of making art.