Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gallery 1
24 March - 10 April
Well Connected

Elsie Randall

Elsie in Gallery 1 with her work done in collaboration with her daughter Tayla
The NAS gallery is going from strength to strength curating and providing opportunities for our vast community of artists.  I managed to catch up with two exhibiting artists over the Easter weekend.  Elsie Randall is an Aboriginal artist clearly passionate about art and Australian indigenous families. Her paternal connection is to the Yaegl people (Maclean/Yamba regions) and Bundjalung people (Ballina/Tweed region) on her maternal side. Her life has seen her fulfil commitments to family from an early age and she continues working across indigenous communities.  Elsie has worked in hairdressing, law enforcement, juvenile justice, Department of Community Services, Aboriginal family support services and as a private Consultant -  training, liaising, producing training manuals to assist with effective and positive engagement with the aboriginal community, children and families.

Elsie is the owner and operator of Free Spirit Art Gallery located at Shop 1/90 Maitland Road, Mayfield West, 2304, specialising in Aboriginal art.  Currently the gallery supports 70 local Aboriginal artists, 30 who live within other areas in NSW and 6 outside of the state.  A major project being undertaken is the development of an Art Foundation aimed at bringing Mutitjulu artists from Uluru for an exhibition in Newcastle later this year.

Elsie says her work is essentially about healing and shared stories.  Some works in the gallery have been undertaken collaboratively with her children, Leigh, Tayla and Kolby and her niece Ebony.  Elsie talked of loading the implement with acrylic paint and dripping the acrylic paint onto the surface.  The paint falls under its own momentum forming beautiful, complete raised dots on the material.  This is Elsie’s signature mark.  The process allows for ‘slowing down’ of the body, taking respite from the outside world, and engaging with the medium and pattern-making story telling.  The tactility of the surface is significant and important.  Elsie attaches her own personal developed colour palette to the works, with individual colours representing states of emotion.  It is a meditative process allowing for discussion and interaction between the artist and the colour and between collaborators.  Each work carries the story on the wall below.

If you are interested in contributing to the Uluru artists’ exhibition project, or talking to Elsie about her work, art or consultancy business in general, contact her at or phone directly on 0401580789.

Gallery 1
 24 March - 10 April
Healing Hands

Jasmine Craciun

There is also a collection of Healing Hands which are ceramic works by Jasmine Craciun on display. Jasmine is an eighteen year old Newcastle local from the Barkindji and Malyangapa people of western NSW.  Jasmine is currently undertakin a Visual Communication and Design course at the University of Newcastle.  Having a love and interest of art since a young child, Jasmine makes her debut entrance onto the exhibiting stage with her work Healing Hands.  Jasmine has drawn inspiration from the stories told to her by artist Elsie Randall.  Her five sculptures tell of the women of the bundjalung nation and their healing hands.  "Healing Hands" represents not only the power in the hands of the bundjalung women but also the culture and history that runs  through the veins of all indigenous people.
Gallery 2
24 March - 10 April

Along the Way with You 
Hannah Simonovich
Hannah in the gallery with her work

Hannah is a Newcastle artist currently living in Maitland.  She has a Bachelor Fine Art from Newcastle University with a double major in painting and photography and is currently studying interior design.  This is her first solo exhibition. The oil on canvas works in this exhibition are the result of travelling with her husband Andrew to California and Arizona in 2014.  Hannah described her process as being about returning and later reconnecting to her experience of being in each space through her visual and emotional memory.  Hannah does not use drawings or photographs as reference, just her personal recollections.

Hannah is always looking at contemporary art and lists J W Turner and the colour palette in Georgia O’Keefe’s works as key influences.  Hannah has several commissions and can be contacted directly if interested in talking to her about a new commission, project or opportunity. Email:  and her website can be found at:

Gallery 2
24 March - 10 April

Someone’s Home

Jeremy Robinson
Work by Jeremy Robinson on display in the entrance to Gallery 2

Artist Statement

Jeremy Robinson’s use of metal and steel to communicate themes of presence and place is both nostalgic and poetic.  Jeremy’s sensitivity and expertise in working his material is evident in his exhibition Someone’s Home.  This Melbourne hailed artist and blacksmith is masterful in this manipulation of metal with his current exhibition a testament to the many years spent refining and perfecting his art practice.  Scaled in the miniature, these narrative objects focus the mind on a world that can’t really be placed, yet is undeniably familiar.  Perhaps drawn from the ocean of Jeremy’s Victorian childhood, or from some iconic story contained within the pages of classic literature, so universally understood is this motif Robinson portrays, of a distinctly coastal way of life.  Presence and place are integral in Robinson’s work who reflects upon the place of the self within these dwellings and in so invites the view to consider their presence amongst the motions of everyday life.

Robinson who primarily works in timber, stone and forged steel explores the materiality of his medium with his recent work incorporating pilaster, marble, lime, shell and scale.  He relishes the deterioration of material, the flaking of paint on a timber wharf, the scale and the rust in the steel structures that reside precariously on our coastline.

Jeremy Robinson undertook training with Bernhard Wyearsch at ArtMetal Work, Melbourne, after which he joined Red Falcon Ironworks, Melbourne.  In 1993 he established his own company Bent Metal for the design and fabrication of domestic architectural steelwork.  He has worked as an industrial blacksmith for Loft & Sons Blacksmiths, Melbourne, and Dumbrell Forge, Wallsend, NSW.  He established an artmetal studio, Fe26 in Newcastle in 2000 and over the past fifteen years has produced a range of public and private commissions.  He is the Design and Technology teacher at the Newcastle Waldorf School.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Gallery 1

Hidden - Works of a Recluse

Neal Booth

Neal Booth in front of one of his pivotal works in the exhibition

Neal Booth is a dedicated father co-parenting his children, working to support himself, and committed to making art.  His academic achievements include completion of a Master of Philosophy (Fine Art) for which he received a scholarship.

Neal loves connecting with nature and the building materials of the earth.  His colour palette reflects this quite directly as he uses the materials of the earth as his pigment and paint.  It is a sophisticated and restrained palette, layered, distressed or harshly ground back and re-layered through to completion.  There is an obvious influence of the works of Anselm Kiefer and Neal spoke of his connection to the work of Andy Goldsworthy, and the writing of American art critic and sculptor Donald Judd.

“My art is an investigation into my intuitive and emotional understanding of nature and the landscape and how it can be expressed through the use of natural materials as medium and object.”

Raw materials are physically collected from places that hold significance and transported back to be transformed. Neal uses various acrylic emulsions to stabilise the individual substructures in his process if necessary. The small photographic works were all taken at times and in places that hold sentimental attachment.

“ practice is an investigation into the use of earthen materials as an emotionally cathartic process.”

The works appear solid and heavy but sometimes looks can be deceptive and perhaps the physical strength of an object is the result of soft, light, vulnerable individual layers laminated and impacted together to create such strength or the illusion of same.

In a reversal that is not uncommon Neal finds himself a teacher and mentor to his mother who is currently following in her son’s footsteps and undertaking studies in Fine Art at University level.

This is an exhibition of professional and polished works. I absolutely love this collection of pieces.

If you want to talk to Neal about his work, just say hello and introduce yourself, are interested in collaborating in a project, or commissioning a specific art work, please email Neal directly at

Gallery 2

No Distance Left to Run

Vasanth Rao 

Vasanth Rao with his wife Pravina and the NAS co-directors Jordan Fardell and Melissa Bull on opening night

“Honest expression and innocence are the two key influences in my art and personality.  I believe in expressing not impressing...”

Vasanth has a Master of Sociology and has been making art for 17 years as a self-taught artist.  Three years ago he moved to Australia with his wife Pravina whose family is located in Australia. The foundation of Vasanth’s art is based within his love for Indian folk and tribal art.  When I talked to Vasanth he was passionate about his choice to engage with honest, innocent and expressive elements within his work.  His visual language comes directly from his heart without pre-planning as he immerses himself into a personal exploration of identity.

...”I have fallen in love with my silence and loneliness so much so that it has become a positive addiction for me.  This silence is my work zone and the birth place of my ideas.  It simply ends up as ‘Art Meditation’ wherein I find eternal peace.”

There is so much colour, and pattern-making sitting on the surface of his works.  Marks are applied almost with child-like eagerness to release the joy he finds while in this creative state.  Drawing is as much a part of his daily ritual as sleeping and eating.  His many exhibitions allow for evolution of ideas and practice while receiving feedback and interaction with the viewer.

For Vasanth life and art are beautiful and making it brings him satisfaction and hope. There certainly is joy, colour, and both spontaneous and planned mark-making within the works.  I have never seen work like this before or not that I can remember.  Some works utilise a black background which provides a dynamic space on which to layer energetic visual expression. Others show that urgent, free, unrestricted and expressive mark he applies with acrylic and oil pastels.

What a lovely experience listening to Vasanth speak exuberantly of his art experience with such passion.

View other works by Vasanth at
Read some details in English and listen to an interview in his native language with Vasanth on SBS Radio at

If you would like to talk to Vasanth directly about art in general, collaborative projects, commissions, or interviews please contact him directly on

Chris Byrnes
NAS blogger