I’m a contemporary Australian artist, living and working in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland.
Over the past decade and a half, I’ve regularly exhibited my paintings, photographs and videos in Australia and internationally. I'm proud to exhibit with Art Piece Gallery in Norther Rivers, New South Wales.
I’ve been painting nature and the landscape in different forms throughout my career, using travel as a springboard for inspiration and exploring my relationship to the landscape through my writing and painted impressions.
I love to visit places and then head back to the studio to explore on canvas the textures, colours and forms which have left impressions, without trying to control or force the outcome.
These days, much of my work is drawn from the landforms around our home; mountains, ponds, wetlands and rock pools often embed themselves in my visual memory and emerge in my paintings.
Nature connects me to something much bigger than myself. It puts life in perspective. It’s where I feel most connected to the Sacred.
Nothing moves my soul like seeing nature in all her glory...
... the wetlands near our home glistening and sparkling under the setting sun; the early morning mist enshrouding our orchard in white, pink and apricot light; pencil pines standing tall along fences in Victoria; and rock pools harbouring their own ecology.
Our home is nestled between three mountains and I especially love how they catch my eye as they change colour with the shifting light from dusky green, to dark orange and finally to deep purple at dusk.
On the other hand...
...in my art practice and life I’m interested in exploring and acknowledging how our minds work. How we can be somewhere physically, but our minds are often occupied with concerns about the future or memories from the past.
We can be standing in front of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring mountain, but we’re thinking about what our partner said or didn’t say, about how much money we’ll have in the bank at the end of the week, or about work we need to catch up on when we get home.
Instead of really being where we are and enjoying the gift of “being here”, we tend to miss the moment if we don't bring awareness around our mind’s natural tendency to wander off.
In 2008 I began to incorporate excerpts from my personal diaries into my art practice.
I use those excerpts as the titles of my paintings and am interested in how their juxtaposition with the imagery of the paintings often creates a disjuncture.
They rupture the ideological experience of pure landscape painting and give a small window for the viewer into my personal internal dialogue. Whether it was what I was thinking about that morning, or a snippet that usually comes from my travels, they provide an interesting space where the viewer is invited to experience their own inner world and form their own interpretation of the work.
As for creative rituals...
I have simple, yet effective and nourishing practices that feed my soul.
A cup of tea sipped quietly before I begin a new painting. A meditative walk with our Cavoodle puppy Lacey Jane. Hiking and taking photographs of nature. Or one of my favourites, a spontaneous trip away in our campervan to see fresh landscapes and new places.
Once I’m back in the studio, I’ll often begin with a colour that’s caught my eye while out exploring, and not knowing how the painting will end up, begin to apply the paint. Through the actual process of painting, the imagery takes form.
I don’t usually begin with a solid picture in mind...
...instead there’s a dance between my own internal visions, desires and aesthetics, and the materials, brushstrokes, and physicality of the very process of painting that informs how the painting will evolve.
Working in this way means each painting is a new adventure into the unknown.
Much like not knowing what exactly will happen when I go on a trip, each painting has its own hidden gems, and the challenge is to remain present and notice what’s happening in front of me; to work with, adapt and polish it into something that delights and captivates my eye.
The whole process can take weeks and months, or it can unfold in a matter of minutes. Each painting is different like that. For me, knowing when a work is finished has very little to do with how much time it takes. Instead it’s about the complexity and intersections of the colours, or the serenity of the scene, or the way it draws your eye around the entire surface of the canvas; these are a few of the signals I’m looking for to know when a work is complete.
There usually comes a point where the painting has a ‘wholeness’ about it and that’s when I know it’s time to stop painting and observe the work quietly for a while. If I still find it captivating after a few weeks, if my eye is still content with the balance of the entire picture, I know it’s ready to go out into the world with its own identity.
What I love most about the creative process is...
... the way it reminds you to trust in the unknown, be courageous, follow your heart’s desires, listen to your intuition, stretch out of your comfort zone, and bring to life something that wasn’t there before.
When it comes to materials, oil paints have long been my favourite medium. I adore working with oils; the way they slip and slide is so sensual. They take a long time to dry, allowing me time to achieve the soft, atmospheric effects I’m after. Oil paints have a translucency, sculptural quality, vibrancy and lustre all their own. They’re a pleasure to paint with.
As for canvases, I love to paint on linen. I love the natural fibres, the handmade feel and uneven surface of linen. I find it adds a beautiful quality to the surface of my paintings, and because I use such thin layers of paint in my atmospheric series, the subtle textures on the surface become an important component of the work when you view the painting up close. Linen is a naturally resistant and archival material, promoting the longevity of the painting and protecting it against mould and mildew in humid climates, so it wins out in all areas for me; aesthetics, practicality and archival quality.
One of my favourite moments is what I call the ‘first viewer experience’
That’s when I go into the studio with a steaming cup of tea and see what I’ve created the night before.
For that moment, I'm the viewer, no longer the artist. Whether the painting’s finished or not, whether it’s good or not, whether it’s how I remembered it or not, doesn’t actually matter. It’s a puzzle for my eye. Something to solve. It’s something new, that was never there before.
Then quite often, after being the viewer, an area or a mark will obviously need adjusting and I slip back into the mode of the artist. It’s time to get back to work and do another layer.
I find the whole process of painting challenging, puzzling & magical.
It keeps me hooked, longing to come back to the studio to see where it will lead and what will unfold next. I couldn’t imagine living any other way.
To see my exhibitions and a selection of paintings from the last decade, please check out my portfolio.
Nicola Newman was born in Cohuna, Victoria, in 1982 and moved to Queensland when she was eight years old. She gained a Bachelor of Fine Art from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, in 2005 and now works full time as an artist, freelance writer, painting retreat host and teacher.
Newman’s work explores themes of landscape, nature, intimacy and memory. She exhibits her paintings in solo and group exhibitions in Australia and internationally. Selected solo exhibitions include Beyond the Horizon, Art Piece Gallery, Mullumbimby (2013); Cohuna Diaries, Anita Traverso Gallery, Melbourne (2009); With or With Drought You, Redland Art Gallery (2009); Over the Garden Fence, Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (2008); Today we don’t have plans, Anita Traverso Gallery, Melbourne (2008); Uncommonplace, in-Transit Gallery, Brisbane (2008); and Natural Instincts, Anita Traverso Gallery, Melbourne (2007). International highlights include the Orebro International Video Festival, Sweden (2008).
Newman was awarded the Espresso Garage Award for her video ‘It’s Cutting’ in the Thiess Art Prize (2006) and was a finalist in the Artworker Award 06, Redland Art Award (2006) and Churchie Emerging Art Award (2006).
The State Library of Queensland and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art have published catalogue essays written by Newman and her artwork is represented in public and corporate collections including the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery and Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital.
She currently lives on a 35 foot sail boat "Day Dream" and is cruising the east coast of Australia.
To see comprehensive details of my exhibition history, education & collectors, please check out my curriculum vitae.