My Godfather, Dr Eric Murphy lived with us for a time and he was a beautiful oil painter and did superb charcoal drawings daily and these enthralled me as a 6year old child. This is the first time I recall the intoxicating smell of Linseed Oil and I still have his old timber paint box on my studio desk. The linseed scent still lingers.
I studied art in Port Macquarie High School and during Year 12 I wagged many classes and just turned up for Art Lessons! We were fortunate to have two awesome and inspirational art teachers Jim Matsinos and Petina Alexander who inspired so many young people from Port Macquarie to venture into the big wide world to chase art careers. Many of these have become successful film makers, costume designers, ceramicists, photographers, advertising gurus, designers and artists! Such a great legacy. I ventured to Sydney and studied Fine Arts at and affiliate school of East Sydney Technical College now the National Art School.
Most days I work in my little haven aka studio, for at least 8 hours normally from 4pm – 2am.
I’m also often engaged to create public art works which I enjoy immensely as it gives me a connection to my community and provides a creative challenge working on a completely different scale than my usual. One significant piece of public art that was a game changer in my role as an artist is the Mooroolbin Brisbane City Cat, which travels up and down the Brisbane River all day wrapped in my artwork of Queenslander houses.
So many artists have been an inspiration to me over the years. My heart will always ache for the beauty in paintings of Mark Rothko, Margaret Olley, Kathleen O’Connor and Jeffrey Smart, but one of the most profound and life changing moments for me was when I visited and exhibition opening of Suzanne O’Doherty at Doggett St Gallery in 2001. I asked her “What advice would you give a person who wants to make a successful career as an artist? Her answer was to “simply paint what you know and paint what’s around you” AND work within your community on art projects as much as possible” Light Bulb time!
I started painting domestic scenes with lots of white cloth nappies on a clothes line obscuring my view from the rest of the world! I was at this time a mother of 3 young ones, leading a very insular domestic life with little time for creative freedom. I also began painting my retro collection of objects in still life clusters, with clashing patterns and colours. Then the works moved to views of neighbourhood houses looking out of a window, but still the canvas was near covered by an expansive white nappy, and so began the mix of celebrating domestic life, Queenslander homes in my neighbourhood and the joyful challenge of resolving the placement of clashing colours and patterns alongside one another, a retro reflection for sure.
My paintings soon lost the nappies, as did my babies, and the current subject of the Brisbane suburban scape emerged. The evolution of the houses initially represented domesticity at that point in my life and now translate as a celebration of Brisbane, it’s history and present.
This burgeoning out from Motherhood in subject matter also happened in a physical sense as I took on more and more large-scale artworks beyond the laundry tub so to speak! I know have a great desire to give art and artists a platform within my community and hence the formation of Southside Art Market and a n NFP Southside ArtistS Inc or BSASI as we like to call ourselves!
Over time the foliage in my paintings is becoming more dotted with my brush, this mirrors the Brisbane Spring time when the blossoms of Jacaranda, Poinciana, Pink Trumpet and Golden Penda trees fall on mass, like confetti, to create a multicoloured carpet that displays around the iconic Queenslander houses.
Being so engaged in the community and having some involvement in the petitioning for maintaining the local history and architecture also brings me another avenue to engage on the issue of Brisbane’s urgent need for preservation for her iconic domestic architecture.
This passion also brings great disappointment, frustration, anger and sadness when I see these unique houses lost to what I call bland beige architecture. The loss of the Queenslander in our streets is changing the dynamic of how we live and engage as a community. The social impact of this will be of significant social consequence in the next generation.
Wilston Art Show - Landscape Award
Winner of Brisbane City Council - Citycat Wrap Competition
Gallery 6 31, Thompson Street, Bowen Hills
Visit Debra's website here.
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