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ABOUT STEFFIE WALLACE

What is your background?
I was born in Adelaide but now live in Melbourne, where I studied Art and Design at the Prahran College of Advanced Education, majoring in painting and printmaking, and subsequently studied Sociology and Media at Swinburne University. Initially influenced by JMW Turner and the Australian Impressionists, I have been painting and exhibiting atmospheric landscapes for over 30 years, and won awards both in Australia and overseas, the most recent being the Gagliardi Gallery Award at the London Art Biennale. My artistic career began at 16 when I attended life drawing classes in the 1960s at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne. I have worked as a graphic artist, art reviewer and arts writer contributor for various publications, including ‘The Melbourne Times' and ‘Imprint' magazine. In the 1980s, I was manager of an antique print gallery, ‘l'estampe originale', in Hawthorn, and lectured in art history at the Melbourne CAE. Later I worked in web design and art marketing, but now paint full-time.

How would you describe your paintings?
I would describe my landscapes as atmospheric and impressionistic with the sea and the outback being my main subjects. My paintings are dominated by the sky, generally of a dramatic nature using a fairly limited palette, with contrasting light as a significant factor . The visual interpretation of changing light remains an ongoing fascination as does the desire to capture the immediacy of a particular climatic situation. JMW Turner would be my main influence, though I'm also inspired by the work of the Australian Impressionists and modern Australian painters such as Chris Langlois and Philip Wolfhagen. I find Instagram a great resource in terms of looking at artwork and connecting with other artists.

How long have you been practicing as an artist?
I have been painting landscapes for over 30 years; prior to that, I had always been interested in drawing, and later worked as a graphic designer, illustrating catalogues and designing advertising material. I later became interested in website design and continue to maintain the websites I've built for myself and others. Landscape painting now occupies all my spare time and I feel fortunate to be working as an artist into my ‘70s, still regularly exhibiting and speaking about my work.

What initially attracted you to being an artist?
I first fell in love with the idea of having an artistic career when I was 16 and read ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy', by Irving Stone, which told the story of Michelangelo. At the time, I was taking life drawing classes at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne , being taught by artists John Brack and Ian Armstrong, and this inspired me to want to become an artist.

Where did you attend art school?
I initially attended a Tertiary Orientation Program in Art and Design at Brighton Technical School, and then I attended the school of Art and Design at the Prahran College of Advanced Education from 1975-77, majoring in painting and printmaking as a mature-age student. My teachers included Jeffrey Makin, Victor Majzner, Helen Geier, Tom Gleghorn, Les Kossatz, Colin Lanceley, Danny Moynihan, and Sandra Leveson, with Roger Kemp being a frequent visitor.

How would you describe your practice?
I have been drawing and painting ever since I can remember and as a student in Grade 6, had one of my paintings sent to Melbourne University as part of a study project. Prior to attending art school, I was primarily interested in drawing, but I later expanded my knowledge working with paint and ink in different artistic disciplines. While studying at Prahran, I became interested in abstract expressionism, particularly the emotive brushwork, and I have incorporated this form of mark-making into my landscapes since that time.
As I progressed with my work, I became fascinated with the work of JMW Turner, and the dramatic light and semi-abstract forms present in all his work had a major effect on how I viewed the landscape and how I presented it as a finished piece. I work with a limited colour palette, relatively undiluted paint, and frequently mix my colours directly onto the substrate, building up the layers to create depth in the work as I proceed. I am quite critical of my own work and continually adjust my colours and highlights until I feel satisfied that the painting has reached completion.
My work seldom deviates from the set formula I have created so that the works share a large degree of similarity. From the beginning, however, I decided it was very important to create a recognisable and consistent body of work which would not vary in format. It is supremely important to me to translate the emotional forces of the landscape via light and colour to the viewer, and in instances where this has been successful, I feel extremely fortunate to have been given such a gift.

What does a typical day in the studio involve?
I generally plan what I'm going to paint before I start and have my materials set up with my photographic and colour references so everything is ready to go. I generally like to get most of my work done in the morning and with large works, the process can be quite tiring, so I find it difficult to paint all day. I also find if I spend too much time on one painting with no breaks, it's easy to overwork certain areas. I like to put down a good first layer that I'm happy with, however, before I leave the painting. I like listening to the radio while I paint; NOVA FM keeps me going all day!

What is your process?
I generally paint the landscape in portrait format to highlight the sky with a suggestion of land or sea at the base and concentrate on working on the sky area first. I use my own photographs for reference, since I choose to portray the landscape in transitory weather situations dominated by dramatic skies, which cannot always be captured quickly when painting in plein-air situations, particularly when the weather is inclement. I prefer the way in which photographs flatten out the landscape and capture instantaneously the atmospheric effects I am after, though this seldom translates to the finished work without variations. I paint in oils with acrylic under-painting, on canvas, panel, linen and wood, and use various mediums to enhance the colours. I work with a limited colour palette, relatively undiluted paint, and frequently mix my colours directly onto the substrate, building up the layers to create depth in the work as I proceed. I am quite critical of my own work and continually adjust my colours and highlights until I feel satisfied that the painting has reached completion.

What have you been working on recently?
I have just completed my works for this year's Postcard Show at Linden New Art in St Kilda, and am about to begin painting a large landscape intended for a later exhibition. Currently, I have an online exhibition, ‘Dusk to Dawn', about to open at Breathing Colours gallery in Sydney .

What themes are evident in your work?
My paintings have always been centred on changing weather and are dominated by the sky in which I find my spiritual as well as my artistic inspiration . I n all my work, light and colour are the dominant features and no matter how dark the painting, there is always a source of light to be found, symbolic of hope and optimism. Climate change is now a major concern for us all, evidenced by the wildly unpredictable weather we continually experience, and this situation seems likely to become increasingly more prevalent. Nature has always held man within its power and in an era where we see ourselves as being able to exercise control over so many aspects of our lives, this is one area which we cannot dominate. I find the challenge of capturing this climatic unpredictability in dramatic depictions keeps me aware of our place in the universe and the part we play.

What would be the main highlights of your career?
When I first began painting, I had no idea where the journey would take me. What I have experienced so far, however, has well exceeded my wildest dreams. I have always tried to keep my ambitions at a manageable level in that fame and fortune were never at the top of my agenda. I thought if I could consistently produce work and regularly enter exhibitions; this would fulfil my main objectives and this is still my rationale. Over the years as my confidence grew, I expanded my horizons, both artistically and geographically. The first time I exhibited overseas was incredibly exciting since it was in Italy where I had always wanted to show my work. It was much more of a thrill when I entered the Florence Biennale in 2015 and was awarded 2 nd prize for painting; an unprecedented honour, since there were over 600 painters. Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to win the Landscape Prize at the Linden Postcard Show and two consecutive awards at the London Art Biennale, the most recent being in July of this year.
However, despite my good fortune, I have never viewed prize-winning as the zenith of an artistic career. An artistic career is often isolating, frustrating and plagued by self-doubt, as I have experienced on many occasions. While there is always the desire to produce the optimum work, I find that in order to progress, being grateful for what I have achievement thus far is vital to maintain a sense of self and my abilities, and to consistently build on that platform to achieve the next objective.
This has been particularly relevant over the past two years when lives have been dominated by the devastation and ongoing challenges wrought by Covid 19. With this in mind, many of my recent paintings are concentrated on sunset and sunrise, which nature provides every evening and morning, often filling the sky with breathtaking colours. Both these occurrences have the capacity to uplift and inspire us during dark times and I have embraced the opportunity to produce new paintings using a lighter, brighter palette.

Enquiries:
steffiewallacepaintings@gmail.com

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Ochre Gallery, Melbourne, 2011


Breathing Colours Gallery, Sydney, 2011


Blue Dog Gallery, Melbourne, 2011


Estense Castle Museum, Ferrara, Italy, 2012


Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada, 2012


Florence Biennale, Florence, Italy, 2015


Ward-Nasse Gallery, New York, USA, 2016


Niagara Falls History Museum, Ontario, Canada, 2018


Broken Hill Regional Gallery, NSW, 2018


London Art Biennale, London, UK, 2019


Commission, 'Sunset, Brighton', 2020


Working in the studio, 2021


Ochre Gallery, Melbourne, 2011


Breathing Colours Gallery, Sydney, 2011


Blue Dog Gallery, Melbourne, 2011


Estense Castle Museum, Ferrara, Italy, 2012


Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada, 2012


Florence Biennale, Florence, Italy, 2015


Ward-Nasse Gallery, New York, USA, 2016


Niagara Falls History Museum, Ontario, Canada, 2018


Broken Hill Regional Gallery, NSW, 2018


London Art Biennale, London, UK, 2019


Commission, 'Sunset, Brighton', 2020


Working in the studio, 2021