Tribute to Ellis Rowan kicks off Art Chatter Gallery series in Mt Barker

Stuart McGuckinAlbany Advertiser
Vicki Brown shows off her works paying tribute to Ellis Rowan which are now hanging in Mt Barker's Art Chatter Gallery.
Camera IconVicki Brown shows off her works paying tribute to Ellis Rowan which are now hanging in Mt Barker's Art Chatter Gallery. Credit: Supplied

A tribute to a trailblazing Australian artist has kicked off a series of exhibitions at Mt Barker’s Art Chatter Gallery.

The series will give gallery regulars the chance to exhibit their works for at least six weeks each.

The first exhibition, which is already installed, is a tribute by Vicki Brown to renowned watercolour artist Ellis Rowan.

Rowan was born in Victoria in 1848 and went on to paint fauna and flora throughout Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and the UK.

More than 900 of her works are the property of the Commonwealth of Australia, with a vast majority of those held in the National Gallery of Australia.

Mrs Brown said she came across Rowan’s work while preparing for a past project.

“We were doing a fabulous fakes exhibition and the usual masters suspects were just not inspiring me,” she said.

“Then I can across Ellis Rowan’s bird collection in the National Library and got my brushes out right away.

“I loved the fact that she travelled the world in a time when few women did and she talked even her way into New Guinea.

“In 1879 Ellis spent time in Albany, then she and Margaret Forrest put together the first ever art exhibition in Perth.”

Tribute to Ellis Rowan features reproductions of the artist’s bird and wildflower paintings produced from 1887 to 1911.

While the originals were done using watercolour and gouache, Ms Brown opted to use oil paints on canvas boards for her tribute.

She said she learned a lot while trying to emulate Rowan’s works.

“Rowan was a watercolourist so trying to emulate that in my tribute paintings I’ve had to really work on muting backgrounds,” she said.

“When copying you can relax and let the paint flow, concentrating on getting the colours and scale right — I think that helped me become less uptight and I have relaxed the grip on my brushes..”

Mrs Brown jumped at the opportunity to highlight Rowan’s connection to the Great Southern by being the first artist to exhibit as part of the series.

Gallery curator Barry Mackie supported Mrs Brown’s choice to examine the works of an artist she was passionate about.

“Students throughout history have honed their skills by painting the masters and artists that resonate with them,” he said.

Mrs Brown will be painting at the gallery from 10.30am-2.30pm on Friday and Sunday where she will be happy to talk about Ellis Rowan and the exhibition.

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