Born in Brisbane in 1963, Amanda Penrose Hart holds a Diploma of Fine Art from Queensland College of Art and a Bachelor of Visual Art from Griffith University. She has held twenty solo exhibitions and has shown in many more group exhibitions. She regularly has work selected in prizes such as the Portia Geach Memorial Award (2011, 2008, 2007, 2006) and the En Plein Air Art Prize, and this year she won the 2017 Gallipoli Art Prize.
Her work is represented in public and private collections, including Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW; Brisbane Polo Club; Gold Coast City Art Gallery; Hawkesbury Regional Art Gallery, NSW; Redcliff Regional Gallery, Qld; Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney; and University of Sydney Art Collection.
The Packsaddle team are delighted she will open their thirty second Packsaddle Exhibition at the New England Regional Art Museum in October.
You were born and raised in Brisbane. At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to be an artist, and did you have any particular role models?
I grew up in a house with sisters who were always painting or drawing. I was the youngest of five, so they were very influential. First role models, then, were my older sisters. I had a fabulous pottery teacher in primary school and my mother was a potter. We had two kilns and a wheel at home.
Having access to these possibilities is very influential when you are young.
Your work seems to be exploring a great variety of landscapes, from the bushy outback around your studio in Sofala, to the coastline of Sydney’s Northern Beaches where you live. Did you deliberately choose those two very different landscapes to live and work in?
The ocean around Pittwater is very beautiful and close – Palm Beach is only 15 minutes away from my house. There are wonderful national parks around me, which look on to Palm Beach. My main studio is in Sofala, a very small country town near Bathurst NSW.
The ocean and the scrub are great contrasts. I LOVE THE CONTRAST.
You use many different mediums – oil, watercolours, gouache and graphite, to name a few. Why and how do you decide which medium to use each time?
I like to work in many mediums. If I have to travel light, I take drawing materials, acrylics and gouache for quick-drying purposes. I use oils if I’m within Australia, or if I’m away long enough for the paintings to dry. Getting work home safely is important, so sometimes I have to plan the length of time I’m away around how long a painting will take to dry.
You have been quoted as saying you aim to capture the “thought of a landscape”. What do you mean by that?
I guess places have meaning. Many, many layers of meaning – Gallipoli for example – I don’t think you could go to Gallipoli and just paint ANZAC Cove and not be aware of the meaning held within the sand and the beach and the water. So I “think” about what has gone on in a place’s history. It is not just the activity of painting; I paint a certain place because of its history and its memory.
You have been on several group painting expeditions with other renowned artists, including last year’s Packsaddle opener, Euan MacLeod. What do you like about those excursions?
I have been on many painting excursions with Euan and also Ann Thompson, Wendy Sharpe, Reg Mombassa and Elisabeth Cummings. These are painting trips with like-minded people who choose to travel together to work.
We are all respectful of each other’s space, and we are very compatible. Hard work is contagious and so if you are on the Western Front, for example, and everyone is doing 10 paintings a day, then you try to pick up your act. If everyone is up at dawn and painting when the sun gets up, then you tend to do it too.
You’ve been to Gallipoli several times and contributed to the 2015 Gallipoli Centenary Exhibition entitled Your Friend The Enemy. Dr Brenda Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial, described the exhibition as “contributing substantially to the question Gallipoli asks of every Australian: ‘what does this mean to me?’” What did it mean to you, Amanda?
A great trip to be on. I had never been to Istanbul, so I just could not wait to get there. The group was good – a nice combination of painters, sculptors and photographers. It was very emotional when we got to ANZAC Cove. The weather was warm. The area was very beautiful and had a mysterious feel about it.
The second trip there in less than a year was less emotional. Having been there so recently, we knew we just had to get into our work. On the second trip, we had Brad Manera with us from the Sydney War Memorial. He laid on history lessons every day – morning, noon and night, if we wanted them. He is a fountain of knowledge.
My grandfather’s younger brother went to Gallipoli and died on the Western Front, so it was special for me to go to ANZAC Cove and see where my great uncle would have landed and to hear the stories of how they survived, only to perish 12 months later in France.
Then earlier this year you were named winner of the 2017 $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize with your work The Sphinx, Perpetual Peace. Describe how that felt?
Wonderful to get the call; I thought I was being thrown out of another art prize!
You have exhibited widely in Australia, including at Packsaddle, in New Zealand and in the last few years in Singapore. How did the Singapore exhibitions come about?
I was offered a show in Singapore after a collector in Melbourne suggested me to a gallery in Singapore. They offered a residency in Creancey, so I did that and then linked it up with the Western Front tour. The work I did in France is to be shown in Singapore next year. I have a show on in Singapore now, but it is mostly Australian subject matter with only six landscapes of Creancey in it.
You’ve had many successes in your twenty-year career. What do you regard as your challenges for the future?
It’s very nice of you to say I’ve had many successes! I don’t see things like that. I feel I have such a long way to go. The challenge is to keep going. The challenge is not to let “life” get in the way: meeting deadlines, getting more galleries to show my work, entering the odd prize – I don’t enter many.
The challenge is to make the time to look properly at my own work and ask myself: is it good enough? Is it saying what I want it to say? Could I have spent more time on this? It’s a great job being a painter. You can spend your entire life questioning your painting.
Thanks to Amanda; we look forward to welcoming her to NERAM.
Packsaddle Program of Events
Friday 20 October – the 32nd Packsaddle fundraising exhibition opens at 6pm (viewing from 5:30pm).
Saturday 21st October – artist’s talk with Amanda Penrose Hart at 10:30am.
Sunday 29th October – a conversation about art with Rowen Matthews and James White at 10:30am.
Sunday 5th November – closing drinks and last purchases from noon to 4pm.