In December 2015 we were on a short holiday at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, a quick pre-Christmas getaway. On an overcast and rainy day we decided to go to the Tweed Regional Gallery at Murwillumbah – just across the border in NSW. I was particularly keen to see the Margaret Olley Art Centre, which was officially opened as Stage III of the Tweed Regional Gallery on Saturday 15 March 2015. It’s a re-creation of rooms from her home studio (what used to be a Hat Factory) in Duxford Street, Paddington in Sydney, including what Margaret called the ‘Yellow Room’. What a great day out it proved to be!
The Gallery has a fantastic café out the back looking out over the Tweed River. Here’s a few photo’s I posted to Instagram on the day we were there.
The Tweed Regional Gallery was awesome and I spend a long time wandering around in awe looking at the photography and art exhibited, but for this post I want to focus more on the Margaret Olley Art Centre. I have long been an admirer of Margaret’s art but after visiting the Margaret Olley Art Centre, I am now even more of a fan.
About Margaret Olley
Margaret Hannah Olley is one of Australia’s most significant still-life and interior painters. She drew inspiration from her home and studio and the beauty of the everyday objects she gathered around her. Many of her paintings feature arrangements of fruits and flowers, set amid the pottery, art and exotica of her travels. A widely-recognised figure in Australian art, she was a major benefactor to public institutions, and the subject of two Archibald Prize winning portraits.
The Margaret Olley Art Centre honours the much-loved artist’s wish that her studio and elements of her home be re-created in a purpose-built extension at the Tweed Regional Gallery. As well as continuing Margaret Olley’s legacy and mentorship, the Gallery offers visitors a unique experience that provides an insight into Australian art history and practice. The Margaret Olley Art Centre houses a re-creation of her home and collections from Duxford Street, Paddington, Sydney.
Taking photographs inside the Margaret Olley Art Centre is prohibited, but thankfully the Centre does have these photographs available with full permission.
As you can see, she lived amongst quite a bit of clutter but gee she had some lovely things! She would set up her props for a painting and leave them there, even after completing the painting. Margaret’s home was her studio and her studio was her home.
Barry Humphries puts the experience of visiting Margaret’s home succinctly in his essay ‘A note of exclamation’:
“As the artist conducts her visitor through the rich labyrinth of her magically transformed terraced house, she may extinguish her cigarette here, emphasize the ruddy highlight on a painted pomegranate there; for each room seems to have its uncompleted canvas, its wet palette, its sheaf of brushes and of course, its ashtray. On her journey from the kitchen to the telephone she may impart some final touches to a consummate still-life. Yet it would be false to imply a sense of disorder. The house is her studio, and its contents are her subject. Her method – seemingly vagrant – is in reality a sophisticated artistic assembly line from which emerge her vibrant tableaux of inanimate things.”
Some of Margaret Olley’s Paintings
Incredible aren’t they … and those are just a small sample of her work. I love the rich and vibrant colours she uses. Although Olley painted landscapes and portraits, still life and interiors gave her the freedom she desired. She could paint where and when she wanted no matter the weather. She could set up her still life ‘scenes’ as she wanted and there was no need to pack them up. She was exactly where she wanted to be in the midst of her art and her life and it was here in her home studio that she produced some of her best work. She often said:
I could not paint in an ordered studio. I have to have lots of things around me that suggest painting”
As a side note, if after visiting The Tweed Regional Gallery (including the Margaret Olley Art Centre), you still have some time left in your day, I highly recommend a visit to New Releases Antiques, 94 Main Street, Murwillumbah. So many beautiful treasures there to be discovered. My pleasure! 🙂
Ciao for now,
Linking up with Kylie Purtell for #IBOT