Catherine Abel -Daylesford Macedon Ranges Open Studios

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It is widely known, even to the layperson recalling just a little from a school art history lesson that artists from all over the world have frequented the Louvre in Paris to copy the works of Great Master Paintings. By this process, a diligent self-motivated student could and does experience an immediate lesson from the ghosts of artist past. Montparnasse, the well renowned area of Paris is alive with the spirit of these artists, as many had flocked there between the years of World War One and Two for its cheap rents and vibrant atmosphere; selling their works to buy food.

Trentham resident and painter Catherine Abel always had an affinity with those far away artists as a school student in North Queensland. I asked Catherine if there was any particular member in her family that may have influenced her as a child.

Abel_OPIUM DREAMER-122x91cm-oil on linen

Catherine Abel-Opium Dreamer-122x91cm-oil on linen

Whilst at school, I always had an affinity with the artists living in Paris, particularly the cubists and surrealists. But no one in my family had a direct influence on me in this way. Although, I did happen to take ballet at the age of five and loved Anna Pavlova and that whole period of the 1920’s.

I tried to dig further, but Catherine tells me that she was really a ‘black sheep’ in the true sense of the word.

I think I was just born to do it! I never knew my father, but the little I did find out was that he had immigrated to Australia from Italy in the 1960s and worked as a cane farmer. I later found out he was quite creative and loved making things from wood. He was also half Italian so, perhaps it’s in my blood!

What led you to Paris?

I always had this dream of living and painting in Paris. I went on a holiday in 1997 and met a French guy who came over to Australia the following year after he finished his studies. In 2000 we moved to Paris. He had a really good job offer there and said that he would help me establish myself as a painter. Although I had made art all my life I had only made a few paintings. It was really confronting – did I even have any talent? So I basically set myself a target. I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to have some sort of congruency. I asked myself if I could execute 10 paintings in a row. I basically spent a huge amount of time at the Lourve and then would go back to my apartment and paint.

Abel_LA FEMME EN SOIE-61x46cm-oil on linen

Catherine Abel-La Femme en soie-61x46cm -oil on linen

Catherine sites female artist Tamara de Lempicka as a huge influence and the ‘future she never had’.

She was a very free and flamboyant Polish artist who went to Paris in the 1920’s. She was taking lessons and spending lots of time at the Lourve, just like Matisse and Picasso. I had been reading her biography and had been by her studio in Montparnasse, I was just so hungry to paint!

You portray women in a classical form; highlighting their natural ‘strength and beauty’ do you think it somewhat of a backlash against the often-negative way many women are depicted through the media?

It’s not something that is done intentionally. I often get that question but I’m not making intellectual choices-it just flows in a way. If you look through history the female form has always been depicted and interpreted in a number of ways. Being female myself, its natural, I don’t fear it. I find the form so beautiful and graceful, both the shapes and the emotion. I feel that the strong background designs of my paintings compliment the women. Also, something extra comes in when a female paints a female. In contemporary painting men often paint women more sexually.


Catherine Abel in the studio

I asked Catherine about her style and in particular, her highly patterned and colorful worlds that house her beautiful figures.

In the last five years, I’ve noticed realistic figurative painting becoming a strong presence in the art scene. A lot of people are painting the female form. They’re often beautifully rendered with a plain background. I’m bringing another dimension into the background with the strong cubist influence. I love Picasso and the act of breaking down images-it becomes another side of my mind. There is a strong design element harking back to art deco and nouveau. I also love the work of French designer Edgar Brandt. He produced the beautiful wrought Iron lace work and door grates in Europe during the 1920’s.

What led you to want to represent yourself -away from the gallery/artist relationship?

For the first time I don’t have gallery representation. I have been very frustrated with the art scene in Australia. The gallery that represented me in Sydney basically deterred me from doing my cubist works. They wanted a certain style of image that ‘could sell’. My work sells very well through my own representation.

Catherine Abel

Catherine Abel

How is your work received by the general public and especially in your new community?

Almost everyone who visits my gallery resonate with the cubist works. One person called me a “living Cubist” which really made my day! I think they love the abstraction yet find they can still identify with the imagery. I feel like I will never exhaust the theme, which is great because the demand and interest is there.

What can people expect from their visit to the Open studios?

This is the first time I have participated and I’m replicating my studio into the gallery. I really wanted to be a part of it. I live in the one bedroom apartment at the back of the shop, so two rooms at the front will become the gallery and studio. There will be an easel set up with a few paintings on the go and I’ll be available for questions.

Catherine assures me that she will have work on display despite the six paintings that have been whisked away to the Toorak Village Art Fair! These time laborious works are in high demand and are keeping her very busy.

View the times for Open Studios here:

Read another interview with Catherine Abel on ‘The Countryphiles’ here


Daylesford Macedon Ranges Open Studios-Conversation with Jill Rivers

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By Celeste Hawkins

Jill Rivers, the Creative Producer of the Daylesford Macedon Ranges Open Studios is determined to demystify the Arts and make it more accessible to all. A former Media Director for the Australian Ballet and chair of Ausdance Victoria, Jill has vast experience and has built up a network of associates that feel just as strongly. Jill has also sat on several boards and written numerous articles for major newpapers and magazines and is a local to the area, having moved there in 2008. I had the opportunity recently to chat to her about her role and dedication to the Arts.

How did the idea of the festival come about?

In 2012, Peter Clemenger the Arts philanthropist had been impressed with the Open Studios program in Cambridge, UK. Being an ideas man (the instigator of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival) he thought to bring it to the area. He spoke to the Macedon Ranges Tourism board and because of our previous working relationship with the Australian Dance Awards, I was commissioned as an arts consultant to develop a feasibility study on it. It was from that point that I agreed to take it on.

Catherine Abel

Painter- Catherine Abel


What has been you role as founding Producer?

There has been a lot involved in the setting up process. First I had to establish a committee which all have either a connection to the arts or to the area itself. Fortunately, I have been able to bring all the people of my network into it and develop a basic framework. We have developed guidelines, set up a partnership with the NGV and formed a curatorial panel. We have also managed to obtain funding from Macedon Ranges Tourism.

The curatorial panel currently consists of Frances Lindsay, former Deputy Director NGV; 45downstairs gallery director, Mary Lou Jelbart; and Flinders Lane Gallery Director, Karen Woodbury.

What do you think it is about the area of the Macedon Ranges that draws in so many artists to set up their homes there?

 A while ago Francis Lindsay made a speech saying that an enclave of artists from the 1970’s, who had their spaces in Collins Street Melbourne, were all now living in the Daylesford region. I would love to get the statistics on that! I think one reason in part is economics. The cost of living and sustaining an art career in the city just isn’t feasible for many artists. For instance, Tim Jones is from Wales. He is a very high profile artist who has a place under Hanging Rock and is continually inspired by his environment. However, he also works part time teaching art at the VCA, so the city is also within train distance. But I think overall, artists who reside here have a spiritual and creative connection to their surrounding environment.

Painter and printmaker-Greg Mallyon

What can people expect when they visit the open studio spaces?

I believe it’s a very personal invitation to be able to go in, as most of these artists don’t reveal their work place. It’s an opportunity to see how they operate, why they do what they do and where they take their inspiration from.

Jill reinforces that it has been her overarching aim or mission to demystify the arts. She has been the creator of a series of conversations about Art in pubs that was first set up at the Melbourne Arts Centre  back in 2002. ‘Conversations in pubs’ involves an intimate discussion with a leading creator or motivator of arts and culture in a pub environment. This weekend, you can hear Tim Jones  talking about his creative process over a glass of wine or beer at the Historic George Hotel in Piper Street Kyneton; and there will soon be a series of talks in Bendigo.

Past talks have included Former Prima Ballerina Marilyn Jones; Former Deputy Director of the NGV, Frances Lindsay; the Director of The Australian Tapestry Workshop, Antonia Syme  and Leading Sculptor, Printmaker, Teacher & Local Resident, Tim Jones is coming up on the 19th of October.

 Tim Jones

Details:  Conversation with Tim Jones at The Royal George, Kyneton

this Sunday 19 October, 11 am for 11.15 am – 12.30pm

Where: 24 Piper Street, Kyneton

$30 including a glass of wine or coffee

$65 “ plus 2-course lunch at The Royal George

Enquiries: 03 5417 5228 0418 389 189





1-2, 8-9, 15-16 November 2014 | Studios Open 10am-5pm


Trying Not to Worry-Marise Maas

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Trying Not To Worry

Essay by Phe Luxford, 2014.

Examining Marise Maas’ paintings is like peering into a series of little precarious worlds – each bearing the trace of some implicit, destabilising truth. Here, roof tiles are formed from haphazard lines; windows float up and away from their foundational structures; houses teeter on disjointed stilts; electricity pylons and cranes tilt ever so slightly. On a domestic scale, small inert objects such as bowls, take-away containers or coffee cups, stack and tumble off flat slopes of colour, losing any gravitational connection to their once intended utility.


‘Unlockable’ 2014, oil on canvas, 130 x 130.


This selection of seemingly mundane motifs holds very real significance for Maas. Informed by what she describes as the bubble of her own local surroundings and domestic family life, the act of painting serves as a kind of diaristic process through which the comprehension, or perhaps apprehension, of daily life takes place. Items from the kitchen table, backyard or local sports oval all become potential vehicles for the expression of the private logic of her thoughts and fragmentary connections. Honest feelings of anxiety, consternation or whim are allowed to distort her subjects concrete actuality, giving rise to a potentially cryptic collection of amusing, somewhat ambiguous narratives.


Part of the appeal of Maas’ work lies in their admission that life, for the most part, happens within the rather uneventful ordinariness of daily routines and interactions; the bath is run, the phone is answered, the light bulb is changed. And it is while surrounded by these small things that the greater highs and lows of life unfold. Big questions mill about amongst the dishes, school bags and drawers full of socks.

Trying not to worry

Trying Not To Worry,’ 2014, oil and acrylic on paper, 76 x 56 cm.


Opened out and deconstructed through the act of mark making, personal restlessness and social uncertainty give way to pure, direct acknowledgement. Economical lines and restrained colours work to capture a moment when the everyday becomes quizzical, and the more or less familiar, tangible world is transformed through clear, unhampered interpretation. Much like the innocent and tangential nature of children’s visual story-telling, Maas’ images appear to delight in the loose and seemingly light-hearted. And yet, once emptied of any obligations toward representational fact, her images begin to reveal the wobbling, inconsistent nature of memory and cognition. Raw and immediate, with no desire to hide errors or corrections, her drawings operate as honest representations of some teetering interior dialogue, making visible the inner chatter of recollection.


There is a straightforward and casual bluntness to the way Maas translates her surroundings. Fusing a diagrammatical form of relationship between things with a highly restrained compositional sensibility, her images collapse the unstable nature of life into a series of therapeutic anecdotes. The world and it’s trepidations are rendered free of fear or aversion, now able to be witnessed with affection and humour.

everyone will be legless

‘Everyone Will Be Legless’ (detail), 2014, oil on canvas, 50 x 90 cm.

Being open to lived moments can be luminous. Finding lessons through a process of self-awareness and pure observation reveals the delicate emotional balancing-act that underlies all things. As an artist Maas demonstrates the freedom that can come from being light with heavy thoughts.

The opening for Marise Maas’ exhibition will be held Saturday 1st November 1 – 3pm. 
137 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC
Tues – Fri 11am to 6pm, Sat 11am to 5pm (with the exception of the last Saturday of the exhibition – the gallery closes at 3pm for de-install.), (03) 9654 3332


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Kate Shaw with her work: Anthropocene (2014), acrylic and resin on board, 120 x 240cm.




Catalogue essay by Celeste Hawkins

Artists are active explorers of their own realities- teasing out visions from their own subconscious, predicting the future or commenting on the past. They are also interpreters and documenters, presenting their thoughts in a medium best suited to deliver the message. Science Fiction has long been an area of strong interest of exploration with artists. When much of invention and imagination has become reality, particularly in the areas of space exploration and other technological innovations, contemporary art in all its various forms have been right there with it. Art critic and Lecturer Andrew Frost maintains that as a collaborative genre, contemporary art and science fiction has a, “critical attitude to its place in society and a utopian ambition to effect the future itself.”[1]


Kate Shaw, Lutetium(2014) acrylic and resin on board -65x70cm


Kate Shaw has long been concerned with the Australian landscape, depicting the fragility and beauty of the top end of her native country. She has a strong awareness of the land and how humans connect to it spiritually, while in the same breath can disconnect through the consequences of degradation. The artist is all too aware of the effects of climate change and is horrified by the ongoing onslaught on the earth, through mining, soil erosion and deforestation. Other geological expeditions have taken her to various locations such as the jungles of Costa Rica and surreal landscape terrain across the United States. She has explored the vast Arctic outpost of Iceland with its, geological marvels of volcanoes and glaciers which provided her with a myriad of imagery for her to sculpt and re interpret into her brightly coloured, swirling and psychedelic formations.

Ice Drift

Kate Shaw, Ice Drift (2011), acrylic and resin on board, 90 x 180cm

As we head into an unknown environment, Shaw maintains a critical eye on the future. Her fascination with the human need to explore and conquer other planets plays on her mind. The work continually evolves as news of these new human explorations come to light. In the work ‘Spaceship Earth’ a ghostly outline of a planet presents itself behind the mountainous terrain, which hints at the subject matter for this show. Her own shift from earthly terrain to the major surface areas of Mars reflects her inquisitiveness and ability to seek out the unknown.


Kate Shaw: Spaceship Earth (2014) Acrylic and resin on board, 120 x 240cm


It has been speculated for some time that Earth and Mars were once very similar planets as they formed in our galaxy. About 3 billion years ago, Mars underwent what has been described as the ‘great desiccation event’. Whereas Earth, underwent a ‘great oxygenation event’ which resulted in our planet developing a breathable atmosphere. This event raises the question: Could Mars be another earth? [2]


Kate Shaw, Framtio (future) (2013), acrylic and resin on board, 120 x 180cm

Shaw explains:

“This painting series came about upon hearing about the proposed reality TV show ‘Mars One’ [3] with the first manned mission set to leave in 2024. Every two years, a team will arrive until there is a population large enough to have a structure to complete an eco-system, something like the movie ‘Logan’s Run’, or the ill-fated Biosphere 2 in the Arizona desert. I am fascinated with the idea of structures within structures, and what kind of eco-system might arise in these conditions. Also, if the Mars One population introduce terraforming,[4] a breathable atmosphere may be possible, in as little as 10,000 human years, beginning a process that could sustain the evolution of life.”


Kate Shaw, Promethium (2014), acrylic and resin on board, 40 x 70cm


Shaw’s approach to art making is rather like a scientific experiment in itself. Her paint pouring technique; getting the formula just right to produce her illusionary landscapes is a wondrous blend of science and magic. The elements are there; the illusion of depth created by a clever blend of contrasting and harmonious colours, invite you to explore a cave, a glacier or to trace your eye over their reflection. Her studio is a lab of sorts, with various stations and so many elements are at play. Her work is very much about her ideas of paint and painting; as it is her social commentary on the human desire to explore, conquer and ultimately create new worlds.


Kate Shaw, Framtio (future) (2013), acrylic and resin on board, 120 x 180cm

Shaw says,

“The paintings deal with the tensions and dichotomies in the depiction of the natural world and our relationship to it. I am concurrently exploring the sublime in nature whilst imbuing a sense of toxicity and artificiality in this depiction. The intention is to reflect upon the contradiction between our inherent connection to the natural world and continual distancing from it.”

There has been a fundamental shift in the nature of relations between humans and the earth. For the past 10,000 years we have been living in the ‘Holocene’. Scientists have coined the term ‘Anthropocene’, to describe a ‘new geological epoch’ that we have been apart of since the 1950’s. Human induced climate change as a result of our need to dominate the natural environment has altered the planet and is now seen by many Scientists to be irreversible. The hydrosphere (water), the lithosphere (earth’s crust) and the biosphere (global ecological system) have all been affected by global warming. Owen Gaffney from the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme concludes: “The concept of the Anthropocene gives people a new perspective of our place in the world. We can no longer consider ourselves at the mercy of great natural forces. We have an active role in global change, in many cases we are driving it.” 5

Over 50 years ago, Swedish poet Harry Martinson, dealt with these very same issues in the poem ‘Aniara’. It tells of the fate of humans as they set sail for the planetary skies due to a nuclear catastrophe on planet earth: 6


 I had meant to make them an Edenic place,

but since we left the one we had destroyed

our only home became the night of space

where no god heard us in the endless void.


Shaw is invested in the idea, that as much as we are the problem, we are also the solution. Despite all the global turmoil, she remains optimistic that human consciousness has the power to perhaps create a new world and preserve what has been left behind. 


[1] Andrew Frost-Conquest of Space, Science Fiction and contemporary art, Galleries UNSW, COFA-22 May-5 July 2014

[2] How Mars Works- (accessed August 12th 2014)

[3] Mars One (accessed August 8 2014)

[4] Should we re-make Mars in Earth’s image? (accessed August 30th 2014)

5 Owen Gaffney, Global Change-International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Issue 78, March 2012, p.10

6 ‘Aniara’ extract read by Clive Hamilton –Dark Memorial Lecture for the Sydney Writers Festival- 2014  

(accessed August 21st 2014)


Kate Shaw is represented by Fehily Contemporary


Exhibtion opens at Fehily Contemporary

9 October to 1 November

Opening Saturday 11 October, 3 to 5pm

3a Glasshouse Road

Collingwood, Victoria
Melbourne, Australia

(03) 9017 0860

Opening Hours
Wednesday to Saturday: 11:00am to 5:30pm
or by appointment


Christophe Stibio- The Encoded Landscape at Flinders Lane Gallery

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Catalogue essay by- Georges Petitjean. July 2014 Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

Christophe Stibio is not afraid of the land. He endeavours to plough it mentally. He is determined to go deeper, to explore what is under its skin. His art is the visual and tangible result of a profound mental geology of a country which has both physical and spiritual dimensions.

‘Sitting By Some Drying Ponds, Roberto I Love You,’ 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 110 x 110 cm.


On a formal level Stibio’s multilayered landscapes are utterly sophisticated in their construct. Stibio employs Chinese rice-paper, watercolours and shredded documents as applied materials. The use of shredded documents is a recent addition to his artistic practice. Often confidential, these shreds of paper now form crucial compositional elements to the landscapes. They even play a pivotal role in the narratives of the pictures as they become an integral part of an exploration into the essence of the Australian landscape.

That this essence is interlaced with hidden codes is something that we know from the Aboriginal owners of the land. Grids and patterns in Aboriginal art often reveal something about the hidden codes, the journeys of the ancestral creation beings, in the land. Stibio, not being Aboriginal but a migrant to this country, undertakes his own quest to acknowledge these codes in a highly personal manner.

The Housing Commissions, the Primary School, the Silos and the Brothel,’ 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 106 x 106 cm


The use of strips of shredded documents to visualise this intense inner exploration and analysis of the landscape is odd and symbolic at once. The very reason that these documents have been disfigured is because they were believed to once contain very valuable information. They were reduced to detritus, a discarded remnant of our highly technical and bureaucratic society. By placing strip by strip in the paintings to slowly create a pattern or a shape, these dismissed pieces of documents once more become a language. A purely visual language that is. The fragments of text and images become senseless, invaluable. Letters become illegible; the numbers lose all context.

By denying the meaning of written words and numbers, Stibio assigns new sense to them by incorporating them into a visual, even musical poem. Lines constitute one of the most important components in these compositions, as they serve to express the land, including its religious aspects. Fields of lines cause the picture to vibrate and ‘sing’ the landscape alive. As a formal element, they present a visual parallel with the art of Aboriginal people in which lines also explicitly evoke their connectedness with the land.

Life Without Humans, 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 80 x 200cm.


However, Stibio’s pictures are semantically left open. Lines are not there to enclose the landscape, but to imagine it. In this odd, almost coincidental examination of the relationship between language and sign, there are relationships to the land that are constantly being questioned. With the juxtaposition or symbiosis of these mechanically torn paper lines, rice-paper and paint, these pictures almost function as visual metaphors of relationships between humans (our current society) and the earth. In an era marked by global socio-economical and ensuing environmental changes, this is a very timely conversation.

Stibio recuperates parts of letters and numbers and endowes them with a new sense. He reappropriates them to construct meaningful landscapes. This is highly paradoxical given the fact that these documents are archetypically man-made. They are derivations from a society that supposedly has subdued nature to its own needs with irreversible exploitation as its legacy. Documents are also what is used to sell or resell the earth, the land, or to draft treaties on.

The strips of paper stem from a society with a history of imposing extensive and irrevocable change upon things, substituting natural worlds by artificial ones, and in which profound physical and mental altering of environment is inflicted on a daily basis. But also a society in which on a daily basis doubt is growing about the validity of such an attitude given the serious consequences of failures to learn from this history or to assume responsibility over these practices. One only has to think of the profound impact the mining industry has on the environment. This stands very much in strong contrast with the Aboriginal idea of respectful custodianship of the land.

Drying Ponds In Coastal Fire Trail, 2014, natural pigments, shredded documents and rice paper on canvas, 89.5 x 250cm

That most of the landscapes in Stibio’s oeuvre are not subdued by humans is clear. Men and landscape are not connected yet in several of Stibio’s pictures. They are in fact, as the title of some works implies, life without humans. Earlier pictures, in which soft tones dominate, such as is the case with the triptych Life Without Humans and Beach no 16, are outspoken landscape pictures. Yet there is an evolution of the Australian landscape to be found, from being unaffected by people, through to the presence of mankind and later radical man-inflicted changes. Scarcity. Lakes Mungo and Arumpo for instance can with its title refer to the the archeological traces of the first humans living on this land, while Flesh of Coastal Fire Trail can allude to the age-old practice of burning down the land to replenish it as well as to the recent malevolent man-made bushfires.

Sitting by Some Drying Ponds Roberto I Love You presents a remarkable symbiosis, a fusing of organic forms of the landscape and the human body. Both merge into a sensual picture which seems to incorporate body parts in lustful embraces as well as rock formations and other natural elements. In this meeting of abstract human forms and organic, living land, the landscape becomes anthropomorphic.

In more recent work (The Housing Commissions, the Primary School, the Silos and the Brothel) the strips are used to demarcate the ways, streets, and roads of the urban setting. These urban landscapes are, contrary to the rendition of natural organic country that employs more of a side perspective, shown from above as cartographic images. Yet organic in form, they show a spreading of a human-made web of streets and ways in the flattened land.

In his work Christophe Stibio shows simultaneously the transient character of a society based on a vision of the short term gain and instant gratification, more often than not to the detriment of the land, and the timeless monumentality

the features of the land. Like a surrealistic partitur of paper snippets, letters, numbers and signs forming the incongruent notes of a eulogy of the land, these pictures let themselves read as rhythmic abstracted maps of landscapes. They are encoded landscapes in which a meeting of different codes takes place that reflect a complex and fragile equilibrium between man and environment, life and resources, natural environment and urbanisation. These pictures are also a strong reminder that no human intervention or interference will leave the landscape unaffected.


Flinders Lane Gallery is currently holding an exhibition to celebrate it’s existence in Melbourne for 25 years.

See here for details


Christophe Stibio – The Encoded landscape


Never Real, Always True 7 – 25 October 2014

Flinders Lane Gallery

137 Flinders Lane,

Melbourne, VIC 3000