Tag Archives: The Makers Shed

Creativity is this scientist’s absurd Plan B

Armidale-based artist James O’Hanlon

SCIENTIST-TURNED-ARTIST James O’Hanlon features in a solo exhibition at New England NSW creative hub The Makers Shed across autumn, with an array of work inspired by exploration, discovery and pushing the limits of perception.

According to James, art as been a hobby for most of his career, “an indulgence when I had spare time and inspiration,” he says.

“Perhaps because of this, my art has become a means of complete escapism. 

“The subjects of my art are from other worlds and universes, silly ones that probably don’t make much sense. 

“Why? Because I can, and that’s the gift that art gives us, isn’t it?” James says.

‘Dirigifish’ (acrylic on canvas) by James O’Hanlon

After moving to the New England region with his family five years ago to start a new job, James says he never imagined switching careers and becoming a freelance artist and illustrator with a nifty sideline in murals.

“This region has been the backbone of my creative career and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support, enthusiasm and opportunities given to me by local people, businesses and organisations,” he says.

Sandbox to play in

In his scientific career, James has spent years exploring the natural world, so it’s no surprise that quirky animal characters feature heavily in ‘Plan B’, the title he gave his Glen Innes exhibition. 

“I have always admired artists who create their own little worlds to explore and fill them with endearing creatures,” he says.

“Whether it’s the cute clay-formed world of Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit, or the dark and gritty world of comic artists like Greg Capullo and Todd McFarlane [both North American comic book artists], I love getting an insight into the minds and passions of the creators themselves. 

“Changing the world is difficult in real life, but fictional worlds give us a sandbox to play in and explore new possibilities before we can take the first steps of making change in the real world.”

Throughout the works in Plan B, art lovers will experience themes of exploration and discovery; small characters encountering new environments and pushing the limits of their perception. 

“I enjoy creating expressive characters placed in absurd circumstances to explore ideas about how we perceive our own life experiences,” James says.

“I celebrate underdogs, problem solvers, ugly ducklings, fish out of water, and the just plain unlucky. 

“I use a range of mediums including acrylics, watercolours, ink, and digital art to tell stories, and hopefully make people smile and quietly guffaw.”

Entrepreneur

After focussing on his art career about two years ago, just as COVID started and the arrival of his daughter, James experienced a hectic two years in his new creative direction.

“It’s not a career path that I would recommend others take,” he says. 

“Nevertheless, it’s been an incredible journey so far with many more highs than lows, and experiences I never thought I would have, doing everything from illustrating books to learning how to drive a scissor lift to paint large scale murals.

“I love to work! This mindset has been very helpful because being a practicing artist is being a small business and dealing every day with very non-artsy sounding things like finances and time management. 

“I’m working hard on being as much an entrepreneur as I am a creative. 

“As much as I like bringing my own ideas to life, I also enjoy being a service provider and helping other peoples visions come to life! I am looking into the future and am excited about working with more people and organisations to bring some colour and light into their lives and communities,” he says.

Plan B: works by James O’Hanlon, The Makers Shed, 123 Grey Street Glen Innes, until May 28. A selection of works is for sale online.

Main image: ‘Humperdink’ (acrylic on canvas) by James O’Hanlon.

Ceramic flair in the high country

AN EXHIBITION OF new ceramic work will open at Glen Innes’ creative hub The Makers Shed in June, featuring the work of local ceramicist and potter Anita Stewart.

Stewart has regularly exhibited work at The Makers Shed since the venue opened in 2018, and is well-known to locals as part of the Glen Innes Pottery Club, situated like the Shed on Grey Street. ‘Winter Clay’ captures some exciting new directions with the ceramicist’s form and style.

Anita Stewart, Glen Innes-based ceramicist.

“Discovering clay for me was like a fish taking to water,” Stewart said. 

“I studied Fine Arts in Western Australia for three years. Like many artists, I had been practicing before I actually decided to do formal training. 

“At Fremantle Tech I did units in painting design and drawing, then in 1995 I travelled to the New England region and discovered the wonderful ceramics courses run by Max Powell at the Glen Innes TAFE.”

Stewart’s newest work features an array of fresh forms – evocative black tiles, ceramic ‘breasts’, and stylised platters – in addition to some classic styles she’s already well-known for, such as her vibrant citrus squeezers.

“The inspiration to create a new body of work usually comes when working on new forms at the wheel,” she said.

“For instance, the last federal election inspired my ‘message in a bottle’ series. Using the surface of the pot as a canvas I add multiple layers to create an image that speaks. The New England Landscape has also given me great inspiration for my work.”

According to Stewart, the Glen Innes Pottery Club was established about 30 years ago and has remained a vibrant part of the community. 

“Lots of well-known potters have been a part of the club,” she said. 

Winner of multiple awards for her ceramics, Stewart laughs when asked to define what it takes to be a practicing artist, adding that “stamina, determination and absolute passion” are essentials for anyone wanting to make a long-term career of creativity; although she believes people should never be shy of signing up for a workshop and having a go.

“It’s really nice teaching people how to work with clay because it’s a very tactile medium and they usually seem really pleased when they’ve created a functional and colourful work of art,” she said. 

“The wheel can be a bit more of a challenge, but they are overjoyed when they manage to throw a pot on it.”

Winter Clay opens at The Makers Shed, 123 Grey Street Glen Innes at 2pm on Saturday June 19 and runs until August 28.

Reflections of autumn in Glen Innes highlands

A JOINT exhibition of paintings and leadlight panels by two longstanding Glen Innes artists is set to open in March.

LIGHT & SHADOW ‘Morning Light Wattle Bend’ by Tanya Robertson-Cuninghame

Painter Tanya Robertson-Cuninghame and leadlighter Greville Wilton are creative icons of the New England region, and their new show ‘On Reflection’ is at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, throughout autumn.

“The theme of this body of work is based on light, water and reflections,” Robertson-Cuninghame said. 

“It has culminated from my recent experience of environmental issues, which include drought and bushfires.

“I have chosen compositions that have a calming effect on me and hopefully also the viewer.”

According to Robertson-Cuninghame, this collection of her landscapes and seascapes is an attempt to convey a sense of solitude and tranquility in the natural environment, where the viewer has the desire to pause, look and ponder at the beauty of nature. 

“A view when one doesn’t have a view,” she said.

Robertson-Cuninghame has a strong connection to Glen Innes region reaching back to 1839 when her ancestors settled on “Wellington Vale”, Deepwater.

Born at Glen Innes, she attended Emmaville Central for primary before secondary and tertiary schooling in Sydney. She gained a Fine Arts Certificate at East Sydney Technical College in 1981, majoring in oil painting. 

LOCAL REFLECTIONS ‘Big Hole Severn River’ by Tanya Robertson-Cuninghame

Citing 16th century European and 19th and 20th century Australian Artists and practices, Robertson-Cuninghame’s creative process includes handmade canvas preparation and oil-paint making.

The works in ‘On Reflection’ include paintings featuring local waterways, including Pyes Creek and the Severn River, captured as the drought broke, restoring life-giving water to the region. 

Robertson-Cuninghame has also completed a series of seascapes on the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers regions that illustrate the interplay of light and water in reflection.

Enduring collaboration

Over the past three decades, Robertson-Cuninghame has designed leadlight panels for Greville Wilton featuring in commissions and an exhibition of their work at Maitland Regional Art Gallery in 2013.

Wilton was born in rural New South Wales and moved to Sydney where he completed his education and began his working life in retail.

“Regular visits to family properties over this period consolidated my belief that city life was not for me,” he said. 

“I then travelled extensively through Europe and Asia where my appreciation of handmade crafts was ignited. 

CAPTIVE COLOUR ‘Green & Orange’ by Greville Wilton

“On my return to Australia I moved to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and established a craft supply and gallery business.

“While in Katoomba, I tried my hand at several different crafts before attending a community college course in leadlighting and my life course was set.”

Wilton purchased land near Glen Innes on the Northern Tablelands four decades ago, describing it as a region of largely unspoiled nature, abundant wildlife and clearly-defined seasons.

“I moved my studio several times in Glen Innes before taking over the Butter Factory and creating a gallery and workshops that exhibited contemporary art and was a venue for many local and travelling musicians,” he said.

“My collaboration with Tanya Robertson-Cuninghame over the past thirty years is enduring.

“Our current show at The Makers Shed is a mix of panels designed by Tanya, and others influenced by the Art Deco movement, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright.

“The interaction of light with the colours and textures of glass is ever changing and a constant fascination.

“As we move into the 21st century I fear that many of the skills associated with traditional crafts will be lost, as technology overwhelms us and it becomes more difficult to earn an income through the arts. Computers can’t make leadlights… yet!” Wilton said.

On Reflection opens at The Makers Shed, 123 Grey Street Glen Innes on Saturday March 6 at 4pm, and runs until the end of May. A selection of works is available to view and buy online www.themakersshed.org