Interview

Belynda Henry + TDF Collect

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 12th September 2014

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The beautiful work of NSW based artist Belynda Henry, our next TDF Collect artist!  Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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Painting in progress in Belynda Henry’s studio. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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Inspiration and studies on paper. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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Belynda Henry in her studio, on the Central Coast of NSW in the Dooralong Valley. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

It’s that time again! Somehow, it’s already been three months since we hosted our last TDF Collect exhibition, which means it’s time to introduce another brilliant artist to you all again, and prepare for another beautiful show in our little gallery. We are thrilled today to announce that NSW based contemporary landscape painter Belynda Henry will join us later this month with a solo exhibition at TDF Collect, which gives us the perfect excuse to share an in depth interview with Belynda, and learn a little more about her practice!

I first discovered Belynda’s work late last year when we photographed the Sydney home of Suzanne Gorman. Hanging in Suzanne’s dining room against a striking dark wall was the most spectacular painting by Belynda – it was the first time I had seen her work in person, and I was instantly smitten. A few months later, we followed up with a little post about a stunning exhibition Belynda held in Queensland in March this year.  Not surprisingly, her haunting landscapes really struck a chord with you all, and it wasn’t long before Lisa and I found ourselves hatching a plan to host a show with Belynda in Melbourne!

Based in the Dooralong Valley in NSW, about an hour and a half from Sydney, it’s no surprise that Belynda’s greatest source of inspiration is her surroundings. Belynda lives and works from the family home she shares with husband Michael and daughters Chloe and Milla, which sits on 40 acres of picturesque landscape, surrounded by national park. It is this rich visual backdrop that has been Belynda’s primary source of inspiration for as long as she can remember.

Originally trained in sculpture at the Sydney College of the Arts, Belynda then went on to complete a degree in education, and spent three years after her studies working as an art teacher full-time. However, while teaching, she couldn’t resist the urge to paint, so when she fell pregnant with her first daughter, it was an opportune moment to take time out from her job and concentrate on her art. Only a short while later, in 2000, she was a finalist in the Art Gallery of NSW Wynne Prize. ‘This was a defining moment for me, as I started selling my paintings, found my groove and resigned from my full-time teaching position after only three years,’ Belynda recalls. Thirteen years later, Belynda was once again a finalist in the Wynne Prize last year. ‘This time I had enough behind me to really make it count’ she says. ‘I feel like it is the most exciting period of my career right now.’

Entitled ‘Overgrown’, Belynda’s upcoming exhibition explores nature in its purest form. In this body of work, Belynda responds to the changing seasons, as her distinctive muted palette moves from the cooler tones of winter to warm coral and pink hues, pointing to new life in spring. Working with acrylic paint and pastel, Belynda paints intuitively, layering her canvases with a deceptive level of detail – sparkling water shimmers in the foreground, while peaks and valleys delicately rendered in soft pastel hues recede into the distance. Her love for the Australian bush is evident throughout all her work, as is her reverence for pioneering Australian landscape artists such as Clarice Beckett, Max Meldrum and Polly Hurry.

We’re honoured and so excited to bring Belynda’s work to Melbourne this month for our Melbourne readers to see in person!  All the works in Belynda’s upcoming show are now pictured on the TDF Collect website.  We are accepting pre-sales for Belynda’s show via email.  All enquiries please email lisa@thedesignfiles.net – thankyou!

Belynda Henry is represented in Queensland by Anthea Polson Art.

Overgrown by Belynda Henry
25th September to 1st October
TDF Collect
87 Albert St
Brunswick, VIC

Opening night – Thursday 25 September, from 6.00 to 8.00pm. 

TDF Collect is sponsored by Dulux, Light Project, Capi and All Saints Estate.  All are welcome to our opening night event on Sept 25th to view Belynda’s beautiful works in person and share a glass of wine with the artist!

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming a fine artist, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?

My parents have always encouraged my creative side and were both artists themselves. Even if they weren’t specifically creating art, they were always making and building stuff. My Dad is a very successful sculptor, and my mum loves painting, they are both very hard workers and have definitely inspired my own artistic practice over the years.

My first actual ‘proud painting’ moment was sitting in a paddock on a family holiday down south when I was about 11 years old. For a few hours I sat in a South Coast landscape with a little suitcase of paints and a piece of paper, and painted a paddock and little farm house. It was my first experience painting and I never looked back! I still have that original painting even to this day.

My Dad also loved impressionist Australian painters, I would look through his art books and was always so amazed by the way the artists captured the light and the Australian landscape. When I was in high school, my parents drove us to Hornsby TAFE to do a series of night time painting courses with the late Valerie Olsen. I didn’t realise who she was at the time, but knew I was learning something special from a great.

I studied sculpture at Sydney College of the Arts, however was always fascinated by the painting section, and would make every effort and detour on the way to class to walk past and check out what was being made. I started with sculpture after completing my degree at art school. I also completed a teaching degree. I started teaching full-time and found myself with my husband-to-be in our first home together, with my own little studio.

I exhibited in a few local exhibitions, and was fortunate enough at the time to be represented by a Sydney gallery and then a Melbourne gallery. During this time I entered the Wynne Prize for the second time, and I was selected! As a very unknown young artist in 2000, in the early days of the internet this was such a life changing moment in my career. Here I was meeting with my heroes and having my work hung on the same walls as them in the Art Gallery NSW. For me it was a strong message to stay on the path I was on.

A week later, I felt a bit sick. Hello, there was a baby on the way (Chloe now 13)! I stopped painting for a bit while she was little, and I was teaching, but then sadly the amazing head teacher at the school I was teaching at, Kevin Flanagan, tragically died. As it happens, he had been my own art teacher at high school so I really looked up to him.  Just a few days before he died, I saw him at school and he said to me, ‘What are you doing here teaching at school? Stay at home with your new baby girl and paint, that is your purpose.’ I took that as a life-changing message and resigned from full-time teaching to follow my passion and grow peacefully and calmly with my daughters in our beautiful valley. Something I have been doing ever since.

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Belynda Henry works in her Sydney studio. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

 

How would you describe your work?

Passionate, emotional, descriptive and imagined. I like to gather moments and capture them in my work.

We are so thrilled to announce that you’ll be our next artist exhibiting at TDF Collect this month! What can we expect to see in your new exhibition Overgrown in Melbourne? What has inspired this body of work?

Often the music I listen to and the lyrics inspire me and trigger an intial thought process, and then later an entire body of work. Sometimes you look at a title and realise that’s what you are painting. I was driving along listening to James Blake, and his song ‘Overgrown’ came on the radio. It was so obvious to me that this word encapsulated what I was painting and the feel and look of my latest work that incorporates landscapes from home.

I live at the end of a valley in Central Coast NSW in the Dooralong Valley. I’m not sure anyone has ever lived on our property prior to us, that’s how wild and overgrown the landscape is. At the bottom of our property is a wild rainforest and over the side of the little creek are old paddocks and massive trees. It’s pretty much a nature-filled scenic landscape no matter which way you look.

It is these surrounding that form the foundation of my show, basically it is nature in its purest form that I have tried to emulate in my work. It’s nothing fancy, just an emotional response to nature at its wildest, transformed onto canvas.

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The road leading to Belynda’s property. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Can you give us a little insight into your process? What materials do you use? Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? Do you work on multiple canvases at one time?

My creative process is pretty intuitive and unplanned. Sometimes I like to draw and do tiny paintings outdoors, but it’s in the studio where I let it all out creatively. I stretch my own canvases, then using a combination of acrylic paints and pastels will start drawing. I also love to paint smaller versions on paper. The paintings inspire the works on paper, and the works on paper inspire the larger canvases.

I love the challenge of painting many works simultaneously and seeing how together they unfold and became their own. I often have four to five canvassed works on the go at once, and up to 10 works on paper that I am currently working on. For this show I am building a few canvases every day, and my studio is looking very full, but I love it that way. It is so exciting and thrilling!

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Belynda Henry at her country property with her dog. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?

This year I made a pact with myself to be extremely focused, so I follow a day-to-day schedule which is pretty regimented. Of course things change, and I am okay with that, but I like to spend as much time as possible in the studio when I can. A typical day would start with the morning rush and getting the girls to school, after the school drop off I’ll head straight back home and have a coffee, snack, do a load of washing, feed the pets (including Chloe’s horse, Milla’s guinea pigs and our family Kelpie), then head to the studio where I will knuckle down and get painting, whilst listening to music really loud! I try and and stay focused and just paint, and ignore distractions like Instagram, even though I love it!

Time flies by and before I know it is the afternoon, so I jump back in the car to do the school pick up – I blast the music loudly until I approach school and turn the music down and behave like a Mum! We then get supplies and dinner ready, then it’s homework, home readers and bed for everyone. When everyone is happy and in bed, I’ll go back to the studio to late in the evening and keep working, just me and trees everyday if I can.

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Belynda Henry’s Sydney studio. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?

My top five resources that I look to for creative inspiration would be Instagram, listening to Triple J all day in the studio, reading the Sydney Morning Herald on a Saturday if I go to town, and online blogs including The Design Files, and of course my obsession with magazines. I am slightly in love with our Australian design magazines including Vogue Living, Belle, Inside Out and Real Living to name a few.

Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

There are too many to name, the list is endless, especially with Instagram where you are exposed to so many creative and talented people daily. One of my favourite Australian designers would have to be Dinosaur Designs, you can tell that the team is truly focused and continue to create remarkable pieces season after season without losing momentum. That’s what inspires me.

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Belynda’s painting apron. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What do you think is your proudest achievement?

My two darling daughters Chloe and Milla, I adore them and think every day how lucky I am to have created them with Michael. They are such beautiful nature loving girls. They burst out crying if you mention one day we might move from the country! Also building our own family home, which has been an ever growing creation over the last 15 years.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

The Wynne Prize, only because I know how impossible it is to be selected as a finalist. My ultimate ambition is to win it one day. The first time I ever entered, my dad and I pulled up in the car park of the Australian Gallery NSW to deliver my painting and I saw a little old lady, she must have been in her 90’s, she had piggy tails and perfectly round circles of bright rouge on her cheeks, and lippy of course. Her little old car had a big canvas tied on with rope to her roof racks, and there it was I wished that I could live a long and happy life painting and live to drive my car when I am 90 and for sure put on the same rouge and piggy tails. I never found out who she was, but she was cool and I hope I win it before I am 90!

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Belynda Henry at work in her studio. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What would be your dream project?

To collaborate with a legendary classic company, for instance Louis Vuitton or Hermes and paint something exclusively for them. Everyone can dream and the more you dream the more your dreams become reality, that is clear!

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Belynda Henry sculptures. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What are you looking forward to?

The next few years! People are really connecting with my work and I look forward to amazing opportunities that might come up as a result. I am also excited to travel overseas next year with my family.

And of course, I am really looking forward to my show with TDF Collect, I was so flattered to be selected as the third artist as part of this initiative. I am especially excited about the opening night, I already know it is going to be awesome!

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Inspiration and works on paper. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

 

NSW CENTRAL COAST QUESTIONS

Your favourite favourite place on the Central Coast and why

We are so lucky that we are just 45 minutes away from the famous Hunter Valley. Usually if we want to go out, that’s where we will head, there so many good restaurants there, but most importantly amazing wineries!

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

There is just one art shop nearby that I have been going to for the last 20 years, it is my local Eckersley’s. They keep in stock for me my Chapman and Bailey stretcher bars from Melbourne. I love painting with Matisse and Atelier acrylic paints and a range of pastels colours from Artist Spectrum.

Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

It was on a date night with Michael at Luke Mangan’s Glass Brasserie in Sydney. Seriously delicious!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

After such a big busy week, we all just want to stay home by the time Saturday rolls in. We hate going out, except if we have to get food or supplies. Chloe wants to ride her horse. Milla wants to play and explore, we try to have a nice big breakfast together as a family, then we are just happy to be home and enjoy the sunshine. Sometimes we will go for a big walk or follow Chloe over across the creek to the other side of the valley, over there are flat larger paddocks with wild lemon trees and wombat holes everywhere. Sometimes Milla and I will run like crazy kids and pick wild raspberries or take a picnic and some pencils and paper and a rug and watch Chloe and take loads of photos.

Then some resting and relaxing and quiet time for the girls, and hopefully I end up back in my studio. Sometimes if I am lucky they will come in and hang out and create, as long as they are not using glitter it’s all good!

The best kept secret in on the Central Coast?

For sure our valley! It is so quiet and peaceful and we love it that way.

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The beautiful view of the mountains surrounding Belynda’s property. Photo – Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 12th September 2014

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