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Criss Canning · Arranging and Reflecting


12th November, 2013
Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 12th November 2013

Gungurru Gum, oil on board, by Criss Canning, 2013.

Pink Glass and Persimmon, oil on board, by Criss Canning, 2013.

Criss Canning in her home studio in Ascot, Victoria.  Photo - Virginia Cummins.

I must admit that before researching this story, I did not previously know the work of Melbourne artist Criss Canning. SHOCKING I know.  I have since learnt that Criss has been painting for around 47 years (!!), and is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Artbank and in many private collections! She has staged 21 solo exhibitions over the years, and in 2007 was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, organised by the Art Gallery of Ballarat.  Sooo I am taking this as a wake-up call - clearly we're not always across every  amazing creative talent this side of the equator, but we do our very best!

Based in Ascot in the central Victorian Goldfields region, Criss works from home in an 1860's farmhouse adjoining her husband's plant nursery, Lambley Nursery.  Between them, Criss and her husband David Glenn have created an internationally renowned garden here, specialising in drought tolerant plants.  Surrounded by incredible plant life, its no surprise that Criss's vivid still life paintings are heavily influenced by natural flora and fauna.

Couldn't resist sharing this amazing snap of Chris and David's gardens at home in Ascot, Victoria!  SO stunning! Photo - Virginia Cummins.

'I never work from photographs, so any flowers or plant material is painted first, before the other elements' says Criss of her process. 'Most of the flowers within my paintings are grown by my husband David, at the nursery that surrounds our house. Everyday I am made conscious of how beauty plays such an important part in our lives'.

Criss's paintings are densely layered with thick brushstrokes, playing with both three dimensional forms and flat two dimensional lines plains, filled to the edges of the canvas with deep colour.  Criss admits she works 'a little strangely' compared to other artists she knows!  'I do not do preparatory drawings, I set up what I am going to work with, which can often take days of gathering different objects and arranging them, before drawing the design out straight onto the canvas or board' she explains.  She thrives on this sense of immediacy, and the energy and excitement that comes from this spontaneous painting style.

Working in oils, Criss says she has a very strong feeling about what she is trying to achieve before starting each work. 'There are times where the painting takes me down unexpected avenues, which can be exciting,  just letting go of preconceived ideas, and following it is like an adventure' she says.

Criss has an exhibition opening this week at Savill Galleries in Sydney.  Entitled Arranging and Reflecting, it's a rather epic show of 23 works - the full catalogue can be downloaded here.  What an amazing body of work!  The show opens this Wednesday, and runs until December 7th.

Arranging and Reflecting by Criss Canning
Open from 13 November to 7 December
Savill Galleries
156 Hargrave Street
Paddington, NSW

Waterlillies, oil on board, by Criss Canning, 2013.

Still life with Plums, oil on board, by Criss Canning, 2013.

Winter flowering Albanian Iris, oil on board, by Criss Canning, 2013.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email