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Gabrielle Penfold’s Nostalgic Paintings Capture Food And Feelings Of Summer

Studio Visit

Sydney-based painter Gabrielle Penfold has been making art for as long as she can remember, but it was around the rise of Instagram flat-lays and food pictures that her career really began to take shape.

The Internet’s craze of documenting everyday images online inspired Gabrielle to create her own nostalgic, summery, and abstract take on these still-life visuals through her oil paintings. About six years later, her practice has flourished into a full-time job!

31st March, 2022

Gabrielle inside her Sydney-based studio – located inside her family home! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

‘Painting in the family home is lovely because I’m a bit of homebody. As much as I love to travel I love being cosy at home. It’s got a nice big window and its filled with treasures that I’ve gathered from all my travels,’ Gabrielle says. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Gabrielle has been painting full time for about four years now. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

‘It’s an organised mess in there – every wall is filled with an artwork I might be working on.’ Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

‘When I go in the studio I spend a great deal of time making sure that colours that I mix are interesting. My work is very child-like and abstract so I rely on colour to make my work sophisticated.’ Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

She celebrates the art of home cooking and dining experiences in her work. ‘I don’t want to just paint a fish I want it to have story behind it,’ Gabrielle explains. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Her process involves a lot of field work and travel, before coming back to work in her studio. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

History and mythology are two of her favourite themes that she hopes to explore more moving forward. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

‘I have an obsession with food. Theres something really ancient about painting food and still life artworks,’ Gabrielle says.

 

The beginning of a dreamy oil painting table-scape! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Inspiration images and artworks line the walls of her studio. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

A ‘true Aquarian’, Gabrielle says she likes to paint freely and works on several artworks at once! Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

‘As silly as it sounds, I just paint how I feel.’ Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

One of Gabrielle’s paintings featuring the Bondi Icebergs.

A calming nautical scene of boats in the bay showcases Gabrielle’s distinctive muted colour palette.

Christina Karras
Thursday 31st March 2022

Gabrielle Penfold’s paintings combine all her favourite things – travel, food, and nature. These passions started back in her childhood, where she spent her sick days off school painting and drawing, or in art classes on the holidays.

‘I was really fortunate to have my mum who was a history and English teacher, so I’ve always had a love for knowledge and history. In conjunction with that, my dad worked for Qantas, so I think our trips overseas really influenced my art,’ Gabrielle says.

The multitalented creative had finished studying a Bachelor of Design at the University of New South Wales’ College of Fine Arts, and was working with jewellery designer Lucy Folk when she began sharing her paintings on Instagram.

‘It was around the time where people were starting to put up not just pictures of themselves, but things they were interested in. I found that documentation of food, where people were standing up on the chair to take a picture, a really fascinating idea. That’s where I started painting food, and the still life and posting it on Instagram,’ Gabrielle explains.

‘There’s something really ancient about painting food and still life artworks. You can look back at history and get an indication of what people had been eating at that point in time.’

That same bird’s eye composition remains a strong motif in Gabrielle’s paintings today. She captures dreamy table-scapes filled with oysters, figs and seafood, or sentimental, summery scenes of swimmers laying on the beach, palm trees and the iconic Bondi Icebergs with an expert sense of nostalgia.

Travel is also an integral part of Gabrielle’s creative process. Before the pandemic, she would save up all her money each year and go to Europe to soak up all the inspiration, before returning home to her studio to create a body of work.

But when Covid hit, Gabrielle embraced the opportunity to look for inspiration closer to home. ‘Every chance I had, I would go on little road trips along the New South Wales coast, taking my camera, sketchbook and my paints’ she recalls.

These local travel adventures formed the basis of Gabrielle’s hugely successful ‘homecoming’ show last year, Oyster Oyster, which she describes as ‘an ode to Australia’.

‘Seeing it altogether in one room and having the show sell out, and the room filled with people was a real pinch-me moment!’

You can follow Gabrielle on Instagram here, and see more of her wonderful work here.

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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 bea@thedesignfiles.net