Artist Of The Month June 2022: Gemma Rasdall - 'Water Access Only' Exhibition At Bathers' Pavilion + Online
Scotland Island Artist Gemma Rasdall was announced as a Finalist in the 2022 Wynne prize in May 2022, a credit to her work but also for developing her practice.
Known for her very popular marine paintings on sailcloth – some of which can be quite large in scale – her Wynne Prize finalist work is something quite different, and signals a shift in her work.
Gemma's ''Framed by life offshore'', watercolour and gouache on paper; 75 x 85.5 cm (overall) Artists' Statement reads:
Welcome to Scotland Island: a short boat ride, casual paddle or vigorous swim from Church Point Wharf on Garigal Country, NSW. We offshore dwellers blow in and out with the tides, basking like seals when the sun shines and washing up like drowning rats when the squalls hit. This place and its people – a quirky and multifarious community – warm my soul and flood my creative practice with colour and movement. This artwork is a collection of moments captured around the island and its surrounding bays from friends’ and neighbours’ houses. It is an ode to the place I call home. - Gemma Rasdall, 2022
In 2013 Gemma featured as a Profile of the Week when she had just left high school and commenced studying at the College of Fine Arts (COFA). Since then Gemma has completed her studies and embarked on taking part in local exhibitions, such as ArtSpot and Artzpace, and Solo and Group exhibitions outside of Pittwater, including;
Selected Solo Exhibitions - 2019 - The Calm, Art Gallery on Darling; 2018 - Illusions, Frances Keevil Gallery; 2018 - Waterfront, Art Gallery on Darling; 2017 - Paintings on Recycled Sailcloth, Frances Keevil Gallery, and Selected Group Exhibitions; 2021 - Winter Salon, Michael Reid Northern Beaches; 2020, 2019 - Summer Annual, Sydney Road Gallery, Seaforth; 2019 - Collection 10, Rochfort Gallery, North Sydney; 2018 - Land and Sea, Rochfort Gallery, North Sydney.
The daughter of Richard and Meredith Rasdall, who founded and coordinated the Pittwater Artfest, a highly successful bi-annual children's art festival (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012) where children can exhibit their work and work directly with artists, and also one of the founders of ArtSpot, who were also very active in the Avalon Sailing Club and other aquatic passions, Gemma has grown up on and in the water and surrounded by her mum's passion for Art.
Gemma's work is currently featured in a 'Water Access Only' Exhibition at The Bather's Pavilion in Balmoral (4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, open 7 days), which runs until June 20th, 2022, as well as making this Exhibition available online via her website, visit: www.gemmarasdall.com/water-access-only-exhibition
With a new Artists Residency coming up, this time in France (Gemma had one in 2018 on Finders Island, Tasmania) a catch-up with one of our great local Artists is due, and includes some of that current Wynne work.
Congratulations Gemma – finalist in the Wynne prize for 2022; where did the inspiration for that work come from?
I had been examining the type of works that have been selected for the Archibald and the Wynne over the last few years and thinking a lot about why they had been chosen. It became apparent that the artworks which were more engaging, either through material practice or concept, were more likely to be selected. So in approaching this year’s Wynne entry I focused on creating an artwork that audiences could interact with.
I wanted to tell a story and the old adage, the easiest story to tell is the one you’re most familiar with was obviously the place to begin. I began with sketches of different perspectives around Scotland Island where I live, visiting friends’ and neighbours’ balconies to draw. From these sketches I made a collection small watercolour and gouache paintings (24 in total) that together formed my artwork.
Each painting is signed underneath with the name and directional aspect of their house, for example - ‘Shane and Jo’s’ and ‘south west’. Members of the public visiting the Art Gallery Of New South Wales are invited to get closer, discover more about each small landscape and gain a deeper insight into what living on Scotland Island is really about.
When we spoke almost a decade ago your water scenes and sailing scenes painted on sailcloth were very very popular – are you still doing those?
Yes, I’m still painting on sailcloth, although but not exclusively anymore - my practice is evolving slowly in new and exciting ways. I also have a Residency coming up in France, which is in the countryside, and there is going to be no boats around so I am going to have to make Art that is different.
How did you get a Residency in France?
I just kept applying. I was heading over to Europe anyway for a wedding and wanted to make the most of my trip so submitted a few residency applications and eventually got accepted. Of course this was all supposed to have taken place before Covid so its been postponed for 2 years and I can’t wait to get over there.
Where in France will you be based?
It’s at 'Chateau Orquevaux’ - in Orquevaux, France in August 2022. It’s a little town 3.5 hours north-east of Paris and in this beautiful chateau. There will be lots of other Artists form around the world there at the same time.
Sounds fantastic. You currently have an Exhibition at The Bathers Pavilion in Balmoral, which runs until late June – what’s that about?
This is called ‘Water Access Only’ and an extension of my work that was submitted to the Wynne, and all about Scotland Island and living offshore. This too has a series of views from around Scotland Island.
When speaking to your mum down at Avalon Sailing Club a few years ago she said she wanted to move offshore and would be going to Scotland Island and promptly did so. Are you working on the island full time too – do you have a studio there?
Yes I have a studio there and I also spend time on my boat, moored just off the island – this allows me to immerse myself fully in the subject matter which I paint. I moved to Scotland Island 3 years ago from where I was living in Balmain. I have wonderful neighbours that let me park my dinghy on their jetty and it’s a short 3min walk up to my little studio shed that I rent.
How has your work developed since we last spoke? Can you see any changes?
Since then, I’ve been experimenting a lot more with different mark making techniques and mediums. Using watercolour on paper has taught me to be more deliberate and more mindful of each brushstroke as there is no hiding mistakes when working on paper. I would like to think my artwork is becoming more expressive and less realistic than it used to be. I don’t want to be an Artist that paints the same thing forever so it’s really important that I develop new skills and push myself out of my comfort zone.
It's wonderful to still see you developing as an Artist actually – to still be keeping at it.
I’m lucky really - I have really supportive parents who have been so good about my pursuing a ridiculously tricky career in being an Artist. And my mum has always been my mentor.
You’re still a Pittwater girl – what’s the best thing about living here now, 10 years on?
The whole experience of living water access only is amazing – being part of an island community here doesn’t feel like the northern beaches, it’s more like being part of a small country town. I just love getting in a dinghy to go everywhere; even if it’s raining or late at night, it’s just magical. I get into the dinghy some nights and there is phosphorescence glowing in the dinghy wake as I’m driving home – it’s pretty special. I feel so in tune with the natural world here - the wind, the tides, the sea life - and it’s the best inspiration for my art practice. It really is the most beautiful place to live.
What is you ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?
My favourite quote / life motto is from a Macy Gray song titled ‘Do Something’ - "Get up, get out and do something. How will you make it if you never even try?” that my dad played for me as a kid and explained the importance of the lyrics.
Framed by life offshore - and parts from run below: