A few years ago I was working with the Queensland Museum. I was designing my very own Cabinet of Curiosities using their vast archive of natural histories for an exhibition. It was here that I discovered Emma Lindsay’s work hanging in company with an owl in flight & various other antique specimens. We share a love of Australia’s beautiful birds & animals. Recently I commissioned Emma to paint a portrait for one of the dark blue rooms at Henry Deane, the lounge bar located on the 4&5 floors of Hotel Palisade. As the Hotel Palisade boasts 360 degree views of Sydney harbour we decided on the threatened Little Penguin colony that resides at Manly, the only breeding colony on mainland NSW. You can help save this colony of the smallest penguins in the world by donating to National Parks & Wildlife
Describe your studio
My studio is a white room in my house facing the northern light. The studio window looks out to a sea of blue sky and green leaves from my garden, which lets me know the weather and often features regular bird visitors. Within it are stacks of canvases, cacti and maidenhair ferns, shells and rocks from my beach and desert travel, brushes, paint, low white metal cabinets that function as canvas supports and storage for materials. Until recently there was hardly room to move, with the work of 2 shows filling every wall. At the moment, the studio is bare as I begin again from scratch.
Best art supply store
Art supplies are like candy stores - so many to love. My fav in Australia is St Luke's The Colourmen (Melbourne), in New York Dick Blick’s.
I've always loved animals, wild remote places, and have planted out my garden to attract native species and birds. I'm in love with biodiversity and paint. The subject of extinction and species endangerment has allowed me a creative focus in my studio paintings that allows me to connect to a critical environmental and cultural issue of our time. My interest in endangered and extinct species first became a passion after I visited the Queensland Museum in 2007, to check out a recently discovered headless night parrot specimen, a critically-endangered desert bird species of which little was known. When I went there, seeing the whole zoology archive moved me in a profound way. I began painting the beautiful ones, birds with brilliant plumage, but then started to wonder about our other endangered and extinct birds. I found the QM, like many Australian and global museums, does not have a complete record of species under threat or lost. Looking in depth into museum collections and available visual literature into where remaining extinct and endangered species could be found or seen led to the development of my practice-led research PhD Extinction project. This 8+ year labour of love on our lost birds became an exhibition of 29 extinct full and sub species Australian bird specimen portraits. These birds are held in museums in Australia, England, France, and the USA, and the final exhibition of this work was shown as part of the recent World Science Festival Brisbane 2016. It felt fitting that the Queensland Museum should be the place to show the final PhD project as it is where it all began. The Extinction project is ongoing.
My favourite land animal is the cat. In the sea, the great white shark. But I dream of seeing a flock of bright pink flamingoes in the wild.
Latest book purchase
'Georgia O'Keefe and her houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu' by Lynes & Lopez. I recently visited O'Keefe's studio in Abiquiu and drove out to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The architecture, cacti, and landscape out there is incredible, the weather and the environment unforgiving and starkly beautiful. This book is the only way to see the original rooms, furniture, and styling in her adobe dwellings up close and personal, as photography is not allowed while visiting the inside of the house.
Go-to for Colour inspiration
The natural world is the perfect palette for colour inspiration. The plumage of birds, the foliage of plants, the ocean, the desert, the sky, the weather, the translucent layers of human skin. The trick is trying to translate often transient delicate colours the eye can see and reproduce it through the 'mud' of paint...
Top 4 museums in the world
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York). The Musee National d'Histoire naturelle (Paris). The Louvre (Paris). Queensland Museum (Brisbane).
The greatest tool for creativity is music. It inspires me beyond everything else.
When I have time and $ my number 1 great escape for inspiration is always New York. It is the ultimate city for me that has everything I love on one island- art, music, culture, books, dance, fashion, performances, food, museums. At home, I head to Byron Bay at every opportunity, especially after punishing deadlines. There is no better place to unwind, walk beautiful beaches, and remember how great it is to be alive.
Emma is represented by Heiser Gallery, Brisbane.