A Tantalising Four Days

The Watercolour Society of Western Australia (WSWA)

by Chrissie Menzies

WATERCOLOURS WA COMMITTEE MEMBERS achieved a unique milestone, when they organised an international exhibition consisting of 170 paintings by acclaimed artists: 70 paintings from Watercolour Society of WA, and 100 from
International and Australian societies.

An exhibition of selected artworks in a variety of styles and themes opened on 13th March in the Moores Building, Fremantle, Western Australia. International watercolour artists from across 18 different countries included New Zealand artists Richard Bolton, Svetlana Orinko, Adrienne Pavelka, Jacky Pearson and Dianne Taylor.

Events were planned to run from Opening Night Friday13th March to 13th April. A Plein Air competition was held on Saturday 14th. After registering, artists were free to wander Fremantle and capture the historic and engaging sights.

Paintings were judged later that day. Delighted artists received generous prizes and all paintings were exhibited in the Moores Building gallery for one week. Guest artist Joseph Zbukvic demonstrated to small group workshops. It was interesting to note the international flavour of attendees. Artists had travelled from far and wide.

As the Covid-19 alarm bells were ringing the seating was spaced and Joseph demonstrated with live video screening. In the following weeks Amit Kapoor (founder of Watercolour Society India) and local artist tutors of note had planned to demonstrate and hold workshops. Winsor & Newton’s resident artist, Carla Hananiah (originally from Auckland) was proposing to hold two workshops each day for four days. Plus an expanded all-day workshop entitled “Working Plein Air”.

Workshop 1:

I attended the first two-hour workshop. We explored specific palettes and processes for working en plein air to best capture “the sense of place in that moment”. We experimented with location-specific colours for coastal and country images.

Workshop 2:

We experimented with various mediums. A chance to try those bottles with mysterious names, masking devices and textural mediums. The aim was to explore application processes to discover “new ways of expressing your creative vision within the medium of watercolour.” The gallery room in the Moores Building was well set out with social distancing in mind.

Winsor & Newton provided dot cards and brushes for us all to experiment and discover new combinations. For me, some ideas appealed and worked well, others not so much. A Fabriano satchel contained delightful items e.g. watercolour sticks and paper samples. Carla suggested that the sticks could be extremely useful for plein air adventures, especially in awkward locations.

Then came the declaration. After taking into consideration the current health warnings and the need for all Australians and international visitors to maintain a safe environment, the International Watercolours Committee closure of the exhibition in the Moores Building would be immediate. The physical exhibition was closed.

An online gallery was set up to view at leisure. Of course the online gallery did not have the same presence of a physical show. But importantly it gave viewers an opportunity to enjoy,
consider and perhaps purchase a favourite.

The disappointment of the organising committee can be imagined by us all. Years of hard planning and achieving eighteen countries to commit to sending and exhibiting precious works. The plan was adventurous and daring, and
the achievement spectacular. Eighteen countries sent works: Belgium, China, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Nordic Watercolour Societies (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland, one painting from each), Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Vietnam. Paintings were sent from South Australia, Victoria and Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Group from Alice Springs. Our own New Zealand artists sat very comfortably among all present.

Our thoughts and appreciation go to the planning organisers and volunteers who readied a four week watercolour feast. I can confirm I was fortunate to participate in a tantalising four days of all things watercolour.
Tumultuous times have beset the world and I believe we are lucky to have watercolour to engage our hearts and minds.



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