A Collector’s View II: Haven in the heart of Berrima 

  • Artist
    Bonita Kemarre Woodman, Catherine Field, Darlene Kemarre Woodman, Denise Ngwarraye Bonney, Julianne Ross Allcorn, Julz Beresford, Kerri Kerley, Kristen Burgham, Kristy Hussey, Lori Pensini, Lucy Vader, Melanie Waugh, Meg Walters, Neridah Stockley, Rosie Kemarre Morton, Rosina Gunjarrwanga, Sarah McDonald, Sophie Sachs

Walking through the home of this Southern Highlands collector is to embark on a passage from the original heritage architecture of the front (central dormer window, high-pitched galvanized iron roof, bull-nosed verandah) to a more modern, minimalist arrangement in the rear, with an impressive vaulted ceiling and oversized south and west-facing windows.

This spanning of time and design sensibilities is also reflected in their art collection, which balances classical landscape pieces done in oils (judiciously selected from antiques stores) with contemporary works of figurative abstraction, held in spare, shadowbox frames.

Pairing new art acquisitions with antique works is a brilliant way to give context to your collection, to anchor emerging voices in the Australian scene with choice pieces from the turn of the century or earlier. A rich collision of styles can be struck, creating a potent record of changing values, from the academy style of yore to the expanded field of today.

It can also be a useful way of seeing, on one wall, just how a contemporary artist borrows, and meaningfully departs from tradition, throwing their experimentations into even sharper relief.

Work from First Nations painters, carvers, and weavers is at the very forefront of this collection. Seen leaning beside a sleigh-style daybed is a piece from Rosina Gunjarrwanga, adorned with ‘rarrk’ or abstract crosshatching and representative of the design for the crow totem ancestor called ‘Djimarr’. Today, this being exists in the form of a rock, which is permanently submerged at the bottom of Kurrurldul Creek—a sacred site south of Maningrida (Arnhem Land, NT).

The staggering Artist of Ampilatwatja piece that hangs between two studded club chairs is credited with the hand of three women: Denise Ngwarraye Bonney, Bonita Kemarre Woodman, and Darlene Kemarre Woodman (following the strong matriarchal lineage of this community). Ampilatwatja paintings are defined by resplendent arrays of colour and detailed dot patterns depicting the flowering plants, wide blue skies, and green plains of their Country, northeast of Alice Springs on the Aherrenge Aboriginal Land Trust.

A distinctive feature of their work is an overhead perspective of plants used for ‘Arreth’ (strong bush medicine), as seen in our available piece from Rosie Kemarre Morton.

Beneath the collaborative Ampilatwatja work, and set upon a small chest, is a symmetrically-handled vase from Kristy Hussey—mirroring the pleasing balance struck by the identical chairs and patterned cushions.

Large south-and west-facing windows in the dining/lounge room open out into an exquisitely maintained garden, integrating indoors and out and allowing natural light to gather in pools. The garden surrounds a set of mature cold-climate trees, which tower over the home.

Sturdiness, simplicity, and craftsmanship are qualities clearly prized by these collectors, as seen in the robust wooden furnishings, particularly an oversized rustic coffee table made from a reclaimed piece of timber. In their soft furnishings, these collectors have infused nearly every inch with a calming neutral palette of ivories, camels, and ochres.

An available piece from Meg Walters (whose latest solo exhibition Space Between Dreams is now on display in our ground floor gallery at Michael Reid Southern Highlands) energizes the living area, joining one of Julz Beresford‘s Snowy Mountains depictions. Seen below, the tawny hues of a Julianne Ross Allcorn piece are the perfect accompaniment to the rich walnut tones of an antique buffet (her latest solo exhibition Through an Artist’s Journal is now open in the top floor gallery). An urn piece from Kristen Burgham could have plausibly been lifted from an archaeological deposit, but the deliberately intact material ‘trim’ suggests rawness and something still in the process of formation. Her works appear in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.

The dining table that spans nearly the length of the lounge room is tied together by a Lucy Vader landscape, where one grand horizontal is met by another.

In the adjacent living area, a wicker occasional chair is the ideal spot to bask in the afternoon sun or leaf through an issue of Highlife magazine.

A commanding antique oak hutch supports a piece from the 2023 NEAP Winner, Sophie Sachs. This precise still life, completed on aluminium board, appears to absorb the excess light in the room, throwing it against her painted subjects. A small kinship is achieved between an emerald claret jug and a Granny Smith apple.

A starry morning scene from Melanie Waugh hangs above this collector’s occasional chair. Soft textural brush marks adorn the canvases in thick, fast-worked layers. Below this, eucalyptus leaves burst forth from a Catherine Field vessel.

In a home that forbids ostentation and banishes clutter, a pair of elemental vessels from esteemed ceramicist Neridah Stockley is exactly what is needed for the kitchen island—and nothing more. Neridah’s compositions take place on a four-dimensional plane, with gestural mark-making winding along each side.

Mirroring the wise old trees that stretch just out of view of the window frame, a piece from Sarah McDonald is a core inclusion in this collector’s kitchen. First introduced as part of Art Station at Michael Reid Murrurundi, McDonald captures the texture of bark and lichen with layers of oil impasto that, when seen against the neutral ground of the linen canvas, appear staggeringly lifelike.

This collector proves that tight corners and slim spaces aren’t to be feared—placing a small still-life from Kerri Kerley beside a charmingly refurbished kitchen hutch. Kerley’s work bursts with radiant colour, energy, and an evocative sense that our past lives are embedded in the objects we accumulate.

A work from Lori Pensini takes pride of place in the entry hall, framed by a floor-to-ceiling library in the sitting room. One feels insulated by the vastness of knowledge contained on the shelves, and this archival sensibility is cleverly mirrored in the Pensini work, which resembles a found photograph, slightly bleached and worn over the years.

The objects that line the shelves are beautifully considered and crucially kept to a minimum, so as never to overshadow the colour play of the book spines, almost like little punctuation marks.

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REGISTER YOUR INTEREST: A Collector’s View II: Haven in the heart of Berrima