Round Up for Margaret River Regional Open Studios (MRROS) 2022
How do you keep commercial interests at bay and put artists first? How is the MRROS ‘open studio’ brand staying en pointe if more and more artists set up pop up galleries and aren’t in their studios?
168 artists and artisans participated this year. MRROS released data that there was an estimated total of 10million brought into the region over the 16-day period – don’t think you’ll be seeing millionaire artists and artisans. There were more commercial businesses participating with feature artists than ever before. There are pages of advertisements in the book.
If on average visitors spent three -four days here and visited on average 10 studios – that’s roughly 2-3 studios a day. If you could see which artists and which commercial businesses reaped the most traffic, that would be a handy statistic.
There will always be an unbalanced power dynamic at play when commercial businesses engage with art and artists. Are these commercial businesses joining MRROS engaging with the ‘Event’ and its success or art and the artists? Can it be both? We don’t think so. The gap between MRROS ‘the event ‘and ‘the artists’ participating is widening. Artists will need to be making savvy business decisions in order to gain economic return and greater visitor numbers as more artists and more commercial interests get added to the total overall event.
We had so many questions this time around for Margaret River Regional Open Studios 2022, its 9th year. One thing is for sure, the event has changed the pattern of art tourism in the Southwest Region.
Could MRROS show some responsibility for this going forward?
We think they could, beginning with identifying hobbyist, emerging, professional, established artist and distinguishing between these stages of career within the book alongside the individual artists blurbs. Right now, the art tourist must work it out for themselves. And artists’ livelihoods are in play here. The MRROS model works on equality amongst artists, but the playing field isn’t equitable.
The adage ‘any exposure is good exposure’ is a ruse and all artists do themselves a disfavour if they do not weigh up the fiscal returns and mutual benefits for themselves directly when they participate with MRROS, including up to 16 days of unpaid labour and/or wages not earned.
So, with all that in mind here’s our round up of MRROS 2022.You will hear two distinct voices; we don’t always agree, and we see things differently but also the same- that’s why LAP works. We see our role as educational and advisory, to help artists grow through critical thought and engage with the field of criticism – talking about what they do and why they do it and enriching our world views as they go. Thanks to everyone we saw and chatted with.
Reviews are done according to the maps in the MRROS book.
Margaret River and Surrounds
Francesco Geronazzo Studio
Irregular, minimalistic, organic.
If only we could communicate Francesco’s image making process in few words. We can’t and we shouldn’t.
The apparent simplicity of his prints exhibited on his studio walls hide a long and matured process, from its concept to its result. Using ancient printmaking techniques the artist explores a variety of forms, lines and colors inspired by his surroundings.
Fragments of the natural world side by side with their multiple reproductions on paper and material reveal attentive artistic research over the years, one that strives to create a visual narrative that suggests the way the artist relates to the earth and its elements. Its imperfections and roughness are left to elevate the craftsmanship of printmaking practice, to illustrate the diversity of textures present in nature.
Describing Sarah Hewer as a photographer would be redundant. She is a visual creator.
A visual creator with a driven sense of aesthetic. Her large-scale photographic prints of leaves, shells and light create a division between a sensorial world and a physical reality. Through the manipulation of light, the use of different exposures and black backgrounds, the artist engages in a dramatic dialogue by revealing the minuscule details of the subject. This dichotomy between chiaroscuro (light-dark) is all part of Sarah’s artistic research to explore the limits of the natural world – tension versus prudence, fragility versus strength.
Among the photographs were a collection of her most recent work – Resonant. Incorporating pen and ink drawings, plus printmaking techniques within a more abstract theme, Sarah shows a more loose, playful yet highly textural group of work in resonance with her previous prints.
Sculpture / Ceramic
Yu – Hua Lan
Yu-Hua Lan is a Taiwan born artist living in the South-west Region. Based on her professional and living experiences with the local flora and surroundings, the artist presented in a singular body of work her emotional and physical relationship with the natural world. An ode to nature and its beauty cast from ceramic creations that resemble, in their shape and form, its elements, such as seeds and shells.
Yu-Hua stays truthful to her interpretation of nature by revealing its diverse patterns, textures and formations to keep its essence. The aesthetical choice of black and white is not arbitrary. This allows a game of light and dark to show the complexity of the process-making of the works and how intricate they become in their own way. This dramatic effect becomes a reflection of good and bad, fear and hope according to the artist own words.
Yu-Huan studied Fine Arts at the Camberwell College of Arts in London (UK) and is one of the members of the Hive Margaret River Art Collective.
Abstraction, landscapes, portraiture. Can they happen all at once? Wendy Henderson says, ‘Yes, they can’.
The variety of works accompanied by a variety of mediums are the base for Wendy Henderson’s practice. It is all about balance and awareness – of life, of her own surroundings – which then allows Wendy to develop a painting style that represents a world in constant change. The use of different techniques – acrylics, pastels, charcoal – enables the artist to explore different artistic realities and to break free from pre-aesthetic boundaries.
Her abstract pieces are mainly geometric. Vigorous lines, unruly forms adding bold and bright colours to generate a sense of modernity in the composition. Imaginative cityscapes and traffic routes reveal a structural complexity that contrasts with the idyllic seascapes painted almost in simultaneous. The moonlight blue landscapes set the mood and transcribe the immensity of the northern skies. Here the focus is beyond what you can see.
Ceramic / Sculpture
You don’t need an invitation to enter the whimsical universe of Caroline Bannister. You are welcomed into an intriguing journey through fantastical forests and the supernatural world of dragons and sea creatures.
Among these works, Caroline’s trees of glazed clay had a marked presence. These Micro Sculptures highlight the versatility of ceramics to explore new shapes adapted from our environment. Such plasticity is also accentuated by the way the artist fluctuates between rough and smooth textures to better express her interpretation of the subject. Stylistically, there was a close approximation to the Art Noveau style.
For this year’s edition, Caroline expanded her connection to nature through her portrayal of the Big Sea. Her ceramic representations of the ocean as round plates reflect an intrinsic dialogue between land and water, reflecting her years of contemplation and observation. The glazing on the wave’s contrasts with the sandy raw clay to emphasize this natural dichotomy.
Caroline is a co- founder of the Margaret River Art Collective- The Hive- a space created to promote collaborative practice within the local artistic community.
Printmaking / Painting
Emily Jackson describes herself as a creator of visual moments. Her illustrative way of expressing nature through colour gains a different dimension when we start unravelling the layers of images that compose her work. It pushes the viewer to be diligent on how they observe her prints as they give us this illusion of an ordinary print that reveals its complexity as we get closer. This visual impact is unique in Emily’s work, offering different interpretations of the local natural world.
The juxtaposition of the subjects on a multiplicity of surfaces allows the artist to process through different printing techniques, an array of information absorbed over the years. Her celebration of the native flora and fauna represented in all its glory through an explosion of colours reveals their intrinsic magic, defaulting their original appearance. A vision of what is beyond the visible gives Emily endless representations of her own environment.
The outdoor sculptures presented in this year’s edition are new additions to the artist’s work. They become more organic as they are exposed to the elements, and they offer multiple views of the same theme. They are a mix of etching prints, painting and drawing images printed on glass or acrylic and stainless-steel surfaces reflecting a continuity of her practice on the smaller scale works on canvas and fabrics. In the background, the artist exhibited her process – the making of the images – revealing studies, observations, different technical and stylistic experiments that emphasized the studio living feeling that MRROS should be about.
Fin Debbo Studio
A first timer at the MRROS, Fin Debbo took this experience with a high level of professionalism and a willingness to learn from it.
From single lino prints in fine handmade paper to more complex compositions, Fin explored a unique universe of animalia, cityscapes and intrinsic environments to express her artistic reality. A surreal world inhabited by extra-ordinaire creatures involved in “orderly disorder” scenes of an illusory sphere. Portraits of an unquiet mind, filled with stories and infinite imagery suggesting multiple readings of these works. A connection with her imagination enabled a creation of unpredictable responses to different concepts, abstract dichotomies of inside and outside spaces, liberty and captivity within a natural fruition.
The choice of printing with red and blue ink gives Finn the freedom to ease her message to the audience, to better interpret her own artistic experience or simply to explore a particular style. The drawing and carving qualities shouldn’t pass unnoticed as the fine line work emphasizes the high level of detail, the dynamism of the forms and sets the feeling of these images. A distinctive repertoire that leaves us wanting to see more of it.
Painting / Photography
New to Margaret River, Rochelle Boland timidly opened her studio just to unveil a complex and yet intriguing universe.
Originally from Perth where she studied Fine Arts, Rochelle was attracted to the spiritual connection of Margaret River’s Forest. After years of travelling and living abroad, the artist is now able to reconnect with all these experiences and integrating them into her artwork. If downstairs Rochelle exhibited more naïve figurative scenes of love, as we go up a level the transition to a more abstract subject happens. Images of geometrical non-native animals floating in a cosmic atmosphere reminiscent of ancient scientific drawings, others in starry-night-blue background but still outer-worldly with inscriptions of letters and symbols, colourful spirals suggesting movement and reconnection within a metaphysical world.
Don’t be confused with such description. This is the base for Rochelle’s work – her interests in metaphysics, the position of the Man in the cosmos, the analogy between Micro and Macro-Cosmos. Going back in history, artists like Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint expressed all these questions through their artworks. A spiritual influence where the artist is the vehicle of such artistic demand. That is why Rochelle works on the floor moving around her paintings, to experience art in a physical manner.
A professional full time artist Kate holds to the ‘open studio’ ethos and invites you in to see her working space and paintings finished and underway. This is a generous way to be. Kate was also holding a solo show throughout the time MRROS was on at Cherubino Wines in the gallery space run by Linton and Kay Galleries.
Kate did observe that most of her MRROS buyers were supporters who had bought her work previously and this could indicate a price tipping point for the general visitor during MRROS, possibly?.
Photos c/Fi WIlkie MRROS website
There is a new pictorial space emanating in Fi’s work, with more rest for the eye and more depth as a result. A 9th timer for MRROS Fi also sits on the board of MRROS, that’s some long volunteer hours at work there. She usually shares the main larger space of her studio with another artist for MRROS, so it was nice to see how she inhabits that whole space without another person’s work in it for this open studio. The mess of the papers, books, thoughts in action, with an easel sitting calmly amidst it all was a welcome sight after seeing many heavily curated spaces.
Photos c/Nancy Tost MRROS website
A First timer in MRROS, with a new studio space, and who we would call a ‘re-emerging’ artist. With more time in her own space, we think she will do fab things if she participates in MRROS again. Great prints on a range of entry level products like cards and clothing. This can be a big cost outlay up front, so hopefully she reaped the benefits. We went off the back of a friends Instagram post.
Lee-Anne has been in lots of MRROS’s, but this is the first time we’ve seen her. And this was a new studio space. The detailed texture – impasto but also like stucco- was a great offset to the single focus on the detail of flora in the work. Lee- Anne has carried this focus across the years of her practice and that discipline shows in her work.
Cowaramup and Surrounds
Painting / Mixed Media / Photography
Photos c/ Stuart Macmillan Instagram
A painter and drawer, this was Stuart’s first solo gig with MRROS. He has previously been out at The Farm with other artists for the event. His studio feel was great, lots of work lying around, piles of paper drawings to look through and a fab wall of pinned drawings to look over. Color everywhere.
Kay Gibson and Evelyn Henschke
Printmaking / Jewlery
Photos c/ Kay Gibson Instagram
Photos c/ Evelyn Henschke Instagram
We love seeing Evelyn’s jewellery making process in practice, live in the studio. That’s a privilege. There are several artists who hold true to the ‘open studio’ ethos and Kay and Evelyn are two of them.
Kay, we have visited many times before and we go back each year to see how she has pushed and developed her thinking and images onwards. On a yearly basis her participation in MRROS feels like a window into her process. Kay is also one of the founding board members of MRROS and kudos is due for the volunteer hours that go into behind the scenes.
Photos c/ Callum Fairne MRROS website
Out at Millers Ice Cream, Callum was doing his first MRROS.
Callum produces edgy landscape and seascape mosaics, with an eye for a wicked abstraction of form. His statement pieces with text and image were particularly apt as we finally head towards a referendum on A Voice to Parliament in 2023.
Callum’s political edge was refreshing and much appreciated from this art viewers perspective.
Bill Meiklejohn Studio
Bill can be found at the haven of pottery called Wilyabrup Dreaming, which is closer to Metricup than Cowaramup. Everything oozes authenticity out there. The pottery studio has existed for decades. Bill is a master of his craft, and this was his 8th MRROS. The rich patina like colors on his pottery forms is sublime. Particularly the greens that look as though he found the cups washed up from an ancient shipwreck. The pottery shed is caked in clay and history. Wilyabrup Dreaming is also open all year round.
The Farm (Burnside)
Out at The Farm on Burnside Road the artists are simply artists. More like a colony really. This is a good example of patronage and art being supported at a regional level.
Photos c/ Martine Perret Instagram
How can we belong?
Through her latest projects NgalaWongga (Come talk) and Belong, Martine Perret embarked in a visual journey above Western Australia land and coastline to emphasise the cultural importance of The First Nations languages. Using her own artistic style to transcribe the diversity of Western Australian land and to interpret how this same land can be a key connector to their indigenous people. Land is culture and identity unified by indigenous languages.
From Broome to Augusta, Martine remains dedicated to investigating and capturing the shapes, forms and colours that characterizes our landscape adding a pictural feel to her photographs. The graphic effects and sharp contrasts between the turquoise sea and the brown-reddish bush, the natural flow of the waves printed on the sand, the dark line of rock formations dividing land and water could only be achieved through aerial photography. According to the artist, seeing it from above is only way to understand unfamiliar terrain. An interesting aspect of this edition was the scarves printed with a selection of these images which could be hanged on the wall or warn as Martine likes to do it.
Her commitment to portray and reveal the richness of indigenous culture and the way they connect their stories to their land served as base for a multimedia exhibition at the Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip in a multidisciplinary effort combining dance, video, photography, storytelling, sound and music that ended at the beginning of the year.
Jolene Hewison Studio
Jolene is a ceramicist making both figurative and functional objects. This was not her studio, and she is an established artist with various commercial premises selling her work outside of MRROS. There is a wonderful story book feel to her clay animals, they have such life. She explained that underlying their creation was a desire to bring back to life the poor feral creatures that lost their lives on her family’s farm.
Witchcliffe and the Southern beyond
Laurie Hill is another first timer at the MRROS. Due to personal circumstances, Laurie had to relocate from Metricup to Witchcliffe’s newly renovated Old Darnell Store / Post Office.
As we ventured inside the old historical building, we were surprisingly happy to see Laurie’s artworks within the space. The greatest catch was the contrast between the darken restored features of the old shop and the brightness of Laurie’s paintings, the dogs, birds and flowers. Large scale canvases were invaded by vivid and intense use of pinks, orange, yellow, blues, white all at once to achieve an expressive effect. The use of acrylic paint adds a textural note to her works to reinforce this idea.
On the opposite side of the building, Laurie presented several small canvases depicting mainly still life subjects. Studies of form, line and light are part of the artist’s everyday practice. Just as the Old Darnell Store has gained its new life, Laurie gave herself this opportunity to re-emerge into the artworld.
Eco dyeing / Painting / Collage / Ceramics
Jan Harwood started making art and never stopped.
She became a dedicated art practitioner embracing all the adversities she might encounter along the way. As a new artist, Jan defines herself as being in an experimental state exploring different mediums, getting to know her own style, braving different techniques and expressing her ideas through different subjects.
And this is what we encountered when we visited the old Town Hall building in Witchcliffe where Jan had her works. Eco dyeing prints on paper, sculptural ceramic works, metal and wood sculptures of boats made from scavenged materials she had found in her surroundings. She believes practice is the only key to success no matter where you are from, your age or gender.
Ant Debbo Studio
Beloved whale maker and artisan woodcarver. Ant’s combination of different woods, raw shapes and rough paint work thrown together with a good dose of humour make his whales very popular in Open Studios. He had a new space attached to his workshop, so the MRROS visitor was given a great insight into his working process. The workshop sits on a vineyard and slightly off the beaten path but a stop in at Yardbyrd for lunch and coffee and the thriving community of Witchcliffe makes a trip south to Ant well worth it.
His mobile bird and rider were the star attraction, a puppet like construction of raw timber spinning in the breeze. His wooden swimmers’ forms have also been developing over the years, and now ‘swim’ more gracefully across the wall than ever before.
Dunsborough and surrounds
Photos c/Christian Fletcher MRROS website
Christian Fletcher is a professional landscape photographer who has a commercial gallery in Dunsborough. There was a gallery assistant present only and there was an ‘artist’s collaboration’ with other participating MRROS artists interpreting Christian’s photos in their own style. The predominance of Christians work overrode this collaboration unfortunately. However, we hope that the cross advertising worked for the individual artists during MRROS.
From his MRROS Statement – ‘Christian Fletcher has been shaping the photography scene in Western Australia for 3 decades. He has a gift that few others do. Arguably, Western Australia’s best landscape photographer, Christian is also a passionate advocate for the environment and for the community of Dunsborough, where he lives.
Busselton and Surrounds
Georgia is a figurative ceramic artist, and she was located at Art Geo in Busselton, which is another dedicated professional gallery space run by the City of Busselton. The atmosphere was very lively, the shop, the café, a range of other artists and their work in the main room and the museum was open.
Georgia’s sales were amazing, and this was her first MRROS. Her sailor folk is full of life and character and the room was beautifully presented with plants draped over works and wooden cabinets full of knickknacks.
See you next year!
Daniela Palitos & Jenny Potts Barr
6 thoughts on “How Big is Enough?”
A very well written article and food for thought. I am an art teacher at a local school and now have my own art studio in Dunsborough so I keep very busy. MRROS has enabled me to get more well known as a practicing artist down in this part of the world- it’s very competitive and hard to know how to attract publicity individually. It’s worked for me as a vehicle to build my client base and understand the marketing game- like most artists it’s not something I am trained in.
Thanks for adding to the conversation- maybe I will meet you another time. (My studio is open by appointment or if you see my signs out! It’s summer holidays and time to hit the beach!)
Trish Waters Art
I have just re-read your interesting comments on MRROS 2022.
As the inaugural Chair, I have endeavoured to be a constant supporter of my successor who has a very impressive set of marketing skills that I lack. I believe the 2022 MRROS event and its advertising-heavy catalogue reflect the success of the marketing focus. Inevitably, as you point out, the MRROS event has evolved into something quite different over the 10 or so years of its existence. This is what which make your comments so valid and interesting.
I am sure the current Board will consider them carefully. Maybe they will think it worthwhile circulating them to all the artist-participants (if you have not done so already).
Thank you for asking your questions.
Have a fruitful 2023.
All the best,
Thank you for your comment! Jenny and I mentioned your name so many times while we were writing this piece. We should come to visit you sometime!
Happy new year for you and your family!
Daniela & Jenny
Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you liked it and happy to hear about your positive experience with MRROS. It is a great event indeed!
Hope you have a great 2023!
Daniela & Jenny
We’d love to catch up. You and Jenny are far more committed than Wendy or I, so you choose a time. Our only fixed engagements are on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday afternoons.
Bill and Wendy
Thank you, Bill.