Biography, Art Practices and Influences
 
I was born into a Sydney family of stained glass artists going back 4 generations. The family home is attached to a large factory workshop where they produced huge windows for churches and public buildings around Australia. It was like living in the restoration and storage area of a museum - stuffed to the brim with antiques, tribal and aboriginal artifacts, huge drawings of window designs, my father's paintings in progress, vintage cars being restored, new pieces of furniture being constructed from damaged antiques, rare and interesting glass objects and artworks, old books, inventions and antique restorations in progress. 
 
The workshop has been used for stained glass production since the late 18oo's and still has many of the old machines from that time such as a large grinding wheel 1m across, a kiln / oven with drawers to bake the painted images (eg. Jesus) onto the glass, a stone cauldron to melt lead to pour into leadlight casing moulds. There are large windows where the finished stained glass panels are displayed so that light streams through in vivid colours. The main influence of my art has been this intensity of coloured glass, the clear strong lines of the lead casing, and the baked on drawings in black.
 
When the family went on holidays we stayed at dairy farms and bush properties owned by relatives. In Sydney we lived near the airport, so farm life, in the company of plants and animals was a world away. Since leaving home I have lived mostly in small river-front communities that are surrounded by virgin bush, where the day to day sounds are of passing boats and the antics of birds rather than traffic noise - even right in the middle of Sydney.  Consequently, I have become a landscape painter with an addiction to painting water. Having immediate access to such raw natural environments means I've had the time to wander slowly and study the intricate details of textures, light, colour, flora and fauna.
 
Waterfront living is soft of my senses and I've been lucky to live in some delightful river and beachfront homes. On Sydney's Georges river, I lived in a boatshed / cottage, built on stilts in the water. The sound of wavelets under the floorboards was soothing. The lounge room had double garage doors that opened onto a pier which went out 50 metres into the river. On workdays, men in suits and ties, whistling and singing, would row across to the opposite shore to catch a bus into the city. One of the benefits of living there is being able to have a fishing line out from the lounge room while cooking dinner or watching TV.
 
I also lived on the edge of the Cronulla sandhills in a community of 17 fishing shacks called Boat Harbour. The shacks were built on the sand around a small semi-protected bay with the open ocean beyond. It is off-the -grid living. There is no electricity or drinking water, although there are landline phones. The villagers use various power sources - wind and petrol generators, solar panels, batteries and gas bottles. To get home, I had to 4-wheel drive through the  sandhills, but once there it was surprisingly civilised and comfortable. The shacks have flush toilets which flush into a 44 gallon drum, showers or bath tubs with gas hot water and TV, although I often lost the end of movies due to the generator running out of fuel. The upside of living there was the outdoors lifestyle and the dramatic changes in the environment due to the weather.  The site is exposed to harsh southerly winds that batter and rock the shacks, sending sand whirling in through cracks. Then there are perfectly still nights where the bright silver moon follows you on long walks on the beach.  Whales can suddenly pop up 30m offshore, but so too, the occasional drowned dead body washes up from boating accidents. The downside was the amount of home brew and 4-wheel drivers hooning about.
 
I lived for 18 years in Maianbar and Bundeena, in the middle of the Royal National Park between Sydney and Wollongong and it's had an enduring influence on my art.  At my front door - tidal sand flats, an island, bush, beach and the Port Hacking River. At the back door - rainforest and a pristine estuary, mangroves and beaches.
 
The artists who have influenced me are Miro, Juniper, Picasso and Kitaj. Miro is one of my favorites, in particular his comments about how he chose his subjects - he waited for something to surprise or delight him. I like the uninhibited clean honesty, joyfulness and innocence in his art.
 
Zen philosophy and meditation have been dominant factors in my art. I use the Zen philosophy of 'no mind' honesty of action. I embrace accidents, I dont concern myself with the finished result, I trust and enjoy the journey. I dont do the painting - the painting does me. Meditation is a lifelong resource for me, and it's influence in my art is clear as my paintings have a calming effect on the viewer. At first glance they appear quite busy, but then the interlocking rhythms entice the viewer to travel through the scene, picking out details, which is a process that slows down and stills the mind.
 
The practice I use in my paintings is to visit a scenic location, such as a kilometer long stretch of river frontage, where I take up to 80 reference photos and drawings. The painting then evolves as a 'collage' of sense memories and the reference images, so that it describes the experience of being in that place rather than a literal portrayal.
 
I stopped painting for a period of 7 years due to illness. It was an intense, tough but rewarding experience. I dropped everything in my life that didn't involve recovery. When my body fell apart, there was only my mind to work with, so I concentrated on meditation as my 'work' for 7 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, for 5 years. During that time my life shrunk to the barest minimum as I no longer had the energy left for friends, a social life, old ideas and beliefs or my art. My 'identity' as an artist fell away and was replaced with being neutral and anonymous. It was a loss to begin with but then became an enjoyable freedom. Without all the worldly clutter of thought, my mind became clean, spacious and peaceful.  Eventually I began painting again and it was a joyful experience.
 
I have been lucky to have the opportunity to travel through Europe, US, Mexico and numerous trips to asia, especially Japan and India. My travels have set my creativity on fire.
 
 
Exhibition History
 
Education
 
1971 - 1974     St George Technical College Art School - Life drawing from the age of 14.
1972                 St George Selective Girls High School - School Certificate.
1974 - 1975     Gymea Technical College and St George Tech. Art Schools - Diploma of Fine Art.
1977 - 1980     Apprenticeship in glass engraving with Anna Dybka in the Argyle Arts Centre, The Rocks.
1986                 University of NSW - Bachelor of Fine Arts.
2002                 Business Education Centre Newcastle - Small Business Management, cert. 4.
 
Regional Gallery Solo Exhibitions
 
1993                 Wollongong City Regional Gallery. ( total sellout show)
                         'You Cant Hide in a Small Town'. A series of 10 paintings about a small town with a population of 400, where there were 14 marriage                              breakups within an 18 month period.
2013                 Manning Regional Gallery, Taree.
2014                 Cessnock Regional gallery        
 
Regional Gallery Group Exhibitions
 
1983                Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington, Sydney. B.A. of Fine Arts Graduating Students Exhibition (by invitation)
1989                City of Lake Macquarie Gallery. Emerging Artists Annual Exhibition, works on paper (by invitation)
1997                Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Sydney.
                         Official opening exhibition (by invitation) to show with Gary Shead, George Gittoes, Bob Marchant, Mick Weekes and Robert Wilson.
2011                Manning Regional Gallery, Taree.
                         (by invitation)
2018                Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 'Concerning Peace'.
 
Commercial Gallery Solo Exhibitions
 
1986                Nidus Gallery, Paddington, Syd. (sellout show)
1987                Cooper Gallery, Paddington, Syd.
1987                Wiregrass Gallery, Melbourne.
1988                Holdsworth Galleries Woollahra, Syd.
1988                Holdsworth Galleries  Woollahra, Syd
1990                Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick, Syd.
1994                Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick, Syd.
1995                Art in Public Spaces - Bayswater, Syd.
1995                Art in Public Spaces - Seymour Centre, Syd.
1995                Art in Public Spaces - Bronte, Syd.
1995                Art in Public Spaces - Sydney City.
2016                Gloucester Gallery.
 
Commercial Gallery Group Exhibitions
 
1973                Rockdale Art Award, under 21 - highly commended.
1976                Portia Geach Portrait Prize - portrait of Keven Little.
1987                Nidus Gallery, Paddington, Syd.
1987                Cooper Gallery, Paddington, Syd.
1987                Portia Geach Portrait Prize - portrait of Fiona O'Bierne.
1988                Cooper Gallery, Paddington, Syd.
1990                University of Vermont, USA. - Australian works on paper (by invitation).
1990                Warringah Shire Annual Exhibition (by invitation).
1991                Holland Fine Art Gallery, Double Bay, Syd.
1991                Nino Tucci Gallery, Surfers Paradise.
1992                Breewood Gallery, Blue Mountains.
1993 - 2000    Corporate sales through numerous Sydney Art Dealers such as Art Link, Artact, Art Incorporate and Dieme.
1993                 Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick.
1993                 Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick.
1994                 Jill Richards gallery, Randwick. A joint exhibition with Peter Griffen.
1996                Soho Gallery, Woolloomooloo.
1996                Bundeena Art and Music Festival Exhibition.
1997                Bundeena Art and Music Festival Exhibition.
1997                The Opera Gallery, Singapore.
1998 - 2000    Cape Byron Gallery, Byron Bay.
2001                Professional Artists Network, Byron Bay.       
2001                Professional Artists Network, Kingscliff.
2003                Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle.
2010                Pokolbin Gallery, Hunter Valley.
2011                Newcastle Art Space Gallery. A group sculpture exhibition on the subject of death called 'The Final Journey'.
                         Each artist made their own coffin or ashes urn or a comment on death. It  was the Herald art critics choice for best group
                         show of the year.
2012                Back To Back Gallery, Newcastle. A joint show with ceramic artists Jenni Jervis and Caroline Hale.
2012                Newcastle Art Space Gallery, Newcastle. A group show on the subject of 'Pleasure and Pain'.
2013                Newcastle Art Space Gallery, Newcastle. A group show on the subject of 'Nightmares'.
2013                Brenner Design Studio, Newcastle.
2014 - 2017    Inside Out Design. Newcastle.
2017                Back to Back Gallery, Newcastle.
 
Murals
 
1995                Bardo Rodeo - Brewery and Nightclub complex. Washington D.C. USA.
 
                        Solo artist and designer for 8,000 sq.ft. mural for the outdoor cafe section that seated 800 people.
                        Bardo Rodeo was a D.C. institution owned by architect /artist Bill Wilson. It brewed 50 beers on the premises and 
                        seated 3,000 patrons. There were 6 large bar zones, the walls of which, were painted by a different artist each year -
                        my mural was the only permanent one. Two of the bars sported 25 full size snooker tables between them which 
                        were upholstered in fluorescent colours, while throughout the complex there were numerous classic American cars
                        cut in half and transformed into CD players. 
 
1996               Ladyworks Spa and Fitness Centre, Camberwell, Melbourne.
                        Solo designer & artists for 4 murals, 30 sq.m, 20 sq m, 14 sq m, & 30 sq. m. Ladyworks (now Fernwood), is a multi-million dollar                                      women's spa, salon & gym. The murals decorate the winter & summer lounge areas, spa, foyer & creche.
1996               Totalzone, Hornby NSW
                        Beauty & natural therapies centre. Co-designed with scenic artist Gabriel Montgomery. I painted 2 murals, 10 sq. m and 8 sq.m and                              made 2 sculptures.
1996               The Art of Living Festival, Bundeena, Sydney.
                        Three day art & music festival. I was employed by Sutherland Council as artist & teacher to 4 teens, who painted the mural of 25 sq.m.                          which was used as the festival backdrop where it remains on permanent display on the Bundeena Community Centre.
1996               The Sultan of Brunei, Singapore Palace.
                        I worked with a team of 7 artists doing trompe l'oeil for the palace ceilings. The series of canvas paintings were based on 17th century                          French designs. They were painted in Australia, rolled up & flown to Singapore, where a second team cut them to size, fixed any                                      damage & glued them to the ceilings. I did 3 paintings - 2 for his bathroom & another for an entrance foyer to a private lounge room.
1997               The Brighton Hotel, Darlinghurst, Sydney.
 
                        Designed & executed murals covering every wall, plus gilding & overall job management. The murals decorate a private party room                                that is hired out for special occasions.
1997                The Marlborough Hotel, Surry Hills, Sydney.
                         Designed & executed murals, gilding & overall job management. The murals are of a Rousseau style jungle scene which decorate the                             gambling den room.
2017                Raymond Terrace, Jewellery Arcade, Port Stephens Council
                         I was the commissioned artist & art director for a public mural 20 m x 1.5 m. 18 volunteer artists from the area gave their time over 6                           weeks to give this gift to the community.
Collections
                  
                         Corporate Collections - Artbank, Qantas ( 9 paintings) & Westpac.
                      
                         Private Collections - USA, Japan & Australia.
Events
2000-2007      Period of Illness when I unable to work.
2004                Opened a private art school.
2010                Created the Professional Artists Trail, Hunter & Port Stephens. An art tourism event held on the last Sunday of each month from April                           to November. It involved 25 artists showing their work from 11 studios.
2010                Opened my studio to the public.
2020                Opened an online art store - Art Studio Supplies Online.
 
Debra Liel-Brown
02 4987 7947
E: debra-liel-brown@iinet.net.au
Studio Visitors are welcome,
please phone first.
Click the LINK above for
Art Studio Supplies Online
Exhibition quality art supplies delivered to your door.
Great for rural artists.
02 4987 7947
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