Inspired by rugged landscapes and a 19th-century female explorer, gemma lynch-memory is one of australia’s most successful artists.

Story By Jessica Owers

In a bustling café on Keppel Street in her hometown of Bathurst in central-west New South Wales, artist Gemma Lynch-Memory sits with her husband Terry. Between sips of coffee and amid the hustle of hospitality they talk about art, and one piece in particular – a landscape painting in dull and moody hues with a mountainous horizon, a hut and a broken, weather-beaten fence line. Its frame is functional, though unflattering, and the whole painting is small enough to tuck under your arm like a fashion purse. A small inscription on the bottom right-hand corner confirms that Gemma painted it when she was nine years-old. “It’s extraordinary that a child could do this,” Terry says, still in awe though he has seen it a dozen times before. Gemma remains reticent, almost uncomfortable, in the spotlight of her own early brilliance. Beyond the age at which it was completed though, the little painting is remarkable for its suggestion of things to come. There are sky scapes, fence-lines and an old country shack in it that have become iconographic trends of her current work – abstract landscape pieces embossed with deep horizontal colour chords, horizon lines and the use of reference points such as gates, waterholes and paddocks. Her work, rich in colour and distinctive, has earned her $2 million-plus in painting sales in the past 15 years. “I never thought about how it was going to support me,” Gemma says of her painting career. “I just had an underlying feeling that it always would. I never once considered that I would be an artist with the knees out of my jeans for the rest of my life. I just thought, ‘I’m going to keep doing this until it gives me a reason to stop’.” That reason never presented itself.

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009