From the Northern Territory to central Victoria, and from smeared portraiture to lush landscapes, Rose Wilson captures the bush.

Story By Kathy Mexted

It's the tall, slim gums in central Victoria that inspire landscape and portrait artist, Rose Wilson. The stately trees gently sway in the spring breeze, whispering the secrets of 150 years of settlement: abandoned gold mines, potato diggers and timber gatherers and, most days, Rose listens to their stories as she walks. Her landscapes of this area are etched with quotes, local stories and the occasional peeping wildlife. They’re not something to be viewed quickly, but they sell before she has finished painting them.
Cool-climate forests haven’t always been Rose’s home turf, though. After growing up in rural NSW, in 1991 aged 28, she sat in the searing heat of Katherine airport in the Northern Territory, waiting five days for a standby flight to an Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land, 570 kilometres east of Darwin. She had succumbed to a whirlwind romance with a pilot two months prior and, leaving Sydney, headed into the vast unknown. It was a defining time in her life and her art.
“The plane landed under the most magnificent sunset I’d ever seen,” Rose says. “Steve was there to meet me, and the sky was blackened with bats heading from a nearby island to feed on the mainland. I felt like I’d been plonked in the middle of nowhere. “In Arnhem Land I was totally taken by the Aboriginal people I came to know. We’d often sit around chatting and eating crab, and occasionally I would sketch.”
It’s easy to see why she was so taken with some of the cherubic faces that now beam out from the walls of her studio, making you want to cradle the little cheeks and smile right back into their eyes. After two years, Steve and Rose moved to Darwin, where she studied art at Darwin University. “I rolled up to register and a very gruff looking man went through my sketch portfolio and said, ‘Okay, you’re in! Come tomorrow’.”
Ray Hearn was Associate Dean at the time and he recalls, “We were quite clear about looking for important emotional art content and we knew straight away that she had the talent we were looking for, but I was also impressed by her enthusiasm and energy.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #75

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2011