A group of rural artists finds strength in numbers when it bands together for exhibitions and support.

Story By Kerry Wehlburg

Any artist can experience feelings of isolation and this is exacerbated for those whose lives and work are moulded by the vastness of the outback. Six rural artists have overcome this by banding together to exhibit as a group called, simply, Six Artists From Out Of Nowhere. The five painters and a sculptor have held three successful exhibitions in Queensland this year.
“It gives us the opportunity to have someone to talk art with,” painter Sandra Allen says. “We have fun. When I look at the logistics of how far we all travel to do this I think we’re all a little crazy but I love it.” Each artist lives on and loves the land and Six Artists From Out Of Nowhere was born as somewhat of a creative antidote to years of drought. The artists are also united in their wish to “take their art to town” – to share it with others.
Barbara Hancock’s life on a cattle property near Wandoan has nurtured her creativity. Her landscapes are the successful result of her desire to “always create an atmosphere in a painting”. “It’s natural to paint the landscape that is all around us, but it is a struggle to create something original,” she says. “As artists we send messages about how we think about life and our surroundings. An exhibition visitor once asked me, ‘When are you going back to painting those good ones you used to do?’ I thought, ‘Oh, should I be painting for those people?’ then I realised how important it is to paint for myself to remain true to the messages I am giving.”
After studying art in Sydney, Sandra’s life changed. “Life was all about priorities – the kids and the property,” she says. “We were always busy branding, stick picking etcetera.” Now, she’s back at the canvas where she paints with her hands, finishing off her lively creations with a brush. Her work often provides a wonderfully ironical interpretation of her experiences. Her depiction of the stunning blues of the Adriatic sea in There are no fish like these in Yuleba Creek was inspired by crossing the dry, dusty creek bed on her return to her Roma property after a European trip.
Painting has always been part of Helen Peart’s life. She has studied art in Sydney and Rome. “It’s a little like playing chess against yourself, starting with a subject and palette in mind,” she says. “The first layers go on quickly and then the game and the real fun begins. I love the challenge of working through the problems that each project brings.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #57

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2008