Artist Profile - - NEWS - by Louise Martin-Chew

There’s an in­tu­itive sen­si­bil­ity in the way June Tupicoff has ap­proached her art­mak­ing, echoed in the or­ganic way in which she be­came an artist and has ne­go­ti­ated her prac­tice. Mak­ing paint­ings is a need that con­tin­ues to con­sume her.

WHAT IS IN­TRIGU­ING ABOUT YOUR WORK IS ITS range, from muted ab­stracts to de­tailed land­scapes.

I am search­ing for a closer re­al­ity, a sen­sa­tion that is denser than ab­stract. I grew up in Gipp­s­land, Vic­to­ria, look­ing at the Strz­elecki or Baw Baw Ranges with their deep fogs, snows and frosts. That at­mos­phere in­sti­gated a sense of one­ness, if I can put it that way, in my mem­ory. I started paint­ing in an ab­stract way, which I very much like. More re­cently I started on a dif­fer­ent, more in­tri­cate, tack. It might have to do with a sense of place. I al­ways told my­self that I would like to marry the ab­strac­tion and the in­tri­cacy.

How did you learn to paint?

I had lessons with Len French in Melbourne, which I re­mem­ber as very for­mal, quite set up lit­tle still lives and por­trai­ture. He was work­man­like and po­lite. I was only six­teen or sev­en­teen. At the same time I went to classes with Neil Dou­glas, who was a painter and sculp­tor liv­ing an idyl­lic life out past Melbourne in the hills.

How did you end up in Queens­land?

I met Gary, who didn’t want to stay in Melbourne. I think I came up here re­gret­fully. I did my own work and didn’t know about com­mer­cial gal­leries, only the Queens­land Art Gallery. I went to the Fly­ing Art School for a while and then they asked me to teach for them. Then I was asked to teach at Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (QUT). All this time I was do­ing my own work. At the same time I had dis­cov­ered Ray Hughes Gallery. He was ex­tremely gen­er­ous and let you poke around in the store­room by your­self.

Did you ask Ray Hughes to show your work?

No, the head of QUT, Joe Airo-Farulla, sug­gested to Ray that he should see my work. I had a stu­dio at the John Mills build­ing in Mary Street. Ray came around and looked at my paint­ings and asked, ‘What are you go­ing to do with them?’. I told him that I just put them un­der the bed. I had his last show in Bris­bane.

Where did you work?

Af­ter a se­ries of stu­dios – I rushed from them to teach, then I rushed home to pick up chil­dren, all the while try­ing to work – I de­cided to come home. At first I worked in the lounge room, and then I moved down the block and even­tu­ally I built the cur­rent stu­dio here.

We hear about the dis­ad­van­tages of be­ing a fe­male artist – are there ad­van­tages as well?

Amongst the dis­ad­van­tages were that you had to make an ex­treme ef­fort to be in the loop, and hav­ing enough time to do so was the is­sue. The ad­van­tages are that you get in­sight into life be­ing a woman and a

mother. It en­riches the way you see things, and it’s the same with art. It’s the beauty in life that you are try­ing to get to, that core. It’s this qual­ity that’s in­trin­sic to life and art.

The cur­rent work emerged from travel to Fraser Is­land and the rain­forests in North Queens­land. What is your process when you are away?

I worked in the for­est and did draw­ings, and went back­wards and for­ward many times. I al­ways come back to the stu­dio and then work. The work is about the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing some­where. First of all I have to have an ex­pe­ri­ence that may touch me, move me, be­fore I am in­ter­ested. Of­ten I find the re­mem­ber­ing greater than the ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ence. The chal­lenge is to re­fine the paint­ing to get to an essence of some­thing that is like the emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence I ac­tu­ally had. I don’t recre­ate the ex­pe­ri­ence, the place, but the sen­sa­tion of it.

While they are clearly land­scapes, they have ab­stract qual­i­ties as well.

They move in and out of re­al­ity and ab­strac­tion. It is al­ways about that. They in­clude pas­sages where they are ab­strac­tions and then they be­come re­al­ity, then just sen­sa­tion. They are the emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence of land­scape.

How do you de­fine suc­cess in a paint­ing?

I have had times that I felt so con­nected and ex­cited by what was hap­pen­ing on the can­vas that I could hardly wait to get back to see it. At other times I could hardly face it and fix it. Suc­cess is in the times when I knew some­thing had hap­pened, a sense of com­plete one­ness. It is a re­ally lovely thing when that can hap­pen. You want to keep look­ing at it just to make sure that you are right.

What is the key?

I al­ways draw in the land­scape – that is very im­por­tant. Mak­ing marks when it is right there! Every mark you make while you are there on that spot is more in­sight­ful than any­thing else you can have other than the re­mem­brance of sen­sa­tion, but of­ten the draw­ings will bring that back.

How do you ap­proach the phys­i­cal act of paint­ing?

I work in a dif­fer­ent way to most. I mix my paint in pots with a medium and with wax and it takes quite a lot of time. The wax melts, so it is no longer in tiny lit­tle glob­ules, and can give a cer­tain res­o­nance to the paint that other­wise wouldn’t be there. I work in lay­ers of paint. The wax builds up very thinly. The paint is very thin, lu­mi­nous and trans­par­ent.

Where will your new work take you?

Strad­broke Is­land, look­ing at the reveg­e­ta­tion in the wal­lum area af­ter the end of the sand-min­ing. Wal­lum grows on peat, usu­ally just in over the dunes. There is very lit­tle left in South-East Queens­land. These ar­eas be­hind the dunes are so of­ten de­vel­oped – that is where peo­ple want to live – but wal­lum can’t ex­ist in small ar­eas. It is an un­recog­nised area of land­scape.

You men­tioned light from your child­hood was an in­flu­ence. Does light re­main a pow­er­ful force?

Light has al­ways been some­thing that I am mes­merised by; it is a life force that we all want or need. Most of my work also has a sense of move­ment. My very early ab­stract paint­ings were of the wind.

Are you able to iden­tify what has given you longevity as an artist?

I think it is about re­ally want­ing to do what you do, need­ing to do what you do, and about do­ing it. It is not about do­ing some­thing else, not about look­ing af­ter your ca­reer. I could not do more than one thing – which was work. I re­mem­ber that some­body from Per­specta wanted to meet me. I said, ‘No, I have to go and put the chil­dren to

I work in lay­ers of paint … it’s very thin, lu­mi­nous and trans­par­ent.

bed.’ I had to make a de­ci­sion about what it had to en­com­pass, which was my fam­ily and my chil­dren and Gary. Out­side that, there wasn’t a lot of room for other things. Every day you make a new dis­cov­ery about how you re­late to the world, the joy within the world and beauty of ex­pe­ri­ence. What is the mys­tery of beauty? If you can un­ravel a bit of that mys­tery be­fore you die, then that is pretty good. June Tupicoff is rep­re­sented by Aus­tralian Gal­leries , Melbourne and Syd­ney, and Philip Ba­con Gal­leries, Bris­bane

01 Dark wa­ter­hole, 2015, oil on linen, 91 x 122 cm 02 Late Septem­ber – Alayrac, 2016, pas­tel, 25 x 33 cm 03 The golden bird’s realm, 2013–14, oil on linen, 146 x 299 cm 04 Day’s end, 2015, oil on linen, 137.5 x 183 cm 05 The com­ing of the morn, 2008, oil on linen, 138 x 183 cm

06 Wal­lum Bel Canto, 2018, oil on linen, 138.5 x 366 cm 07 June Tupicoff, 2018 Cour­tesy the artist, Aus­tralian Gal­leries, Melbourne and Syd­ney, and Philip Ba­con Gal­leries, Bris­bane

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