“There are days when the sun’s glare washes out the colour, and the life with it and days when cloud does. Light decides it. The bush is a medium for light. The effects on our senses are unpredictable, subtly mutable, aleatory. Light rules.” Don Watson 'The Bush'
'This latest body of work ‘Illuminations’ continues my exploration of light through the medium of paint. My choice of subject is increasingly that of nature and in particular trees.
My childhood home was an old worker's cottage in inner city Brisbane, perched on the side of a hill that extended out into a huge Blackbean tree that filled with rainbow lorikeets in December and active possum families, fruit bats and diamond pythons at night. My favourite place to be was nestled in the huge arms of the large Camphor Laurel in the front garden, reading comics, doing my homework or eating mixed lollies. Much time as a kid was spent gazing out from the chalk dust drabness of my state primary classroom at the sundrenched world of swaying Eucalypts dreaming of a life of immersion in nature as depicted by Arnhem Land first nation children Ricci and Nicci in our school reader, Bush Walkabout.
The subject of trees, particularly Australian native trees however is not a given, to be always there, providing sustenance and rejuvenation to the eyes and souls of many. For thousands of years of adaptation to a uniquely harsh Australian climate, the trees and flora of Australia have stabilized the soil, trapped water and carbon dioxide and provided habitat and nourishment for vast ecosystems. As colonial land practices replaced Indigenous land management, we see those delicate ecosystems decimated, soil blowing freely and the climate change.
While recently driving through northern New South Wales I noticed the stark white ghost like figures of dead Banksia trees, the first to succumb to prolonged drought and extreme heat. I had heard years earlier that entire forests of Banksia Integrifolia had died from heat stress in Western Australia. That particular species is quick to shut down photosynthesis in order to prevent moisture loss leading to death by starvation. Entire ecosystems have perished in last summer's bushfires and worse is yet to come. Water tables are given to mining companies and thousands of hectares of habitat are cleared with record speed ‘efficiency’ using circular ‘amazon blades’ that not only kill above, but also below the ground.
In this body of work I have depicted trees from the Granite Belt, Eucalyptus Punctata, the central coast of Queensland, Corymbia Tessellaris, and a range of Eucalypt species transported to California 150 years ago during the Gold Rush that I was surprised to find dominated the streetscapes of Los Angeles during my recent time there.
My paintings are often from a perspective of looking up, and just as the first brilliant rays of morning sunlight strike the uppermost branches, then flow, filtering down through the leaves and twisted boughs. The limbs have an almost human elegance and flesh like luminosity and drama, evocative of Giambattista Tiepolo’s 18th century upwardly looking Venetian paintings of semi naked bodies or the outstretched fingers of Michaelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’. The colours of leaves and bark at this early time of day are rich and luminous before the harsh flattening of midday sun. This moment is fleeting and so captured by camera. The images are then transferred to my paint smudged laptop from which I work.
Another method is to cut foliage from a tree and hoist it back to my studio where it is suspended on structures above my canvas with soft light filtering in from the large glass doors.
The presence of the occasional bird or insect within my paintings is reference to the centrality of trees to life. Not always easy to spot in my painting as in nature - a flicker of leaves, requires stillness to spot the skittish Honeyeater or the lumbersome glossy Black Cockatoo.
The spectacle of Eucalypts were central to the design and siting of Charles and Ray Eames home in Santa Monica. The trees were well established when the home was built in between them in the 1940s. My paintings of the Eames House ‘Santa Monica Eucalypts I and 2’ explore the play of light dappled through the sweeping dangling leaves onto the windows and surfaces of the building’s exterior. This modernist architecture sought connection with nature and understood the psychological benefits of immersion within nature.
This psychological reaction to nature and light has long been my tonic. I remember as a child the intense sensory experience and relief I felt emerging from the weatherboard Presbyterian church into the brilliance of mid-morning sunshine. This heightened sensitivity and appreciation of nature is what many I believe are currently experiencing as they venture out from home lockdown during this Covid 19 crisis, dotting the landscape with their picnic rugs along the range on which I live up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.'
Judith Sinnamon May 2020.
Attunement to light – how it flows over, plays upon and defines structure, shape and colour – is Judith Sinnamon’s primary concern. Her carefully crafted studies of Australian native flora capture each plant’s singular gesture and presence, compelling the viewer to engage with a unique species as well as to witness the artist’s dialogue with paint.
Within her work, the nonhuman (plants, trees, flowers, fruit) and the nonliving (fabric, bowls, baskets) offer a source for contemplation of the world’s strange familiarity. Whether painting a still life of domestic objects or a landscape en plein air, Sinnamon’s ability to see and capture the intimacy of things is founded upon intuitive use of the palette of native flora balanced with a personal, almost sculptural rendering of her subject matter.
Judith brings tree branches, blossoms and leaves into the studio, where compositional decisions crop branches, celebrate negative space or experiment with pattern and overlapping, chaotic movement. These indoor specimen studies, while loosely related to early botanical illustration, are executed with an eye toward propagating foliage across the canvas, much like the natural generation of tree limbs, to surpass botany’s cool empiricism and embrace a deeply felt coexistence with nature.
Judith Sinnamon has a Diploma of Fine Art majoring in Painting from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Her work is held by the Mater Private Hospital Brisbane Art Collection, the Kawana Private Hospital Art Collection and numerous private collections in Australia as well as internationally. Carol Schwarzman
Lives and Works in Queensland
Diploma of Fine Art (Painting), Queensland College of Art
Bachelor of Teaching, Griffith University, Brisbane
We are delighted to announce that JUDITH SINNAMON is a finalist in the 2023 Brisbane Portrait Prize for her portrait of Nathan Appo.
Judith sought to capture Nathan's incredible warmth and generosity and a wisdom that comes from 65,000 years of continuous sustainable culture and land management with a deep love for country and humanity at its core.
The Brisbane Portrait Prize is all about celebrating Brisbane portrait artists and their sitters, while encouraging public engagement with the arts.
Judith is having a solo exhibition with us October 25.
Watching the ABC’s political program Insiders, Queensland artist Judith Sinnamon was struck by Katharine Murphy’s ‘paintability’.
‘Katharine often appears on the Insiders panel, where she brings a refreshing, cut-through perspective to the fug of Australian politics,’ says Sinnamon. ‘I feel tremendous gratitude towards Katharine and all journalists of strong conviction and integrity, who speak truth to power at a time of rampant misinformation and media mogul influence.’
Murphy has worked in the parliamentary press gallery in Kamberri/Canberra since 1996. She is currently political editor of Guardian Australia and the host of a weekly podcast, Australian politics. She is the author of On disruption, an analysis of the impact of the internet on journalism.
Sinnamon captures the award-winning journalist, with her colourful clothing and animated face, listening to the podcast Pod save America in her light-filled home.
‘During our sitting, I drew loose charcoal sketches and took numerous photos,’ says Sinnamon. ‘I then returned to my [Sunshine Coast] Hinterland studio and began the month-long process of rendering Katharine’s portrait – my first in the Archibald Prize.’
The Museum of Brisbane has acquired Judith Sinnamon's portrait of Pamela Easton, one half of renowned fashion label duo Easton Pearson. The Museum's Easton Pearson Archive is the largest textile collection from a single Australian fashion house held by a museum.
The Archive features the complete collection of internationally acclaimed fashion house Easton Pearson and comprises more than 3,300 signature garments, as well as accessories, original sketches, look books, ephemera and runway footage.
Easton Pearson, created by Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson, was one of Australia’s most successful fashion houses. From the launch of the label in 1998 to its close in 2016, Easton Pearson’s eclectic, boldly patterned and embellished fashions graced catwalks and showrooms across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, America and Australia.
To coincide with Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art's exhibition O’KEEFFE, PRESTON, COSSINGTON SMITH 'Making Modernism', Judith Sinnamon has been invited to conduct a series of still-life workshops throughout May and June 2017.
O'Keeffe, Preston and Cossington Smith were renowned for their modern adaptation of traditional approaches to still life. In this special hands-on workshop working with oil paints, participants will be invited to join Judith Sinnamon for an exploration of the still life genre and experiment with light, colour and form to depict Australian native flora.
Judith Sinnamon is an artist based in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Judith studied painting at the Queensland College of Art in the early 1980's. The surrounding coastal flora informs Judith's art practice in both her still life and landscape works. She exhibits regularly with the Edwina Corlette Gallery.
Judith's paintings reflect her experience living in Myanmar. Margie writes about Judith's journey painting in a foreign place, far from the familiar Queensland coastal landscape.
“Yangon is an extreme environment, intense. The sounds and smells are so full on. People, people, people. Going from trees to people was probably a most logical thing for me. One of the first things that struck me were the melodic calls of the women hawking in the streets, sounds floating up to us on the 7th floor of our new home on 37th Street.”