Bimblebox Nature Refuge is situated 1,120 km northwest of Brisbane in the heart of cattle and coal country. The fourteen-hour drive to this remnant semi-arid woodlands transforms an artist’s eye along the way. One leaves behind the city and the suburbs, the lush green gardens and rainforest, the endless malls and carparks: to Dalby, Roma, Emerald, Alpha, and finally, Bimblebox. The visuals gradually evolve into a dryer, more austere landscape, wide-open skies and towering clouds, and nature is more prudent with colour.
Judith Sinnamon traveled to Bimblebox late last year due to her lifelong concern for the environment - the fight by activists to save the refuge from Big Coal has been hard fought since 2007, and she wanted to see the land (and its trees) for herself. But, she admits, “I was unprepared for the beauty of the place.” And even though she’d painted trees of southeast Queensland for years, this was another world entirely - and it was under siege. She goes on to say:
'In my work, the celebration and joy of nature is juxtaposed with my (and a collective) sense of alarm in regard to destruction of the environment. My starting point is the awe I feel when in the presence of trees - the trees of the Central Queensland region in this case.'
The balance Sinnamon pursues in her paintings parallels her desire to see equilibrium restored to humanity’s relationship with nature. At the core of her painting concerns is the interplay of opposing energies and dynamics: the stoic stasis of Corymbia Dallachiana contrasted with their vegetal, twisting gestures; her spare, earthy palette applied fluently, quickly in layered daubs, strokes and semi-swirls; and, above all, her sensitive capture of the flicker of light to shadow on the infinite forms and textures of trees, grass and sky. Taken together, these carefully crafted, visual and formal qualities document her deeply felt connection to the natural world.
Portrait of Corymbia Aparrerinja(2018), shares an affinity with Albert Namatjira’s Ghost gum (c.1948) in that both paintings grant their trees the status of individuality. Sinnamon acknowledges the older artist’s influence on her work -particularly the iconic presence of ghost gums in his watercolours. Trees remind her of the human body: “the random twisting of limbs, the bulbous resin growths, pock marks and scarring from lost limbs or insect activity… the luminosity of their trunks evocative of human flesh,” all combine to interconnect the arboreal with the human.
In every canvas, the artist begins with an all-over, bright ochre ground, next carefully mapping out the shapes of trunks and branches, and then building form and volume in layers of single strokes of wet-into-wet paint. Looking close-up at the surfaces of bark in Dancing Ghost Gum (Corymbia Dallachiana)(2018), one enters a microcosm of abstraction. Sinnamon capitalises on the use of subtly-toned complementary greys and taupes on areas of bark to open up space between each stroke, so that a weightless luminosity exists - as if her trees are built from light. Stepping back from the painting, the structured physicality of her brushwork coalesces into volume and heft. Multi-directional movement of lanceolate leaves shimmers dark to yellow-green, forming a canopy energised by light and gravity’s pull. Rhumba-like in dancing gesture, the ghost gums’ branches gyrate, affirming nature’s erotic, dynamic play of creation and destruction.
Sinnamon’s profound fascination with trees motivates this work. “I want people to value nature,” she says. “Trees are loved because their beauty is comforting, however nature is not a given. We can’t know that it’s going to be there forever, unchanged.”
Carol Schwarzman, July 2018
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.
Carrie McCarthy, 2021
Lives and Works in Queensland
Diploma of Fine Art (Painting), Queensland College of Art
Bachelor of Teaching, Griffith University, Brisbane
'Foliage II', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Foliage', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Illuminations', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Preview of 'Illuminations', The Getty, Los Angeles, USA
'Bimblebox', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'1770', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Yangon Downtown', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Wallum', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Melaleuca', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'Flora from a Fragile Land', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
'New Paintings', EDWINA CORLETTE, Brisbane
Solo Exhibition, Marks and Gardner, Mt Tamborine
Solo Exhibition, Doggett Street Studio, Brisbane
Solo Exhibition, Marks and Gardner, Mt Tamborine
'Artefacts', Art Factory, South Brisbane
'Solo Exhibition', Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Ferry Road Studio, South 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.”