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Mary Tonkin Review

Mary Tonkin Artists Talk

Is it still possible today to paint a contemporary masterpiece in a world awash with conceptual and multi-media arts practice? If you are Mary Tonkin the answer is yes, not one masterpiece but many.

Mary is one of Australia’s pre-eminent landscape painters. Her exhibitions at Australia Galleries over the past few years have amazed and thrilled both painters and the general public alike. Seeing her work first hand is truly inspiring and it makes you wonder just how on earth she does it, in work after work.

Her large paintings and masterful drawings show just what’s possible if you’re really prepared to look hard at your subject. Mary’s “looking” is formidable, connecting observed space, landscape forms and picture plane in perpetual relation.

Techniques honed both here and in New York under the guidance of Graham Nickson (New York Studio School) inform a closely observed and familiar world orchestrated by wonderful painterly colour. No contrived cynicism, irony or appropriated art styles here. A true painter, Mary’s work shows quality and ambition beyond much contemporary achievement.

Hawthorn Artists Society is privileged to host an Artist Talk by Mary Tonkin on Sat March 16 at Kew Court House, 188 Cotham Road Kew at 2pm. This is a rare opportunity to hear from Mary about her methods and her relationship to the Australian landscape.

Mary has been awarded many accolades including the National Gallery of Victoria Trustee award in 1994 and 1995 and Dobell drawing prize in 2002. She was the recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshield foundation grant in 1998 and Australian post-graduate fellowship award in 2000. Her work is held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria and several regional and tertiary institutions. Mary is also an accomplished teacher.

Once in a generation it seems we are gifted with someone in possession of special talents and a unique vision, someone who can meaningfully add to an historical dialog and make it real in a contemporary sense. Mary Tonkin is that person. Her vision of the Australian Landscape is unique and her achievement ranks alongside great Australian Masters from the Heidelberg School through to Fred Williams. The baton is surely passed and it is now with Mary.

Richard Birmingham 2013

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