23 August 2023

Illawarra's ever-changing escarpment inspires artist's 14th exhibition

| Michele Tydd
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Artists Liz Jenaid in her backyard with Mt Kembla in background.

Artist Liz Jenaid looking out to the Mt Kembla escarpment from her verandah. Photos: Michele Tydd.

A first-time visitor to artist Liz Jeneid’s guest bathroom at Mount Kembla is in for a treat.

On the vast window looking out to native bush hangs one of her most whimsical works of art.

It is her own body print, framed within a transparent plastic T-shirt, which was part of a series of textile works she did in 1980 titled ‘Hunting Jackets‘.

“It was inspired years ago by prostitutes I saw throwing their business cards from balconies onto the street in Kings Cross – I decided this could be my hunting dress for my own business cards,” Liz says with a laugh.

Ironically, now 87, she has never had what she calls “the killer instinct” that drives many high-profile artists. “I suppose it’s because I’ve never relied solely on selling my art.”

As she prepares for her 14th solo exhibition focusing on Illawarra escarpment prints, Liz reflects on a long and colourful road to find her sweet spot of artistic satisfaction.

A war baby who grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, Liz initially trained as a preschool teacher.

“I loved the creativity it involved, but I knew it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do,” she says.

Liz's body print, framed within a transparent plastic T-shirt.

Liz’s whimsical nude print, framed within a transparent plastic T-shirt.

Her next move was a colour and design course with the late Phyllis Shillito, a former head of design at the National Arts School.

In the mix during those early years was extensive world travel as an artist in residence, a failed marriage to a survival expert and a seven-year stint in the US where Liz trained as a weaver in North Carolina.

On arrival back in Australia in the late 70s, Liz ran a weaving studio for several years in inner Sydney with three apprentices and five looms, making cloth and turning it into various garments.

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In 1983, Liz began teaching as well as curating exhibitions at the University of Wollongong’s School of Arts before it morphed into the Faculty of Creative Arts.

It was a perfect work-life balance because her then home on Jamberoo Mountain neighboured those of visual artist, Bert Flugelman and Archibald Prize winner, Guy Warren.

While at UOW, she met her present partner, Graham Bartholomew, a former sculptor and the father of one of Liz’s students.

It wasn’t until 2003 when Liz left the university and took a printmaking course at TAFE, she realised she felt most comfortable with art that involved almost ceremonial processes.

Liz Jenaid and her partner, fellow artist Graham Bartholomew.

Liz Jenaid and her partner, fellow artist Graham Bartholomew.

“Printing and weaving fit that category, but I also found printing suited my minimalist aesthetic, which I greatly admired during my visits to Japan,” says Liz.

She holds regular weaving and printing workshops at her large and well-organised studio, just metres from the couple’s house.

“Participants are of all ages but I have one regular who is 93 and she drives from Moruya,” says Liz.

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Her current exhibition highlights the many moods of an escarpment she believes is often taken for granted.

“I live at the base of Mount Kembla but to fully appreciate the subject it required fresh eyes and weeks of research,” says Liz.

“I closely studied its silhouette, its folds and how it changes in weather and seasons – it’s a stunning natural structure,” she adds.

Exhibition: ‘A Distant Presence’ will be at Red Point Arts Gallery, 100 Wentworth Street, Port Kembla, from 7 – 13 September, open 11 am – 4 pm.

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