Lake Conjola artist Peta West can spend up to 280 hours working on one piece, but her time and efforts paid off last week when she took home the Waverly Art Prize 2023 People’s Choice Award.
A relief lino printmaker, Peta is inspired by the bushland around her home, with native flowers and birds featuring in most of her intricate designs.
Her latest winning piece, Old Coast Road, features spring wildflowers and black cockatoos and was described by the judges as “an ode as well as a visual investigation into the lives of the flora and fauna on the South Coast” that portrays her surrounding landscape with “underlying respect and admiration” and a “profound sense of interconnectedness”.
Peta said she was “totally overwhelmed by the news” that she had taken the People’s Choice Award with her largest work ever. Her work was exhibited alongside 37 other finalists in an exhibition at the Bondi Pavilion from 30 June to 13 August.
“Being selected as a finalist is such an honour, and then to be awarded the People’s Choice Award is just the icing on the cake. I’m thrilled,” she said.
After dabbling in graphite, charcoal and pastels, Peta began working with lino 10 years ago, inspired by Margaret Preston’s bold markings of the Sydney landscape.
“Margaret definitely influenced my earlier works,” she said.
“Today it’s always flora and fauna that inspire me. Our local landscape, experience I have had and my interactions with nature.”
Working in her backyard studio, Peta painstakingly carves extremely detailed images into linoleum to create negative tape, mid-tone and shadow areas, then rolls ink into the surface before pressing paper onto the lino to create her prints.
“The maximum time I have spent on an entire piece of work is around 250-280 hours,” she said.
“The majority of my pieces will take anywhere from 60 to 100 hours of carving and drawing time. I enjoy the carving process. It’s challenging, but also sedative. Once I get into a flow, I love seeing the image sculpted from the lino.
“I have a studio in my backyard, which I love. I retreat into this every day, put some music on, and then I’m gone into that space from four to six hours at a time.”
Peta and her family were evacuated from their lakeside home during the Black Summer bushfires, and much of the national park surrounding the village was hit hard, but she said watching the wildlife bounce back was incredible.
“Anytime I’m feeling stuck or uninspired, I go for a walk in the bush, which always seems to clear my head and allows me to move forward,” she said.
Following a recent holiday and 62-kilometre hike in the Northern Territory, Peta has returned home with new ideas and is working on a body of work from that outback adventure.
“On my desk at the moment, I have some lotus flowers being carved. I’m hoping to create a four-block colour print from this,” she said.
Peta has previously been selected as a finalist in the Ravenswood Women’s Art Prize, the Waverly Art Prize and the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award and has been invited to exhibit at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
She helps out with the Milton-Ulladulla Escape Arts Festival and has donated works to charities to help raise funds for cancer and conservation projects.
The majority of her art ends up on people’s walls, with works shipped all over Australia and abroad.
“Most of my work is purchased because people feel a connection to the landscape in my work or the love of a particular bird or flower,” Peta said.
“People like the detail, the monochromatic nature of my work and the immersive feeling of my large-scale works.”
Peta’s lino prints are represented by Gallery Alchemy in Milton and she also has pieces at Printmaker Gallery in Fitzroy, Victoria; Lauriston Press in Kyneton, Victoria; and Whitewall Projects in Berrimah.
Check out more of Peta’s work on her website.
Original Article published by Katrina Condie on About Regional.