6 November 2023

Wollongong artist Rebecca Brennan finalist for a second year in annual Fisher’s Ghost Art Award

| Kellie O'Brien
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Rebecca Brennan is a finalist in the 61st annual Fisher's Ghost Art Award. Photo: Supplied.

“I knew from a very young age I wanted to be an artist,” Rebecca said. Photo: Supplied.

Award-winning Wollongong artist Rebecca Brennan has been named a finalist for the second year running in the annual Fisher’s Ghost Art Award at Campbelltown Arts Centre.

The 61st art award and accompanying exhibition, which opened on 3 November, awards more than $60,000 in prize money across various categories.

The Open category, which Rebecca was selected for, has been awarded to some of Australia’s most respected contemporary artists, from Elisabeth Cummings through to Michael Cook.

“This is the second time I’ve been a finalist and it’s exciting to be a part of,” Rebecca said.

“Some of the people I really look up to, like Jo Bertini and other high calibre artists, are finalists as well, so it’s exciting.

The piece in the Fisher’s Ghost is called First Nations First Fleet, and it depicts an Indigenous man walking along the coastline here holding a First Fleet model ship.

“It’s all black and white and then I’ve superimposed a colonial map of all the lost languages over the top,” Rebecca explained.

Rebecca said she had always had a “creative presence” in her life, starting with her father, who was a painter.

“I knew from a very young age I wanted to be an artist,” she said.

“Coming out of the HSC, I studied art and came in the top 10 per cent of the state that year for visual art.

“The school bought my HSC work for their collection.”

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Rebecca studied for a Diploma of Fine Arts at the University of Wollongong for two years, studied graphic design in Sydney for a year and then travelled around Australia for a couple of years, living in remote communities and working with Indigenous people.

“I grew up in Jervis Bay, and my four closest friends were all Indigenous and their dad was an elder at Booderee, and they run the Jervis Bay National Park now,” she said.

“I think that connection to Country through that mob down there has given me a real appreciation for the beauty of Australia and that’s what I try and capture in my paintings.

“The unique flora and fauna of the country and the big open skies and interesting rock formations all feed into my work.”

Rebecca said she is known in the region for her heavily textural interpretations of the escarpment, the Gymea lilies, the surging seascapes along the coast and the headlands, but the work that she has been recognised for this time is actually her photography.

She was previously a wedding photographer for 15 years, and it’s an art form she has remained fond of.

“It comes alongside my practice in that I go out into these natural places, photograph the landscape and then go back to the studio and work them up into these oil paintings that will take a few weeks to a few months,” she said.

Rebecca has also spent the past six years teaching all art mediums to people with disabilities, along with HSC students after hours, youth, and the semi-retired wanting to embrace their creativity through private oil painting classes.

“I’ve always loved teaching and sharing wisdom,” she said.

“With the people living with a disability that come, it’s just wonderful because you can see they get such a boost of confidence when they’ve finalised a piece of work and frame it.

“I have taught HSC students outside of school who are trying to get their HSC art done.

“They come to get more time at the easel and get some feedback on what they could be doing better or what they want to get to come through their art.”

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Around Mother’s Day, Rebecca puts on an annual student exhibition for her students at the Timbermill Studios in Bulli, where her studio is located.

“It has a real focus on community participation, and everyone’s got an ability,” she said.

“It’s just wonderful for the students to work towards that as well.”

Outside of her teaching and own work being held in national and international collections, Rebecca is also a commercial artist, working on everything from murals to prints of paintings.

The Fisher’s Ghost Art Exhibition is open at the Campbelltown Arts Centre from 10 am to 4 pm daily until 8 December. You can view Rebecca’s work on her website.

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