The painting ‘Horizon Study’ for which Shelagh Lummis received a Highly Commended in the 2013 Newcastle Emerging Artist Prize. Photo – Shelagh Lummis.
Ahoy! I would wish you all a Happy New Year, but it’s mid-February so I think I’ve missed that boat. Things have been rather busy in my corner of the world. So busy in fact that I took these photographs of Shelagh Lummis in OCTOBER and have only now had the opportunity to pull her long-ago answered Q&A together with the pics into a post. I totally suck.
What doesn’t suck is Shelagh Lummis who’s quite obviously a very patient person. Not least of all because of how long it’s taken me to get this post up, but rather because her practice of painting only began after a long career as a Personal Assistant at the University of Newcastle! Taking a redundancy in her stride Shelagh signed up for some art classes at Newcastle Art Space with a friend. Discovering a talent for abstract landscape painting Shelagh enrolled at Newcastle Art School and then returned to UoN, not as a secretary, but as a full-time student in Fine Art. In that time she’s received high praise for her painting skill.
I came across Shelagh’s work at an exhibition at the Uni’s Watt Space Gallery during This Is Not Art Festival last year. Shelagh was one of nine students who set up studio spaces within the gallery as part of an ‘Artist in Residence‘ exhibition. I was equally entranced by her works as I was by her in person – she is so encouraging, telling me that it’s never too late to discover a hidden creative talent . You just have to commit to the learning.
My priority will be to re-commit to posting stories of creative Novocastrians with a hell of a lot more timeliness than has been the case recently.
For most of my working life I have undertaken various secretarial positions, enjoying those most where there seemed to be a culture of autonomy. When I first arrived in Newcastle I found part-time teaching work at Belmont TAFE. My longest and most interesting employment was at the University of Newcastle where I worked in various departments between 1990 and 2005. I was offered a redundancy from the University in 2005 which I accepted and started taking art classes shortly thereafter, leading to enrolment in a Diploma in Fine Arts at Newcastle Art School in 2007.
Finalist, Newcastle Emerging Artist Prize (NEAP) (2013), Highly Commended.
Recipient, $1,000 Ford Scholarship, Newcastle Art School (TAFE) (2011).
Finalist NEAP 2012, 2009, 2008.
Sandhills Community Garden Exhibition, Winner People’s Choice Award (2008).
What has been your most memorable project?
Taking on an art career.
L: Shelagh Lummis and Leo at the door of the backyard studio in Hamilton South. R: A recent work rests above an antique credenza in the living room. Photos -Siobhan Curran.
What would be your dream project?
An artist trip to Antarctica.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I consider that I’ve had a fortunate life with many successes, including raising my family. No one achievement really stands out.
What is your most treasured possession?
Anything I have that belonged to my parents has a special place in my heart.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
While I’m a student at the University of Newcastle completing a Bachelor of Fine Art, my days usually incorporate some kind of research, experimentation, and journaling. If I have an exhibition coming up then I’m usually in and out of the studio all day.
L: A work in progress sits on an easel. R: Framed pieces are from a series inspired by a residency at valley called Promised Land near Bellingen. Photos – Siobhan Curran.
What is your most valuable pearl of wisdom gained since starting your business?
Mistakes are a good thing as long as you learn from them.
Where do you derive creative inspiration?
Mostly from our environment and the way the atmosphere of places can change according to weather or light. Our changing landscape has the ability to generate new ways of looking at it.
Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
The recent exhibition of Philip Wolfhagen at Newcastle Art Gallery was very inspirational. Wolfhagen’s engagement with his environment is clearly shown in his work. Another artist I like very much is painter Euan MacLeod, a kiwi now residing in Australia.
What are some of your favourite websites or blogs?
Sadly I don’t blog much. However, I am on Facebook which has been a fantastic way of keeping in touch with family and friends I’ve made while at Art School.
Apart from your work, what other interests, passions, hobbies do you have?
I enjoy travel, fine food and wine, walking, animals and gardening. I always have a camera with me, snapping whatever gives me inspiration, including the amazing skies we have in Newcastle.
The tools of the trade. Photos -Siobhan Curran.
How long have you been a Novocastrian?
My husband and two children moved here from Sydney in 1983. I was raised in New Zealand and moved to Australia in 1973.
Newcastle in a word?
A coat of many colours (I know, that’s 5 words!)
What do you love and hate about living in Newcastle?I love the friendliness of its people and the diversity of activities available. What I hate is the sad and run-down look of parts of Newcastle, and I don’t mean just the CBD. I believe that even if a building or building site is unused, an owner should be responsible for its continued maintenance. I don’t think environmental aesthetics assumes enough importance with the powers that be in Newcastle. And the appalling situation our Gallery finds itself in saddens me a great deal.
How is Newcastle different to anywhere else?
Newcastle’s ‘otherness’ stems from its unique position on the coast. Its working harbour means that residents are treated to the fantastic sight of huge ships being towed in by tugs. It has miles of surfing beaches and is very close to wonderful vineyards. However, the natural gifts of the place include large coal deposits, which means that heavy industry must coexist with our local environment. There’s a lot going on but to me Newcastle retains the feel of a country town.
Where are your favourite places in Newcastle / Hunter to:
Leaves and Fishes (Lovedale Rd, Lovedale)
Le Passe Temps (75 Hunter St, Newcastle)
I don’t much like shopping!
Anywhere I’m with friends
What is Newcastle / Hunter’s best-kept secret?
Then it wouldn’t be a secret …
Corners of Shelagh’s studio. Photos -Siobhan Curran.