Isabelle Gair-Hemsley’s name has become almost synonymous with birds on the North Queensland art scene – her beady-eyed curlews and delicate sunbird nests elicit oohs and aaahs from many a gallery-goer; and the textured pieces feel as though they could almost flutter straight off their canvas and around the room.
Isabelle hopes her current focus on birds might help to bring their struggle for survival to the forefront of people’s minds.
“I have noticed just in thirty years of living in North Queensland that there has been a large drop in numbers of our local birds… less little Woodswallows lining up in rows on powerlines, less of our iconic Curlews keeping us company at night calling from the street, and less of the cheeky but stunning Black Cockatoos getting up to mischief in the lime green sea almond trees on the Strand. That is my biggest inspiration… the possible threat to the lives of our animal and bird species. I feel that if I paint and sculpt art that represents birds or animals, maybe I can help conserve them in some small way,” said Isabelle.
With no formal art training, Isabelle experimented and failed many times before she was actually happy with the style she works in today.
“I think of my mother every time I am ‘finishing’ a piece of work, putting on the final touches – a few bright berries here, adding extra pretty pieces to the sunbird nests, or a little more mauve hue to the crook of a cassowary sculpture’s neck. I feel that it was my mother who taught me all I needed to know about art and design, by showing and explaining to us (six children) in our childhood about shapes, colours and the textures in nature, and in her many beautiful gardens that she made.”
Isabelle said that while nature provided more than enough inspiration to keep her busy, it’s the advice of her two daughters that helps her to deliver her best work.
“One often reminds me, ‘Mum, make sure you only show or sell what you are proud of’. I always appreciate that advice, because it is right. Why put anything out there that is an inferior product when your piece of art is a representation of you?”
Where to find Isabelle’s work:
Drill Hall Studio, Mitchell Street, North Ward
Tyto Regional Art Gallery, Ingham
Tolga Woodworks Gallery, Atherton Tablelands
Helen Wiltshire Gallery, Mission Beach