Published On: April 29, 2023734 words3.9 min read

Ovata Form I & II

Jacky and I had been wanting to complete our latest collection, Virid Dream with two artworks that were abstract  Australian landscape paintings.  We also wanted them to include a tactile element to really enhance their earthiness and connection with the environment. We wanted these original artworks to be ready to hang in any home and to instantly create a sense of belonging. We had a few ideas in mind, regarding which Australian botanical plants we would feature in the works and also a few ideas on how to work in the grounding textural elements that would connect them to their space.

As the other artworks in the Virid Dreamcollection are based on Australian native plants from Tasmania we knew we wanted to continue with this theme. After going back through our catalogue of reference photography that Jacky collected during her travels around Tasmania; we caught a glimpse of one of our old favourites, the iconic gum tree. While it was only a glimpse of a tree in the background of a photo, we really wanted to look more into this species and see what we could find out and perhaps use in our final work. What we did find out was that the species was Eucalyptus Ovata, commonly known as Swamp Gum. 

In the days following the identification of this tree we had a whole bunch of funny little coincidental conversations and exchanges both between ourselves and with others that just made us think the universe had spoken – the Swamp Gum needed to be honoured through painting. I could go into all of the ‘signs’ we received but I’ll shortlist the best for you – Jacky makes a divine dish called Swamp Cabbage; Swamp Gum/E. Ovata is endemic to the Melbourne area where Jacky used to live and adorns many a local parkland; ‘Ovata’ means applause (which let’s face it, is what we were striving for); E. Ovata is a key koala habitat and food source species in the Melbourne area; and a friend of mine was literally able to walk outside in her local area and find this tree and send me photos of it after discussing our plans with her. How many more signs did we really need?

So it was settled that our final two abstract Australian landscape paintings would feature the iconic gum tree, in particular Eucalyptus Ovata. Cue applause! But we also needed to settle on the main colour to be used from our existing Virid Dreampalette and determine how to incorporate that important textural element we had been contemplating. We kept coming back to reds and browns. It might have been the fact that eucalyptus commonly shows its new growth in beautiful shades of magenta, red and brown. It might also be Jacky’s nostalgic memories of the red and brown brick homes that lined the streets of the Melbourne suburbs where she used to live. We let tones of red and brown lead the way with these two works and they really did just fit together. They fitted with each other and fitted with the other works in the collection.

Our final goal was to create an artwork that truly did justice to the Eucalyptus Ovata and to add a grounding tactile feature. We wanted the works to be hung in a space and be able to lay down their roots and become part of the space. Having used embroidery in some of my own personal canvas mixed media works I wanted to bring this across to the Smith & Brooks collections. Jacky was keen to work with natural fibres and we went in search of the perfect medium. This is an interesting side story of its own so we will come back to that in another blog but for now, we are using a beautiful 100% organic undyed cotton to hand embroider the works.

The final outcome – two incredibly dreamy works that are laden with hand-painted layers of reds, browns, pinks, magentas and even a ribbon of claret. They are hand embroidered with fawn tendrils of organic cotton that drape elegantly beyond the bounds of the Australian oak frame.  They really are the perfect way to close the Virid Dream collection. And while they close one chapter of our work they have also opened another and we can’t wait to share with you what lies ahead.