Love letters to the Australian landscape
Erika Beck, who saw Picasso working in the South of France and painted in the Kimberley with a group of artists led by Clifton Pugh, exhibits at Thienny Lee Gallery, Edgecliff, from 15 October to 5 November 2019.
Beck, whose gestural abstract work is characterized by an exquisite use of colour, was born in Zagreb, Croatia, where she completed her education before emigrating to France.
Picasso and Matisse were just some of the artists she saw while living and working in Nice, where she was waiting for her visa to then emigrate to Australia. While in the South of France, Erika took every opportunity to see as much artwork as possible by her most-loved artists: Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, Bonnard and others.
‘On one of the tours from Nice we stopped in front of a lovely white cottage, with a great display of very modern sculptures and ceramics in Picasso’s style,’ Beck recalls. ‘Picasso was present and working. As we came off the bus to look, he stepped on a small podium and started a drawing on the wall. He drew a male figure from the left foot, up to the head and down to the right toe. Life size, no model – a perfect classical Adam. There was a stunned silence from the audience. He turned, then back to other work. What a showman.’
After settling in Australia, Erika continued her studies at Newcastle’s Hunter Street and Kogarah’s TAFE art schools. She continued to deepen her understanding of art in the studio of artist Desiderius Orban, and continued to work in various locations with artists groups, one of them in the East Kimberley – guided by Clifton Pugh.
It was not long before Erika was captivated by the timeless beauty, exquisite silences and quality of light of the Australian landscape. She has travelled to work at numerous painting locations in Northern, Central and Western Australia, Fraser Island, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and Lord Howe Island.
‘One day in the Kimberley, on the banks of the Dunham River, I walked out of my tent in the early morning and saw a most wonderful-looking bush that appeared to be covered with flowers of many colours,’ Beck remembers. ‘As I came closer to look, the ‘flowers’ flew away.’
Beck, whose career spans more than 30 years, is a tutor at the Ku-ring-gai Art Centre at Roseville, where many eminent artists including David Fairbairn, Jenny Sage, Reinis Zusters, Rodney Milgate and Margaret Woodward conducted workshops for tutors and advanced artists. She has exhibited her work in many solo and selected exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Coffs Harbour, Hunters Hill and the Blake Prize. She has won numerous awards, with judges including Elisabeth Cummings, Edmund Capon and John McDonald. In 2018, Beck received the Royal Art Society of NSW’s “Medal of Distinction”, judged by artist Bela Ivony.
Beck works predominantly in synthetic polymer mediums, but at times uses oil paints, pastels and watercolours. Her landscapes, figures and still lifes have a spontaneous energy about them, with vibrant colours and lyrical compositions. She is passionate about her paintings, which have a dream-like, sometimes playful quality. Don’t miss her Sydney exhibition, from 15 October to 5 November, 2019, at Thienny Lee Gallery in Edgecliff.
Thienny Lee Gallery
15 October to 5 November 2019
Opening: Thursday 17 October, 6-8pm