Nature ‘heightens senses’ of Red Hill artist

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Longing to paint: Artist Jennifer Riddle in her studio. Picture: Katherine Jamison, and, below, after receiving the Mercury People’s Choice Award for her work Verdant Garden. Picture: Jessica King

RED Hill artist Jennifer Riddle has been voted by exhibition visitors as the winner of the Mercury People’s Choice Award in the 2018 Hadley’s Art Prize, with her depiction of a Red Hill garden cloaked in mist.

The $5000 prize was a welcome surprise to Riddle, who visited the exhibition during its opening in July when local artist Neil Haddon took out the $100,000 landscape prize with his War of the Worlds inspired artwork.

The Hadley is considered to be the world’s richest landscape art prize.

Riddle, who was also the recipient of the People’s Choice Award for the Glover Art Prize last year, said she has long been drawn to the Tasmanian landscape.

“In recent years, my inspiration has been shared between the pastoral surroundings of my home [at Red Hill] and the evocative wilderness of the Tasmania’s remote southwest,” she said.

“I have no doubt that this award will be reinvested back into Tasmania’s economy as I plan further exploration across the beautiful state.”

Riddle said her motivation to paint came from nature’s ability

to heighten the senses. “When painting Verdant Garden the damp air was infused with the scent of the wooded forest … but I could no longer see its familiar form,” she said.

“Where towering eucalypts usually shadowed the land, a wall of white hung silently in the air, swallowing the landscape I knew so well.

“The landscape depicted is a local neighbouring paddock in Red Hill, an area that holds great emotional significance to my development as both an artist and as a person.”

Riddle said she had recently been involved as a mentor for the green wedge art prize that was run through Mornington Peninsula Shire. “I’m a keen advocate for sharing our peninsula’s hinterland and the environmental importance of maintaining our green wedge from damaging developments,” she said.

“I hope my work can help highlight the importance of our natural surroundings.”

The artist moved to the Mornington Peninsula after the death of her sister, Andrea, hoping to fulfil her creative aspirations and find comfort. “I needed to be among the trees and I needed to fulfil my longing to paint,” she said.

“Never had I ever felt such certainty. I feel that this was a direct result of Andrea’s loving encouragement before she died.

“This experience gave me a new way of seeing the land, a deeper connection and gratitude that helped heal and fulfil my spiritual self.”

Hadley’s Art Prize curator Dr Amy Jackett said she was pleased with the high number of visitors to the exhibition. Although different artworks resonated with each person, Riddle’s piece won with an overwhelming number of votes.

“Verdant Garden was a standout for viewers of all ages and was, interestingly, the artwork most admired by visiting school groups,” Dr Jackett said.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 18 September 2018

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