Sir John Sluman Prize

At the close of this year my thoughts have turned towards art prizes. I had great success with the last prize I entered The City of Albany Art Prize where my work 'Forget Me Not' was chosen as a finalist.

Over the past few days I have been researching the prizes which I would like to enter and the Sir John Sulman Prize is enticing. For a long time now I have been yearning to paint something brooding alive with movement and energy. Recently I thought back to the time I spent in London and the impression the work of Henry Fuseli made on me. His dark moody dreamscapes peopled with waif-like apparitions and violent episodes of action and emotion appeals greatly. This work featuring the Greek goddess Hera will be the largest I have ever attempted to date and I have reconciled with the fact that three months will not be adequate to finish such a piece. I will not rush this work but enter it next year and hope for the best.


Cabinet of Curiosities Artwork

As early as the Renaissance the term ‘cabinet of curiosities’ has been synonymous with power and discovery. Intriguing collections of natural history, art and the bizarre amassed by the wealthy offered glimpses into the secrets of the world and shone a tantalising light into the unknown regions of the human mind. In this exhibition I have formed a symbolic cabinet of curiosities by amassing a collection of items which allude to moments of wonder in my own life. Connections to Masonry, magic and divination are referenced strongly in this group of forty new works revealing how each of these experiences left an indelible mark on my early awareness. These episodes raised questions in my young mind as to how much I really knew about the deeper aspects of life and the world in which I was living.

Oil paintings, gouache, pen and ink, sculpture and the transfer of images onto butterflies and moths offer the viewer a tantalising array of objects with which to whet the desire for discovery. Each painting is based on an image from my growing catalogue of Victorian cabinet cards and is displayed alongside the original. These are executed in a style which references the Renaissance love of storytelling through symbolism and colour and the overdrawn insects displayed under glass look back at the much loved storybooks of my childhood and represent the joy of momentary wonder frozen in time like the flash of a memory upon the eye of the mind.

                                                                                                            Fern Petrie, November 2011

'Amor Fati'

'The Sisterhood'

'The Star of the Evening' - 'Destiny's Decree' - 'Aurora'

'Playing Soldiers' - ' Foresight' - 'The Unopened Letter' - 'Adventurer'

'Secrets of the Immortals'

'Dawn' - 'Dark Providence'
'Walking with the Wind' - 'Entreaty'


To A Young Lady, Who Was Fond Of Fortune-Telling

You, Madam, may, with safety go
Decrees of destiny to know;
For at your birth kind planets reign'd,
And certain happiness ordain'd:
Such charms as yours are only given
To chosen favourites of Heaven.
But such is my uncertain state
'Tis dangerous to try my fate;
For I would only know from art
The future motions of your hert,
And what predestinated doom
Attends my love for years to come,
No secrets else that mortals learn
My cares deserve, or life concern;
But this will so important be
I dread to search the dark decree;
For while the smallest hope remains
Faint joys are mingled with my pains.
Vain distant views my fancy please,
And give some intermitting ease;
But should the stars too plainly show
That you have doom'd my endless wo,
No human force or art could bear
The torment of my wild despair.
This secret then I dare not know,
And other truths are useless now.
What matters if, unbless'd in love, 
How long or short my life will prove?
To gratify what low desire
Should I with needless haste inquire,
How great how wealthy I shall be?
Oh, what is wealth or power to me!
If I am happy or undone,
It must proceed from you alone. 

Matthew Prior 

Fern’s new life draws new interest - inMyCommunity - Perth, Western Australia

Artist Fern Petrie’s work is a cultural collision of her combined Maori heritage and her European ancestry.Artist Fern Petrie’s work is a cultural collision of her combined Maori heritage and her European ancestry.

UPROOTING to another country can pull you in unexpected directions.
When accomplished Tuart Hill artist Fern Petrie left her native Auckland in New Zealand for Perth five years ago with just one month’s notice (it was for her husband’s work as a geophysicist), she had to adjust to a new life in a new landscape.
However, a job at an art supplies store set Petrie – a proficient carver and print-maker with an extensive list of solo and group exhibitions to her credit – on a new creative journey.
“I’d never done any painting, but at Jacksons, I worked opposite the oil painting stand, and kept looking at those oil paints every day and then finally, I tried it, and felt a real connection with colour, which I haven’t really experienced a lot of,” she said.
“In Maori design, all the colours are from the land, so you’ve got your ochres, browns, blacks and so on, but the really bright colours – the renaissance kind of colours – are something I’ve only started working on in the past couple of years.
“And in New Zealand, it’s always rainy or windy and changeable, but in Perth, it’s just bright and sunny all the time and I think that brightness has come through in the paintings.”
Petrie’s latest exhibition, Cabinet of Curiosities, is a collection of 40 oil paintings, gouache and sculpture works inspired by photographs from the Victorian era, and designed to entice viewers into a world of mystery and spur their inner curiosities.
At the heart of her work is a cultural collision of her combined Maori heritage – strengthened while studying at Te Toi Hou, Auckland University’s Maori arts department – and her European ancestry.
“I learnt how symbolism plays an important part in Maori art… it’s important to know about your family history and cultural heritage,” she said.

Cabinet of Curiosities is showing at Murano & Gullotti, Subiaco, until December 10.


Cabinet of Curiosities Opening Night

Fern & Nik in front of 'The Sisterhood'

Outside the gallery looking in at the doll 'The Secret Society'

The opening night of my new exhibition ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ was the glorious end to a year long journey. Over forty works were displayed in the Murano & Gullotti gallery in Subiaco, Perth amongst the glittering opulence of Murano chandeliers. My friend Chris wowed gallery goers with his mesmerising contact juggling with crystal balls and the fortune teller read her cards all evening  to the gentle strains of the harpist. As always I was thrilled to see my friends and loved talking to people about the symbolism which informed the creation of this collection. It was a joy to meet those who will soon take pieces home and reconnect with those who have collected in the past.

'Fortune Favors The Brave'

'Destiny's Decree'

'The Curtain Rises'




Goddesses of Earth and Sky

Some time ago I found these images online and I thought that I would share them as these creations are just spectacular. The headdress of the top model is reminiscent of two new works which I will be unveiling at my new exhibition next month. Both works utilize antlers as a symbol of primal power crowning goddess-like female presences.


To A Young Lady, Who Was Fond Of Fortune Telling

For each of my exhibitions I like to find a poem which encapsulates the emotional state I am in while creating a new body of work. For my up and coming exhibition 'Cabinet of Curiosities' I have chosen a wonderful poem by British poet Matthew Prior entitled; 'To A Young Lady, Who Was Fond Of Fortune Telling.'

I will post the poem and the work it has inspired on the night of the opening here in Perth but I thought I would share with you the biography I found on Poemhunter.com. Prior seems to have lead a very exciting life but what really fascinates me is the fact that he was born in 17th century but lived until the 20th!

Yes I know it's just a typo but what an exquisite one at that.

Matthew Prior by Thomas Hudson

Matthew Prior, poet and diplomat, was born near Wimborne Minster, Dorset. His family moved to London while he was still a child. He was educated at Westminister School, but was taken out when his father died and apprenticed to his uncle, a tavern-keeper. In 1680 he went to Cambridge on a scholarship from the Earl of Dorset and while there he co-wrote with Charles Montague, The Hind and the Panther Transversed to the Story of the Country and City Mouse (1687), a burlesque on Dryden's Hind and the Panther which cuts it down to size by making it absurd.

Prior held various diplomatic posts, and in 1700 entered parliament with the Tories. He was Ambassador at Paris when he was recalled at the death of Queen Anne in 1715, and imprisoned for two years. During his time in prison he composed Alma or the Progress of the Mind (1715), a sceptical and humorous poem for which he is best known today. A folio edition of his work was published in 1719 and secured him a profit of 4000 guineas. He died in 1921 in Down Hall which he had purchased two years previously. At its best his work stands alongside Swift, and was admired by Samuel Johnson and William Cowper. He is buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.


Living Art

For many years our house had been a rental and when we bought it the garden reflected the lack of care and neglect that is so typical in such properties. Our first job was to remove all the plants and start with a blank canvas. We added high jarrah sleeper beds to the garden proper and planted such fruit trees as the Tahitian Sapote or Chocolate Pudding Tree, longan, mango and many more. In a closing down sale we found a pair of Indian gates studded with brass flowers and this wonderful garden gate opens onto a small walkway where I have begun to plant a succulent garden. It has become a great adventure trying to source new specimens for this garden as I adore the sculptural qualities of these hardy plants. Until now I had held a conservative view of what could be achieved with succulents but as one search lead to another I found a whole world of inspiration from other artistic succulent lovers. The idea of succulent topiary can add such charm to a garden, especially one which has to deal with Perth's harsh summer climate. 

You can use this simple method http://lenkindesign.blogspot.com/2007/09/succulent-topiaries.html to make all kinds of wonderful objects:

The Rusty Trowel

As succulents are so easy to propagate I am going to give this a go, it looks like such fun and can be really effective.


Compositions in Metal

This week I have been recovering from an operation and as I could not move around too much and was restless I decided to look into my collection of bits and pieces and compose these two necklaces.

The first is based on a charm bracelet and comprises little trinkets from my travels including a solid gold sphinx from the Norman Lindsay museum, a masonic medal purchased in the Barossa Valley and a medal from the Vatican blessed by Pope John Paul II.

Masonic Charm Necklace

The second includes a vintage Masonic medallion set on each side by stirling silver medals, Swarovski pearls and chandelier crystals.

Antoinette's Sphinx Necklace


Preserved Stories

Agnes Richter's Jacket

In a Victorian-era German asylum, seamstress Agnes Richter painstakingly stitched a mysterious autobiographical text into every inch of the jacket she created from her institutional uniform. 
                                                                                                      - gailhornstein.com

Throughout my life I have been fascinated by objects which have survived past the time in which they were created. I feel as if these articles can in some way take us back through their histories and reveal something of their owners and the society that shaped them. I like to collect items which hold a special significance to me and one of these is a pair of tiny gloves given to my by my husband shortly after we first met. These are very special articles to me because of the inscription from 1935 written on the faded envelope containing the gloves - 'A mitten of mothers your grandma that she wore when young in England many years ago approximately (1840)'. This link to the history of the gloves is quite touching and when I tried them on they were far too small for my hands. Grandma must have been a petite lady when she first donned them and their sentimental value to her daughter is apparent. I feel honored to posses such a special piece of this families history. Like the gloves and their envelope, Agnes Richter's jacket provides a window into another life, it is an object left behind that speaks of her life and is lovingly cared for to preserve her story.

A Mitten of Mothers


Peacock Feather Wedding Dress

'It may not be the longest, but surely is one of the most impressive wedding dresses. With its 2,009 peacock feathers taking 8 months to finish, this peacock sensation costs $1,5 Million.'
                                                                                                                                                                                   - Stylefrizz.com


Mrs. Maxwell

I am so excited, I've just purchased this amazing 1860s stereoview of taxidermist Mrs. Maxwell posing with a bunch of taxidermy mounts at Colorado museum. This will be the basis of a large painting in the future, I am hard at work on paintings for 'Cabinet of Curiosities' my next exhibition at Murano & Gullotti Gallery in November but as I have all the images I need for that exhibition I will keep this for my next show.


The Poetry Lesson

The Poetry Lesson

In 2010 I painted this piece for the exhibition 'The Velvet Album'. It was inspired by a photo of a Victorian couple and I loved the idea that these two were so close but convention kept them apart, for the moment. They share their inner feelings through the sheets of poetry laid out before them and the gentleman is holding 'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost. I like to wonder which road they will take, will it be together or will they wander down a path of quiet reflection, contemplating what might have been.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Antoinettes Atelier

Rococo 1770s Historical Wig -De Lamballe- Marie Antoinette Wig, by Kathleen Marie

Ever since I was young and my parents threw elaborate Halloween parties I have enjoyed an intense love of theatrical costumes. This piece inspired by Marie Antoinette is the epitome of fantastic head wear and its creator should be applauded for her elegance and taste. I'm so glad there are such inspired people out there making every day a little brighter with their love of theatricality and their sense of style.


Jessica Joslin

Jessica Joslin is my favorite living artist and has such a wonderfully enigmatic style. I have the greatest respect for her sculptural fantasies. Her little creatures are so clean and beautifully made they astound me with their delicacy and their beauty. I have followed Joslin's career for years now and I would dearly love to see these creations in the flesh and hope one day to have a little friend of my own.

Below are my two favorite pieces from her recent 2010 exhibitions and you can find more about her art here:http://jessicajoslin.com/jessica/




A Vase and a Hand

This fantastic necklace comprises a Victorian sterling brooch hung from labradorites, moonstones, pyrites and moss aquamarines and was a recent birthday present. I think it is just magnificent. I have an intense love of old discarded things which have been given a new life. This piece was created by the very skilled Kathy Barrick of French Sentiments. You can find more of her creations on etsy;

My necklaces feel like pieces of art to me and so to do them justice I've just finished making a matching pair of hanging jewelry display cases to tidy them up and get them out of the jewelry box.

Norman Lindsay Museum, Blue Mountains, Sydney.

I was looking through some photos the other day and I thought that my first post should be about something which has touched me deeply and inspired me for years. Two years ago my husband and I were lucky enough to spend a night in the little cottage which sits nestled behind Norman Lindsay’s Blue Mountain home. In 1912 Lindsay and his wife Rose first set eyes on this house and it became a love affair over many decades for him as he put his own stamp on the house and grounds. He cherished solitude and the colonial style sandstone country house sits nestled amongst gum trees with outcrops of rock pushing out of the landscape. His house has now become a fantastic gallery and being in the presence of so many original pieces was very special. What I didn't anticipate was the effect the gardens produced in me. Sculptures of nymphs and satyrs people Lindsay’s extensive garden and anyone with romantic sensibilities would no doubt lose themselves in the delight of roaming and discovering. Later that evening I found myself drawn over the moonlit lawn, past cavorting figures and fountains full of silver water to sit and appreciate this night scene as Lindsay must have done almost a hundred years earlier. The photo below was taken at dawn as the laughing kookaburra woke. This little lovers seat was my favorite place and I sat sketching while the world still dreamed.

'Siren' sculpture and lovers bench under the Bull Bay Magnolias