Debra Liel-Brown Studio
Fine Artist 02 4987 7947
INFLUENCES AND HISTORY
I was born in 1957 into a Sydney family of stained glass window artists going back 4 generations. The family home, shop and large factory is like a museum. There are antiques, tribal and aboriginal artifacts, huge drawings and small colour window designs, my father’s paintings in progress, vintage cars being restored, new pieces of furniture constructed from numerous old pieces, rare and interesting glass objects and artworks, old books, a furnace to fix the painted glass jigsaw pieces, cauldrons of liquid lead for leadlight casings, inventions and antique restorations in progress. There is a large window where finished leadlights and stained glass church windows are displayed with light streaming through in a blaze of vivid colours. This intensity of colour is my main influence.
My father, Kevin Little, is an all-rounder artist who always has an invention or artwork on the boil. I am the same. All the family are artists – it’s a genetic gift.
I am describing these details about my influences because people’s first reaction to art is to try to pigeonhole it somewhere that is familiar to them, but it often doesn’t relate to my interests at all. My paintings don’t fit into a category of description. The artists who influenced me were Miro, Juniper, Picasso and Kitaj. Miro has had the main impact on me since I was in high school. In particular his comments about how he chose the subjects for his art - he waited for something to surprise or delight him. I like the clean honesty, joyfulness and innocence of his art.
I began studying painting and mastered photorealism in my teens, but after 5 years or so, realism became unsatisfying. It wasn’t challenging enough because it was always obvious what the finished result was going to be. I enjoy doing realism in small doses – it’s satisfying when it’s finished, but the journey is often tedious. Also, as a kid I was surrounded by professional artists who seemed to me to be doing the same painting over and over again. They did repetitive artworks for their gallery sales and the more satisfying, exciting personal works they kept private as their careers were built on a set inflexible style, which paid their bills, but was most often realistic. That was a trap I didn’t want to fall into.
My goal was to develop an individual style that would allow me to explore any subject matter. In order to achieve that, I stopped looking at art in any form, I put away all my reference books and spent 18 months experimenting and pushing into new territory that was 100% honestly me. During this time I had to train myself in the discipline of getting up in the morning to produce quality art as a normal 9 – 5 job no matter how I felt. (Housework took on a new appeal as a work avoidance method.) I had to develop effective ways of breaking through creativity blocks.
The style I settled on is one that relies on accidents and allows me to play and explore. It requires a lot of trust, letting go, and an adventurous state of mind. I never know how it’s going to turn out – I just enjoy the twists and turns of the ride.
Zen philosophy and meditation have been dominant factors in my art. I used the Zen philosophy of “no mind” honesty of action to break myself out of the realism mould. I have always been interested in the workings of the mind and I have used meditation as a resource. Painting is a meditative practice. My paintings are designed to slow down and still the mind. At first glance they appear quite busy. The interlocking rhythms entice the viewer to travel through the scene picking out details which is a process that has a calming effect.
I stopped painting for a period of 6-7 years due to illness. It was an intense, tough, interesting and rewarding experience. I dropped everything in my life that didn’t involve recovery. My life shrunk to the barest minimum as I left behind friends, a social life, old ideas and beliefs and my art, which had been my lifelong language. I stopped being known for my art, I stopped wearing the ‘identity’ of artist and became neutral and anonymous. It felt like a loss to begin with, but then became an enjoyable freedom. Underneath all that worldly clutter of thought, I found clean, spacious peace that I could live in happily. When I began to paint again, it was a joyful experience.
Over the years I’ve travelled overseas a lot. Europe, USA, Mexico and numerous trips through Asia. My favorites are Italy, Mexico, Japan and India. The experience of travelling has filled 4-5 reference and ideas books.
The final influence has been nature. As a kid in Sydney I often felt squashed by suburbia, noise and traffic, etc. To me, Sydney is like a frantic, noisy desert, full of chaos, but with nothing going on. I’ve needed to escape the city for a “green fix” or a “blue fix”. I’ve sought unspoiled natural environments to live in such as waterfront houses on Georges River, and Bundeena in the Royal National Park. My paintings are often based on the experience of a journey, over time, through an expansive landscape. They are also about peak moments in time where the mind is fully present ‘in the now’.
It takes 3 – 4weeks to do a painting. I use acrylics on paper or board, often with bas-relief sculpture. My recent works are sold with conservation notes and reference images and sometimes with photos of the work in progress. Those paintings that are not behind glass come with protective layers of varnish making them very strong and easy to clean with a damp cloth.
1971 – 1973 St George Tech. Life drawing classes from age 14
1972 St George Girls High School, Sydney. School Certificate
1975 Gymea Tech and St George Tech. Diploma of Fine Art
1977 Argyle Arts Centre, The Rocks, Sydney. Apprenticeship in glass engraving with Anna Dybka
1986 University Of New South Wales. Bachelor of Fine Arts
2002 BEC Newcastle. Certificate IV, Small Business Management
REGIONAL GALLERY EXHIBITIONS
1993 Wollongong City Regional Gallery (total sellout show)
"You can't hide in a small town". A series of 10 paintings about a small town with a population of 400, where there were 14 marriage breakups over a period of 18 months.
1983 Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington, Sydney.
B. A. Fine Arts Graduating Student's Exhibition (by invitation).
1989 City of Lake Macquarie Regional Gallery
Annual Exhibition. Emerging artists, works on paper. (by invitation).
1997 Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea, Sydney.
Official opening exhibition (by invitation) to show with Gary Shead, George Gittoes, Bob Marchant, Mick Weekes, and Robert Wilson. I was also invited with Gary Shead and George Gittoes to give feedback on the gallery design from the artist's point of view.
2011 Manning Regional Gallery, Taree.
3 paintings, (by invitation).
(large solo show booked for May 2013)
COMMERCIAL GALLERY EXHIBITIONS
1986 Nidus Gallery, Paddington, Sydney (sellout show)
1987 Cooper Gallery, Paddington, Sydney
1987 Wiregrass Gallery, Melbourne
1988 Holdsworth Gallery, Woollahra, Sydney (sellout show)
1990 Holdsworth Gallery, Woollahra, Sydney
1994 Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick, Sydney
1995 Art in Public Spaces – Bayswater
1995 Art in Public Spaces – Sydney City
1995 Art in Public Spaces – Café Sympatico, Sydney
1995 Art in Public Spaces – Seymour Centre
1975 Rockdale Art Award – (highly commended)
1976 Portia Geach Memorial Portrait Exhibition
1987 Nidus Gallery, Paddington, Sydney
1987 Cooper Gallery, Paddington, Sydney
1987 Portia Geach Memorial Portrait Exhibition
1988 Cooper Gallery, Paddington, Sydney
1990 University of Vermont, U.S.A. Australian Works on Paper
1990 Warringah Shire Annual Exhibition, (by invitation)
1991 Holland Fine Art, Double Bay, Sydney
1991 Nino Tucci Gallery, Surfers Paradise
1992 Breewood Gallery, Blue Mountains
1993 – 2000 Corporate sales through various Art Dealers such as Art Link - Sydney, Artact – Sydney, Art Incorporate and Dieme of Sydney
1993 Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick, Sydney
1993 Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick, Sydney
1994 Jill Richards Gallery, Randwick, Sydney (a joint exhibition with Peter Griffin)
1996 Soho Gallery, Woolloomooloo, Sydney
1996 Bundeena Art and Music Festival, Sydney
1997 Bundeena Art and Music Festival, Sydney
1997 Opera Gallery, Singapore
1998 - 2000 Cape Byron Gallery, Byron Bay
1999 Jabiru Gallery, Sanctuary Cove
2001 Professional Artists Network, Byron Bay
2001 Professional Artist's Network, Kingscliffe
2003 Von Bertouch Gallery, Newcastle
2010 Pokolbin Gallery, Mistletoe Winery, Hunter Valley.
2012 Back To Back Gallery, Newcastle. (joint exhibition with Jenni Jervis and Caroline Hale)
2000 – 2006 Period of illness where I was unable to work
2004 Opened a private art school giving lessons to adults and children, plus mentoring 2 students to become professional artists.
2007 Began Painting full time again
2010 Professional Artist's Studio Trail, Hunter & Port Stephens. I created and managed the Art Trail (with help from volunteers) which was an art tourism event that ran on the last Sunday of every month from April to November 2010. It involved 25 professional artists showing their work from 11 studios.
1995 BARDO RODEO, Washington, D.C. USA
Designer brewery, night club and bar complex. Solo artist and designer for 8000 sq. m. mural in an outdoor cafe section that seats 800. Bardo Rodeo was a DC institution owned by Bill Wilson, an artist / architect. It brewed 50 types of beer on the premises and comfortably housed 3,500 patrons. There were 6 large bar zones, each painted by a different artist each year. (My mural was the only permanent one). It sported 25 snooker tables in flourescent colours and classic American cars, cut in half and transformed into CD players.
1996 LADYWORKS FITNESS CENTRE, Camberwell, Melbourne
Solo designer and artist for 4 murals, 30 sq. m, 20 sq. m. 14 sq. m. and 30 sq. m. Ladyworks, (now Fernwood), is a multimillion dollar women's-only spa, salon and gym. The murals decorate the winter and summer lounge areas, spa, foyer and crèche.
1996 TOTALZONE, Hornsby, Sydney
Beauty and natural healing therapies centre. Co-designed with scenic artist Gabriel Montgomery. I painted 2 murals, 10 sq. m. and 8 sq. m. plus made 2 sculptures.
1996 ART OF LIVING FESTIVAL, Bundeena, Sydney
Three day art and music festival. I was employed by Sutherland Council to act as facilitator, artist and teacher for 4 youths, who painted the mural of 25 sq. m. which was used as the festival backdrop and remains on permanent display on the Bundeena Community Centre.
1996 SULTAN OF BURNEI, Singapore Palace
I worked with a team of 7 artists doing trompe l'oeil for the palace ceilings. The series of canvas paintings were based on 17th century French designs. They were painted in Australia, rolled up and flown to Singapore, where a secondary team cut them to size and glued them to the ceilings. I did 3 paintings, - 2 for his bathroom and another for the entrance to a private lounge room -1 sq. m, 1.5 sq. m. and 4 sq. m.
1997 BRIGHTON HOTEL, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Designed and executed murals and gilding to blend with the architect's fittings. The murals decorate all the walls in a private party room that is hired out for special occasions.
1997 MARLBOROUGH HOTEL, Surry Hills, Sydney
Designed and executed murals, gilding as well as job management. The murals are in Rouseau jungle style, and decorate all the walls of the gambling rooms.
Corporate - Artbank, Qantas (9 paintings), Westpac.
Private collections in the USA, Japan and Australia.