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“The most treasured compliment I have ever been given is
‘I just love how you see our town…”

Narelle Huggins: landscape painter, crafter and maker.

Having lived most of my life in various parts of Australia, and now calling NZ home, I am inspired by the contrasting landscape of the places that I have lived and travelled to. My works are motivated by a search for a sentimental connection to ‘place’.

My life as an artist is an ongoing journey to try new crafts and techniques. I first picked up a palette knife in the early stages of my transition from working as an architect to concentrating on my painting in a more full time capacity. Whilst the world of architecture is creative, and has the opportunity for great freedom and expression, there is also a preciseness and order to the visual drawings that are produced. I first tried painting with a knife to break away from such precision, as in my own mind this was not the artist I wanted to be. For me, my palette knife was a revelation! This painting technique has, in a way, allowed my subconscious, or some other part of me, to be expressed without more rigid ideas taking over. It also brings great delight, that with a quick swipe of my paint-loaded knife; I can achieve effects and colours that even surprise me!

I see my works falling into two general styles, the freer methods previously described achieve expressionistic results, whilst I also like to depict townscapes and man-made elements in the landscape in a naive style. It could be deduced that my architectural background has inspired my naive representation of buildings, similar to an architectural elevation drawing. For me the two-dimensional approach to the built form might also be symbolic of the limitations of man-made objects in the awesome scope of the natural environment. I try to capture the landscape as a three-dimensional place to exist and hope that my paintings welcome the viewer in to ‘experience’ my interpretation. The often two-dimensional depiction of man-made objects symbolizes their fleeting existing (in the big scheme) but also serve as a ‘dropped pin’, something people can relate to, to help place them within the scale of the painting.

There is an unyielding attraction within me to colour. In fact, I have a stool in my studio that I re-upholstered with a colour wheel cover. My ‘painting stool’ not only looks splendid, but also serves as a reminder of the potential use of contrasting colours to add vibrancy and strength to an image.

Finally, what does it mean to be ‘motivated by a sentimental connection to place’? I hope that you, the viewer, might find joy, or some other expressive response to my work. My own reaction to a place will dictate how I depict it, or whether I am interested in it at all. Some of the most dry and sparse landscapes that I have lived in have had such beauty for me that it gives me great pleasure to draw out that single thing that made that place special. The most treasured compliment I have ever been given by a visitor to my then gallery was, ‘I just love how you see our town’. I value this compliment so highly, because the town meant a lot to the person making the compliment, not because it was picturesque or a big bustling centre, but it was, and is, incredibly important to the people that make up its community. I feel that in the compliment the viewer acknowledged that I understood the town’s significance and that the joy expressed in the painting was not literally about the town’s physical appearance, but the sentimental importance it had to its townsfolk.