The latest exhibition at Miloko in Sassafras is Gilded by Victorian artist Jennifer Dean. Dean’s vibrant botanical work features a rich colour palette, highlighted by gold leaf, with a Japanese influence thanks to her interest in Art Deco design.
Botanicals all about colour
Dean admits there won’t be a brown gum tree in sight. “I love to experiment with colour and design,” she says. “At the moment I am working with gouache and gold leaf extensively for this latest exhibition.
“I do work in other mediums. You can get great effects with watercolour and it is not all that predictable. Oil paint is like painting with soft butter — very yummy. And gouache has such vibrant colour.”
The exhibition is the result of an off-chance meeting with Miloko owner Bernadette McDermott, when Dean dropped into the artisan store one day.
“I happened to have some of my work with me and Bernie liked what she saw. I obviously enjoy working with organic forms — in this case plants.”
Experience informing art
As with any artist, Dean’s experience has informed her art. A large part of her life has been her career as an English teacher.
“I see a connection between language and visual art,” she admits. “Both are communication. Language can be used for good or ill; and the choice of words, and the way something is expressed, has a direct impact on the person being communicated with.”
“Tone, pace, pronunciation all go together with that. My paintings and drawings are in the same area — communication. In my work, I am seeking to create a warm, happy response. Both language and art explore and express emotions.”
A serendipitous moment for Dean was when she returned from the United Arab Emirates in 2010 to live in Geelong. “Soon after I arrived I went to a Plant Sale in the Botanical Gardens,” explains Dean.
“It was a great place to engage in gardening again and to meet good people. I attend Growers on Wednesday mornings, which has given me a fabulous experience to extend my gardening knowledge and put me in touch with a wonderful group of people.”
“I am now a Guide and continue to research and learn to share my knowledge with visitors. The botanical art classes there have been great.”
Dean does not consider herself a botanical artist, but continues to explore and work with this subject as it gives her immense pleasure.
“I think there is a link between where I live and my art, in the sense that I am surrounded by a comparatively lush environment,” explains Dean. “When I lived in the United Arab Emirates I drew and painted mountains.”
“I hope that people visiting the exhibition will take away a sense of happiness. I love colour. I love to wear colour and to see colour.”
“Colour can lift or depress a mood — think of a rainy day in Melbourne with everyone in black or brown! My winter coat is red! The works I have created for this exhibition are decorative, colourful, and I hope they will bring a lot of joy.”
The Gilded exhibition is at Miloko, 372 Mt Dandenong-Tourist Rd, Sassafras, from July 22 to August 31.
Story by Karen Tayleur, as published in the Winter 2017 edition of Yarra Valley & Ranges Country Life magazine. Buy a copy here.