Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Ross River in the MacDonnell Ranges was the inspiration behind local Armidale artist, Rita Winiger’s latest exhibition called New Surroundings is currently on display at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM). 

Rita was the winner of the 2018 Helen Dangar Memorial Art Bursary which facilitated her participation in the Larapinta Creative Camp, resulting in the body of work currently in her new exhibition. 

“At the Larapinta Creative Camp, guided by the renowned artist Deborah Clarke, I spent eight days creating artworks at Ross River in the MacDonnell Ranges, where I learnt new artistic techniques and connected with other artists,” said Rita. 

“At the camp, I experimented with several new painting and drawing techniques for the first time. Inspired by my surroundings, I created landscape drawings over the graphite rubbings of rocks and added new materials into my art practice, by using ochre, ink and salt in my works on paper. I particularly liked creating drawings with wax resisted crayons under gouache, ink or acrylic, a technic I had never used before, which adds additional texture to my drawings and brings the colours to life.” 

Rita, who moved from Switzerland in 1981 but has called Armidale home since 2006, said working “plein-air” for several days connected her with the Northern Territory surroundings and that she felt inspired by the desert landscape. 

“The MacDonnell Ranges run horizontally in powerful ridges against such a vast dry space,” she said.  

“There are stunning rock formations there, with their deep colours and the endless blue sky above them. For me, the ranges provide stability and hold the landscape together. I have tried to capture this atmosphere in my work.” 

Rita said winning the Helen Dangar Memorial Art Bursary – which was established by NERAM and its supporters in 2017 to help local artists advance in their chosen career path and established with funds donated by Bill Dangar, the Dangar family and their friends and colleagues – was a real confidence booster. 

“Winning the Helen Dangar Memorial Art Bursary has also allowed me to discover new techniques to expand my art practice as well as meet and learn from other respected artists,” said Rita. 

“I highly recommend applying for the Helen Dangar bursary, as the process of applying forces you to challenge and stretch yourself, as it makes you reflect on what you want to achieve as an artist and what you need to learn to accomplish that.  

“Not only has the bursary given me incredible experiences and helped me develop my practice, but the financial assistance also allowed me to enroll in a course that I would otherwise not normally consider.” 

Although this was the first time Rita painted the MacDonnell Ranges, she said the landscape had resonated with her for a long time. 

“It has been such a joy to experience the majestic and powerful spiritual landscape of the MacDonnell Ranges,” she said. 

“During 1985 and 1995, I travelled through the Australian outback over several months, travelling up from Port Augusta through central Australia, and then west through the Kimberley as far as Broome. 

“This is when I first encountered the MacDonnell Ranges. Even back then, I was captivated by the powerful contrast of the striking ranges and the vast flat desert, which I have tried to capture in my work for the New Surroundings exhibition at NERAM.” 

Rita said after her exhibition at NERAM she will start to work towards a solo exhibition in 2025 at the WESWAL Gallery in Tamworth, as well as shows at the Walcha Gallery of Art and the Orchard Gallery just outside of Sydney. 

For more information about the Helen Dangar Memorial Art Bursary, which will open in August 2024, visit the NERAM website.