Artist in Residence – Eye for the land

Sue Anderson with one of her coastal landscapes, on display at Queenscliff. Picture: Justin Flynn

Words: Justin Flynn

From Lake Mungo to Urquhart Bluff, Sue Anderson takes a unique perspective on the Australian landscape. JUSTIN FLYNN discovers the landscape and lifetime inspirations behind her art.

With a family full of artists, it’s no surprise that Sue Anderson travelled down the same path.

The Geelong born, Drumcondra raised artist was surrounded by art.

“I grew up in a family where both sides had an artist. I saw a lot of artwork at my grandmother’s house in Geelong,” Sue explains.

“My uncle on my father’s side was an artist and an art teacher and then on my mother’s side she had a sister who’s a painter and she’d paint at the kitchen table and was working the farm as well.

“And then when I was at secondary school I had a teacher who introduced me to van Gogh when I was 16 and that’s when I had that thunderbolt moment and thought that’s what I want to do, I want to paint.”

Sitting upstairs at Queenscliff’s Salt Gallery during its Terrain exhibition on a warm late autumn day, Sue is quick to identify the inspiration behind her art.

“Over the years I’ve become more and more interested in Australian landscapes – New South Wales’ Coburg Peninsula, Darwin, Mildura … Lake Mungo is a special place.

“There’s so much diversity in the landscape and so many different areas that are challenging to paint from coastal areas, to mountains and deserts.

“I’ve seen the encroachment of suburban development cover the land. A lot of it has disappeared.

“Because I grew up in Geelong, all of the western plains, the You Yangs and coastal areas are really important to me. That’s where my roots are and I respond to that landscape.”

Represented by Australian Galleries in Melbourne and Sydney, Sue has been exhibiting with them for 27 years. Her works has featured in group exhibitions at Salt Contemporary Gallery over the last eight years.

Sue walked to school at North Geelong Primary, then attended North Geelong High.

Her father worked at Ford but his transfer to the Philippines meant she was uprooted at age 14 and taken to a whole new world.

She loved the entire experience.

“That just changed my whole mind around, seeing another culture and another world,” Sue remembers.

“Seeing another way of living, it was totally different to what I knew and I loved it.

“There was a lot of fantastic art and craft there and amazing processions and decorations, people would dress up.”

Sue eventually returned to her hometown before finishing school at Geelong Grammar.

Growing up in Drumcondra surrounded by family, Sue says there were was never a dull moment.

“My grandparents lived in the next street, so I had a lot of family around me growing up in Geelong.

“My early memories were that we lived near the beach so we went to the beach a lot as kids.

“My father loved the water and would take us down the coast to Torquay swimming and camping trips and 30 years of family summer holidays at Indented Head where we sailed and fished.”

A passionate environmentalist, Sue says she tries to inspire people to look after their surroundings.

“Our natural environment is precious,” she says.

“I want people to appreciate how unique, especially Australian landscape environment is, especially our birds and our plants.

“I try to capture moments when you see something that’s amazing, like a flock of birds flying or a beautiful sky.

“That’s what I’m trying to do, but in my own way because people look at things in different ways. A lot of my paintings have different perspectives, looking above, sideways, upside down and trying to get that feel.

“Not necessarily what it looks like, but what it feels like and how it speaks to you and evokes memories.”

Sue spends most of her spare time sailing, swimming, walking, listening to music, playing the ukulele in a small band and reading.

“My husband surfs and sails so we are out on the water or at the beach every weekend,” she says.

Ocean Grove, Point Impossible and Urquhart Bluff are favourite spots. They’re also set to inspire another rush of creativity

“I’d love to do a whole series of all the beaches and coastlines because they are all very unique,” Sue says.

“There’s a lot of inspiration for me around here.

“I love the western plains and I love the flat grasslands and I love the coast.

“Those places are familiar to me but as you get older they seem more precious.”

How people interpret Sue’s art is up to them but she prefers an immediate response.

“I want people to respond to my art straight away and not intellectualise about it too much,” she explains.

“Not everyone agrees on what they think is a good thing but what I am trying to do is find my own language and my own voice about what interests and inspires me.

“Now I just want to spend the time developing my landscape painting and I’m also learning a lot more about ceramics.”

When she’s not working on her own paintings, Sue loves teaching art to children and teaches at numerous local schools.

“I love seeing what kids come up with because they are so spontaneous and it comes from their gut instinct,” she says.