Inside the Studio

Jennifer Gabbay

Favorite material to work with?
Oil paints used against acrylics on MDF board respond well to the smoothness of a surface which I am seeking to achieve.

What themes do you pursue?
I pursue subjects from my worldwide travels and many years of living abroad: life experiences, the rich variety of cultures, nature – and aim to bring movement into the figurative and natural spaces. Process is very important to me. Colour is a natural instinct and primary in my painting; it is that which always surrounds me and I try to imbue this into my art together with the fragmentation and distortion of subjects which come from within my life experiences.

How many years as an artist?
I have been painting since I was about 15 years of age, therefore for most of my life. Art was a hobby first and then during  years of living in New York I shared an artist’s studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and painted nights and weekends when I wasn’t at my day job. I also had the opportunity to have a few small exhibitions in New York. That was the start of what was to become my dream and passion. After returning to Australia, I began to fulfil that lifelong dream and undertook formal studies in art and eventually obtained a Diploma in Fine Art.

Where is your studio?
My studio is situated next to my house in a Blue Mountains village surrounded by bushland in an acclaimed world heritage site west of Sydney.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
That I am unique and must believe in myself…and that my work is not about what things look like but about what they do…it’s not the look but it’s the function.

Art school or self-taught?
As a teenager I first attended Saturday morning art classes with a local grandmother-teacher around her dining room table. In 2006, I started attending art school at age 58.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Contemporary music like Antony and the Johnsons, Australian Indigenous musician Gurrumul Yunupingu, Serge Gainsbourg, Van Morrison, and lots of other music from the 70’s and 80’s. Also public broadcasting radio programs with interviews and interesting arts programs and current affairs.

What’s around the corner from your place?
The Australian bushland and a creek leading down and around to the spectacular Wentworth Falls and lookouts.

Where can we find you outside the studio?
Gardening. I find that I often work in spurts, wandering down into the garden doing this or that – or going for a walk to the village 2km away for coffee and catching up on magazines and newspapers.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I’m not good at doing anything else nor would I want to at this stage of my life. I just want to enjoy being an artist for the rest of my life.

What do you collect?
I love old books and postcards – memorabilia. I’m a very nostalgic person – I love anything old.

I recently bought a small and very old tattered papier-mache doll which looks so dishevelled, but with real hair. She sits on a shelf in my bookcase and I take her down and admire her from time to time. I love flea markets, and when I lived in New York City, I was a frequenter of all the big flea markets regularly.

Favorite contemporary artist?
Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Pierre Bonnard.  Each of these artists has had an influence on my work.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Anything by Milton Avery.

Who are your favorite writers?
French writers Balzac and Zola.

Use anything other than paint?
No, not really. I do like to work with soft pastels on fine smooth paper. I particularly love Schmincke Pastels for their beautiful texture and enormous palette of colours, however I have experimented with various different materials but always come back to my old favorite – oil paints

Is painting dead?
Never. Painting will always remain an art form – among the many different disciplines available now and in the future…it will never die!

Favorite brush?
When I first started painting, the works were bold and abstract and the bigger the brush the better for me.  Now I paint with 0 or 000 size brushes for the finer details I attempt to achieve in my work.

Monet or Manet?
Perhaps a little of both.