Local artist Helga Visser is inspired by many things – particularly landscapes, nature, and birdlife. Helga’s beautiful work is currently on display in the Bean Bar Café in Taree, where it will brighten the walls until November 27 …
Hi Helga. It’s been quite a while since we last spoke. What’s been happening in your world?
I’ve been busy getting some new work together for the Bean Bar exhibition and working on updating my website. Just wishing my computer skills were better!
What are your current muses/inspirations that keep you busy with art?
Recently I was much inspired by the restoration work done in the Cattai Wetlands. It’s so good to see our natural environment restored to good health. I’ve also revisited Wingham Brush, which inspired me many years ago and keeps attracting me with its mysterious light and shade patterns.
Our birds, of course, are always inspiring – despite them leaving deposits everywhere – but that’s a small price to pay for the pleasure they give.
Sometimes the inspiration comes from an irritation – which was the case with my sculpture of that Trump person, titled The Emperor’s new Clothes, currently showing at the Manning Regional Art Gallery at the Manning Art Prize, Naked & Nude.
You’ll be holding an exhibition of your works at the Bean Bar Café in Taree until November 27. How many/what types of works will you have on display?
I’ve called it Favourite Things, for obvious reasons, as the subjects are nature – landscapes of this area and Central Australia and birds. Painted in oils and pastels and some work is done in pen and coloured pencils – I just recently rediscovered how interesting coloured pencils can be.
You’ve worked as a commercial artist, both here in Australia and overseas – although you’re now retired and able to devote more time to the types of art you love. How did your experiences working in Hong Kong, particularly, shape you as an artist?
Living in another culture for a long time certainly has a large influence on you. How that affects you artistically is hard to say. Hong Kong was a very busy, go-go sort of place, but one could always find some time for reflection in the beautiful countryside – much like here, nature is always an escape from the sometimes nonsensical aspects of our times.
You produced a children’s picture book, entitled The Bush Concert back in 2011. This book has been set to music by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra – and is still evolving. Please tell us about the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s current involvement with the project (and how that came about)?
I had to do a little digging to find out how it all came about.
Apparently, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra regularly stages a concert for school children that involves music, dancing, singing and art. They were looking for a new story and came across my book, The Bush Concert, and thought it fit the bill.
They commissioned Mark Ferguson to write the music for several musicians from the orchestra and his wife, Susan, was the presenter and singer for the gig in Adelaide in 2015/16.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has a similar programme for school children, so they brought the show over here, now scored for full orchestra. It will be shown in the Seymore Centre and the Sydney Opera House in early November.
I’m really chuffed to go down and take part and meet all the people involved in the project. So totally unexpected after all the trouble I had finding a publisher in the beginning. Sometimes you get lucky!
You’ve been awarded some significant art prizes over the years. What are a few you’re most proud of?
The best prizes are always the ones where the viewer/judge understands what you are trying to show. It happens occasionally, and that’s very satisfying.
What other creative ideas do you have bubbling away that you’d like to focus on next?
Hmmm, that’s a good question. Sometimes we go through a drought, but sooner or later it will rain again. Usually the best ideas are right under our noses. I’m always looking.
Meanwhile, I’m working on another book idea and again poking about in Wingham Brush.
Photo of Helga courtesy of Ashley Cleaver.