Posts Tagged ‘Shona Nunan’

An excerpt from Hugh Becker’s newsletter to friends. 

Hugh and his wife, Debs, took time from renovating their Sussex cottage to make the grand trek over to our village for the opening of the studios.

 Our arrival on the Riviera marked a distinct change of pace from the sleepy idyll of Correns, bordered by the crystal clear River Argens. Planning for our trip to this part of Provence began in February, when Aussie sculptors Shona Nunan and Michael Cartwright emailed an invitation to the opening of their new studios. We replied with alacrity and searched for accommodation the same day. Even so, the nearest bed yet to be booked was some seven kilometres away in the less engaging village of Cotignac. 

Over five stories of a once derelict village centre building, Shona and Michael have created a series of very special places within which to sculpt, paint and display their work. At the typically informal formal opening on Thursday evening, the jovial Mayor of Correns, (Michael Latz), made effusive reference to the added value that such rare injections of renovation, artistic activity and commerce can make to a small rural community. The cosmopolitan flavour was palpable – even more so than at their previous exhibition at Australia House in June 2018 – and the evening made memorable for the richness and diversity of exhibits as well as appreciative friends, clients and agents who filtered up and down the worn, stone stairs from floor to floor. 

Michael’s ‘Reflection‘ in the door of the ground floor

And then, the next evening, came the celebratory party. Parties come in all guises and sizes, but this one was close to perfection. The location was a partly ruined castle-cum-chateau set on a massive mound in the centre of the village. The pre-supper concert and post supper dancing took place in an open air space, no doubt once, while still roofed and furnished, the baronial hall. On Friday the traditional Provençale musicians played flute, drum and a curious hybrid stringed instrument whose parentage owed something to a guitar, cello and violin, being alternately strummed, plucked and caressed by a bow. The music, evocative of the medieval troubadour genre, was punctuated randomly by swifts, shrieking as they flew over our heads in tight formation, flirting with gargoyles and threading through frameless window voids. The overall effect was magical and, later, as Thursday became Friday and stars twinkled in the canopy above, the paved floor seemed to warm to the patter of gambolling feet – some more sprightly than others!

Here, in the heart of Correns, fortunate visitors to Shona and Michael’s studios will discover an effortless fusion, a compelling juxtaposition between the legacy of traditional artisans and cutting edge sculpting. The venerable stone in the vaulted cellars and whitewashed walls of the upper floors embrace a joyful explosion of creative talent, and our abiding memory is one of the ancient and modern in perfect harmony.

To visit the studios of Shona Nunan and Michael Francis Cartwright please make an appointment by writing to:

call +33 (0)7 87 99 22 37

Shona’s ‘Harvest‘ in the Cave (the basement level of the atelier)
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We are honoured to announce the family, Nunan-Cartwright, have been invited by the High Commissioner, The Honourable Alexander Downer, to exhibit our sculptures at the Centenary celebrations of Australia House in London, 2018.

We are so proud to be showing our art in the iconic Australia House, with our two beautiful boys, both men now, and esteemed artists in their own right, Jacob and Sollai. Amazing to be showing as a family and to feel the history of ourselves and the language we have each built up in our art, emerging into this exhibition. Michael and I have been dedicated since we met in 1981 to our path as artists, always allowing our dreams to be our guiding light in our uncertain world. I guess the family lineage of artists on both sides has made it easier to ignore conventional boundaries and we have all pursued a path suited to our own creativity and joy of being.

Our pathways have led us overseas to many beautiful countries where we have been influenced by the ancient cultures and traditions that peek through modern living and also an abundant natural world that connects us to the earth we live on. Currently, Michael and I live between Italy, France and Australia, while Jacob lives in Tuscany, Italy and Sollai lives in Berlin, Germany. As recent Australians, we have somehow emerged artistically free, without attachment to the cultural mores of the civilizations our families left behind from Europe. The culture we had to observe in Australia was the one belonging to the original people and this we have been deeply influenced by, though it is not our own. The source of this culture, its earthiness and honouring of earth, water and sky, has given each of us our strength in our own work, referring always to it and adding to it the significant archetypal meanings of life discovered throughout the world in all the great ancient civilizations.

Thus, with our connection to Australia deeply held in our work, the themes of our sculptures for this exhibition at Australia House honour the elements of earth, sky and water, the essence of our Journeys.

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Life is a cool thing. Its funny, not everything is meant to be known to you as you go about life’s lessons, maybe if they were, we would be too cerebral about learning, maybe you have to take things in through the osmosis of the emotions, the brain, the body, so that you really know and evolve fully.

The last year has been a truly great year for me in my studio. It has been a bit like a year off to totally indulge in myself as an artist. No exhibitions to look forward to, no projects (promises, but nothing on the table), just me everyday in my studio pushing my boundaries. This year Mike got the projects and at the beginning of the year, he gave me a hug and said, go for it Shona, this year is mine for projects, get into your studio and stretch yourself. So I did what I have never really done before, consciously sought the inspiration that spoke to me most. I dug out books and photos of Cycladic art, visited museums and allowed the work to directly affect me, working directly in the style of its art forms. The work is very simple and plain, oddly proportioned and broad open surfaces. I love these works because they are deeply spiritual and related to the deepest emotions of human beings, the desires for longevity, fertility, protection, abundance. Cycladic works in their utter simplicity, speak to the spirit of mankind through the essence of the art form, not distracted by the beauty of physical reality, not clever or cerebral, but rustic, always speaking to the unformed world of the soul. This work has always attracted me, but I did not know why, until I allowed myself the time to work in it. At first my whole attention was not to copy, but to be influenced by it so that I could reinvent the work. But you can’t do this work in an objective way. It is not form for form’s sake. You have to partake and my woman vessel forms, became not just beautiful forms, but forms that embody abundance, fertility, the cycle of life. They carry the true wisdom of life. And my sculptures are heavily reflective of the Cycladic works, not reinvented at all, because they didn’t need to be, it was more important for me to be true to the spirit in the works, invest them with the essence of life’s desires.

bronze sculpture by Shona Nunan

This period of my work has made me understand more fully, what I am searching for in art and it’s why I have also always been attracted to Etruscan art, and some African art. It’s seeking the essence and embodying it in form. I have always been able to see very well, and it is a distraction, as the human form is beautiful, and it constantly calls me back to itself, the unconscious regard for proportion and visual beauty always wanting to take over from the essence of the work. When you look at early Etruscan art, you get work that has complete disregard for proportion, sometimes a deliberate decision to make the body very long, the arms and legs very short and the head a square, even the surfaces are uneven and roughly hewn, but it is a devotional piece, so the work is not about human beauty but about human essence. The work can be really austere, but the work haunts you, disturbing you and attracting you. You need that in art because it is not satisfactory to be beautiful alone, or to play a clever mind trick with you, or tell you a story. You need the recognition of yourself as a spiritual being.

Throughout history there have been the great masters who bring their art alive and somehow embody the spirit, the physical and the mind into a whole. That, for me is the ultimate in art; to capture it all without rules, to maintain the freedom of the artist to create, but to give it all to us, so that we resonate with the whole truth.

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