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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Montsalvat Exhibiton

The Yarra Story
Drawing from the Birrarung

The complete works on
canvas and paper from the Yarra Series 2006-2009,
the fifth and largest exhibition in a series following the Yarra River by

Katie Roberts

7 Hillcrest Ave. Eltham, Victoria, Australia
Opening: Sun 20 Dec 3-5pm
Dec 20 – Jan 31, 2010
Hours: 9-5 everyday (except public holidays)

Your are invited to come follow the river...

This exhibition ‘The Yarra Story – Drawing from the Birrarung’ will reveal the complete body of paintings and drawings by Katie Roberts, capturing a new view on our ancient history and environment. She has been following the Yarra River, making art on its banks for nearly four years - she has now traced almost the whole river from its source to the bay. The Yarra Story presents a unique perspective on this land, one that includes many ways we relate to our environment and ultimately conveys a deep sense of the spirit of this place.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Artist on the River


Artist Katie Roberts by the Yarra River at Warburton.
Photo by Emma Belyea 2009

If you see an artist down by the river, with a canvas or a big roll of paper, it might just be Katie Roberts. She has been mapping its course, making art along the Yarra River, or Birrarung to use its traditional name, for nearly four years now.

Katie Roberts has lived in Melbourne near the Yarra River for over 25 years. She has always been aware of the river's presence snaking its way slowing and silently through Melbourne.

Deciding to be an artist at age four, while living in England, Katie Roberts has been dedicated to that dream ever since. She studied Painting and Drawing at RMIT University, receiving Honours in 2000. Following this, she when on to start a community art gallery in Northcote in 2001. Now 36, Katie Roberts works from her studio at home and sometimes on the banks on the river itself.

Kate Roberts in her home studio 2008.
Photo by Emma Belyea 2008

Katie felt compelled to return to physical mediums of ink and oils and the pleasure of 'making a mess' with materials, after completing her Masters of Fine Art in 2006, which focused on projection installations and light as a medium. After walking along the river one morning the idea of the Yarra Series emerged, a theme she felt had important personal and community resonance. "Over the last few years there has been a great awareness and appreciation of the river and its place at the heart of Melbourne."

A major exhibition at Montsalvat will show the whole body of work. It will open on Sunday 20th December 3-5pm and will continue through January 2010.

Katie Roberts at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre in Warburton
Photo by Emma Belyea 2009

Katie Roberts’ drawings and works on paper were at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre in Warburton in an exhibition entitled The Yarra Story –Drawing from the Birrarung through October. This show was part of a series of exhibitions on this subject, planned for venues along
the river. This chapter of the exhibitions showed the works on paper from the series.

These ink, pastel and pencil pieces explore the river and its layered history, as it winds its way through Melbourne’s urban and natural surrounds. “The Yarra holds a special place in the heart of Melbourne. Even if most people are not unconscious of it all the time, it is central to our lives, and our history” Katie says.

Katie Roberts has developed distinctive map like technique, for works on paper, that evoke the subtleties of satellite images and old documents. They raise ideas about the way maps, deeds and other documents have been imposed on one culture by another. The catchment of the Yarra River, which includes most of the area around Melbourne, is the traditional land of the Wurundjeri People, part of the Kulin Nation. Indigenous people are custodians of the land, a concept which challenges Western ideas of land ownership.

Katie Roberts Division 2006
Ink, pastel, collage mixed media on paper.

The artist is responding to both the history and the contemporary context, her works include modern and historical references, text and images. A juxtaposition that reflects her own sense of the layers of stories, buildings and ghosts of the past. One she is very aware of after years of research , reflection and 'listening' to the landscape.

“I like to work out in the environment, so I can incorporate a deep sense of place into the piece” says Katie Roberts.

By walking along the Birrarung and working within our environment Katie seems to have a real and deep feeling for this land, one that resonates strongly within these highly original works.

(Please contact me if you wish to publish any of this article)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Joy and Exhaustion!

Its two days since my exhibition opening on Sunday. It was a wonderful gathering, in a magical location, on a magnificent day. I was sleep deprived but happy, all my misgivings of the day before vanished when I walked in with my family and thought, this looks pretty good! I had thought it was all terrible only the day before. Its amazing what a difference a bit of distance can make.

I met some fabulous locals who were very passionate about the river, some of my dearest friends and most special people managed to get there and the staff at there were fantastic. There were even a couple of very special guests, including ....Olive the baby possum!

My dear friend is a Foster Mum for stranded wild life, she was due for a feed at 1pm - so she came along.

I also managed to enjoy the lead up to it and the opening too, even thought was an incredible amount of work to do, (I must confess and I did stress a bit). The River Mantra of go with the flow really did seem to help...

So, thats one exhibition done. Now to get to work on the next one(after the last two days of recovery).

I am already feeling inspired and ready to tackle the next exhibition. I have started on another large drawing tonight that I feel it may underpin the whole show. A document of the whole Yarra River on a 3mt roll of paper...she is half unrolled in the studio now waiting for me. I feel a new discipline coming on...and the inspiration and motivation too. Excellent tonic for exhaustion too!

I have been laid up recovering the last two days since the exhibition, but I am feeling better now and ready to get back into the studio.

Here are some pictures, more to come later....

Detail : Beneath History Katie Roberts 2009

Warburton was wonderful, it really is a special place to me, and it seems a lot of other people too. So here are some photos of the river as it runs through the town, behind th shops and gallery.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting Close....

It's exciting!

I am experiencing that exciting and frightening feeling that most artists go through between 3-1 weeks before an exhibition. I am there now. It is less then two weeks to my opening in Warburton and there is, of course, heaps to do. But, this exhibition is deliberately low key and relatively simple, in the lead up to the Montsalvat exhibition at the end of the year. I'm trying not to stress too much and get these things done with ease - the philosophy of things happen when they're meant to happen, is keeping me there most of the time. The invitations are being printed now, they were delayed, which meant I got to tweak my design and learn to accept the natural pace of things, rather then pushing them. I think its called 'going with the flow'.

Which is a very good metaphor really, given the river theme of the exhibition and all.

So now just to finalising drawings, mounting and framing, catalogues, cards and artist statement.... As well as distributing invites, posters, media, catering, transporting, curating, installing, and then opening! Hopefully all while enjoying the experience along the way, and not feeling too overwhelmed by it all. Go with the flow, go with the flow.

Here's your invitation...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Upper Yarra Update

Over the last few weeks I have been working away steadily on art work for both shows this year. In four weeks I open the exhibition at Warburton at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre. This is the first show in the second group of exhibitions on this theme. We will be starting as close to the source of the Yarra River as possible (within a conventional exhibition space that is!) This show will be mostly works on paper; the drawing show of this group of three. I am currently working on a major multi-piece work that will take up most of the length of one wall. It will map the whole river from the Upper Yarra Damn and catchment area (where Melbourne gets it's beautiful water), all the way to the bay. These works on paper are from the whole series so far and will include some selected works from previous exhibitions as well as many more recent explorations.

As this is a works on paper show I will again be playing with the format, curating and presentation to allow the quality of the paper to be a major feature of the exhibition. The paper's surface, texture and tone will not be overwhelmed by heavy mediums, but will be complimented with subtle lines and shades and marks of graphite. I envision the work will appear to float in the space - like some ghost of forgotten places, reminding us of the temporal nature of all things, especially the human made.

The location is stunning, the 'studio' space at the rear of the arts centre has a huge glass face opening onto a deck and the clear young Yarra River babbles just beyond. The Yarra here is in a beautiful place and I hope be able to work with it's qualities and create a serene exhibition.

Opening 1-3pm Sunday 18th October 2009 at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre, Warburton.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Over the last while I have been working on the Upper Yarra 'chapter' of my investigation into the Yarra's environments. This part of the series is of mostly blue paintings, depicting the mountains surrounding Melbourne. At the moment my work is around the view from Yering Station, the historic winery. It is an awe inspiring visa of the mountain ranges to the north east of Melbourne including Kinglake, Healesville, Marysville and the surrounding shoulders of mountains. I have begun a large painting of what I think of as the wings of the ranges, rising up either side of a valley that hangs in the clouds. Celebrating the rain that the mountains draw from the sky, that is the source of all life here and the river. Long may it rain!

Here's a hint, but I look forward to sharing these with you later...

Meanwhile, I will continue to post more images from the earlier, more urban part of my journey. Here is a catalogue of the previous exhibitions I have had on this theme since 2006.


The Yarra Drawings
- August 24 - September 9, 2006

Firstly in 2006 was the exhibition The Yarra Drawings, mostly works on paper - that showed works about the Yarra around where I have lived since childhood - the nearly inner city areas of Northeast Melbourne, from Dight's Falls in Abbotsford to the Horsehead Bend in Ivanhoe.

Layered History (Detail) 2006
Ink and pencil on paper 75 x56cm

The Yarra Journey - March 20th - 31, 2007

This was the second exhibition in the series and documented the river from the city of Melbourne to the Yarra Flats at Heidelberg, radiating out from the previous show. This included the Land Memory works that depict the city, industrial and historic areas. These large mixed media works on canvas, I consider to be in between drawings and paintings.

The Yarra Journey 2007

Remembering the River - November 3 - 24, 2008

Thirdly, was the exhibition entitled Remembering the River, which included works depicting the river from its destination at Port Phillip Bay and to the bushland of Warrandyte, in the hills near Melbourne. (covering an area half an hours drive in either direction from where I started). The river is 250kms or so long, so I still had a bit of ground to cover. This exhibition showed works on both canvas and paper and contained some darker motifs, arising from an emotional response to the damage caused to our environment, and therefore ourselves, over the last century or so.

The first Yarra Dinner Party was also held in the gallery itself, surrounded by the artwork a tradition I hope to continue into the future. Below is a photo of the space after the feast.

Remembering thee River 2008


Works from the first exhibition The Yarra Drawings below:

Katie Roberts Yarra Dreams. 2004-6
Mixed Media on canvas tryptic approx. 4mtx2mt

Katie Roberts Yarra Falls. 2006
Pencil, ink, mixed media on Canvas Board, approx. 30x10cm

Please note that I have added an embedded watermark to protect these images.
If you wish to use them or any of this blog's content please contact me for permission.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

An interesting night

I had a wonderful time at the Nillumbik prize opening, nice to see my work at Montsalvat where I met lots of interesting artists, drank lovely wine, enjoyed the art, had a beautiful dinner, but didn't win the prize. Oh well, I was pleased just to be in it and as the judge John Wolseley said himself, "All judges are idiots!" Only joking, this judge was a bright spark actually. I felt the merging of many periods in my life and a great sense of achievement to be included in this event.

I spent the evening chatting with lots of people, re-finding my Life Drawing teacher from NMIT the fabulous Annita Furey, who was great to see again. Among other familiar faces was Jole di Florio who I studied drawing with at RMIT, Kaya Storm, Hillary Jackman and Matcham Skipper of course, (resident jeweler of Monntsalvat). John Wolseley and Morag Fraser AO (Chair of the Montsalvat Board), gave dynamic speeches which were very real and passionate. To quote John Wolseley's very humorous speech again "Don't you hate people who name drop?"

I enjoyed being part of this lively art crowd for the night and felt like an honorary member of the community just being included in the show.

Interestingly, the piece that won was the only video work Wet Feet Under the Pier by Dena Ashbolt. It seemed quite a controversial choice and I get the feeling it stirred things up for some of the artists there. Having a background in video projection (my Masters was on Light as a Medium), I could appreciate the themes in this work, yet I was surprised by the decision. Many people seemed mystified by a video work in amongst so many more traditional mediums.

I had an interesting conversation with Artistic Manager Simone deHaan about the gap between the more regional and the inner city art communities, and the need for more dialog between the two. Imagine the benefit of more exchange between those interested in traditional forms of art and local culture, and those interested in new mediums and broader contemporary practice. Of course, there is obviously a mix between artists with these interests, but there also seems to be a lack of understanding and some sort of cultural divide between artists working in different ways that I feel could be addressed. After all, artists and should feel free to draw on a wide range traditions and mediums and engage in new or old ways of making art. As artists and viewers don't we gain more by remaining open to different forms then by dismissing them?

It was clear that John Wolseley's choice intentionally supported the art practice in a relatively new medium and stimulated a lot of discussions that night which are probably still continuing...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nillumbik Prize

Tonight opens the Nillumbik Prize exhibition at Montsalvat, my piece Land Memory - Melbourne is included. (see previous post). It is very exciting and a little nerve racking as much of the other work is of quite a high quality. It will be good regardless of whether I win or not.

Nillumbik Prize Exhibition 2009
Montsalvat Barn Gallery

There are works in the show by Dale Cox and Marco Luccio and it is interesting and encouraging to see I am not the only one exploring the theme of the Australian landscape in a contemporary way. I have spent some time in the last few days in the mountains and plains between the Upper Yarra Damn and Yering, observing the landscape, drawing and organising exhibitions. I have been working on a large painting of the mountain ranges and see myself entering a blue phase of working with all the beautiful colours of the landscape here. I am hoping to exhibit next year at Yering Station - the oldest winery in Victoria, where I just submitted an application yesterday and confirmed my first show in this batch of exhibitions to be held at The Upper Yarra Arts Centre in October this year.

Its a hard job being an artist and doing my own marketing, promotion, administration and seeking funding and sponsorship - all while trying to make my art. I'd better get back to it, meanwhile if anyone wants to help or knows any potential sponsors let me know...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Towards the source

Today I am intending to travel up the Yarra River, towards the source, making artwork along the way. I use my car as a mobile studio, so my dog and I will be taking my rusty blue station wagon off for an outing. I have dear friends who live just below the Upper Yarra Damn and I aim to get up there today or tomorrow. The upper reaches of the Yarra are the focus for me at the moment. I started work out there a few weeks ago, discovering Yering Station and the amazing view of the mountains from there. So, my aim at the moment is to get to know the area from Yarra Glen to Warburton. Around Yarra Glen the Yarra wends its way around the base of majestic mountain ranges including Kingake and Healesville areas, that surround the flatter land consisting of farms and wineries. This area has some of the poorest water quality of the whole river system as it has been farmland since the 1840's. I am slowly putting together all the parts of the river into my consciousness and look forward to a sweeping understanding of the whole length of our amazing life bringing friend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dreaming reality

Later today I will deliver my work Land Memory - Melbourne to the artist colony Montsalvat, where will be included in the Nillumbik Prize and exhibition. I am delighted to have my work selected for this. The prize is to be judged by one of my favorite Australian artists John Wolseley. The exhibition will remain on display till the end of August. It is a wonderful opportunity and a great precursor to my solo exhibition there in the Barn Gallery later this year. This piece Land Memory - Melbourne is one of the key paintings I produced for my exhibition The Yarra Journey in 2007. I am pleased that this key work of the series will be on display again leading up to the next suite of shows, The Yarra Story - Drawing the Birrarung at Montsalvat in December 2009.

Katie Roberts Land Memory – Melbourne Copyright 2006 –2007
Dimensions 120cm x 100cm Mixed media : oil paint, acrylic, ink, pastel, pencil on canvas

Land Memory depicts the Yarra River winding through the heart of Wurundjeri land – Melbourne City. The grid of the city streets is overlayed on an abstract field of ochre, from which emerge various views of Melbourne. The skyline is drawn from a traditional Western perspective and hovers, ghost-like above the land. The human landscape appears as ephemeral or as scars upon the land. Other elements inhabit the layers of the painting including words, dead branches, bar codes, the binary system and the human anatomy. This piece examines the relationship between the human and the natural worlds, and re-maps our city for the 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The journey begins

In 2006 I really started this series about the Yarra River, which winds its way through the inner city suburbs around where I live in Melbourne. I had just finished my Masters of Fine Art, in which I had focused on projection installations and light as a medium. After such a project, I wanted to connect again with tangible mediums and explore themes that are deeply relevant to myself and the wider community.

Katie Roberts Birrarung Dreams (Detail) Copyright 2006
Dimensions: 50 x 31cm Ink, pencil and pastel on 100% cotton watercolour paper.

I was drawn back to my feeling for the Australian land, its unique character and ancient energy. I began wandering along the banks of the Yarra River after taking my son to school everyday. Here the river is wide and brown, and slides between cliffs of ancient sea bed on one side, and the flatter lava flow turned to bluestone that most of Melbourne is built on. In the inner city suburbs of Collingwood, Abbotsford and Clifton Hill I discovered some beautiful places and contrasting scenery of industry, nature and historic buildings. These places are close to the city, yet they retain some beautiful bushland and I felt a deep sense of the land and its layered history. It was at once invigorating on physical, soul and artistic levels. I started making art and taking photos on these walks as well as contemplating the land and its history, gaining what I feel is a deeper sense of the spirit of the place.

Katie Roberts Abbotsford Convent Copyright 2006
Graphite of canvas board.

Below is the key piece from the first show of the series The Yarra Drawings 2006. It is a small work on paper and depicts an areal view of the area including the suburbs of Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Fairfield to the Horsehead Bend at Ivanhoe. Layered into the work are various elements including a geological diagram of the landforms, details of the sales of the land when the area was first carved up for subdivisions and a map of streets and the modern landscape which is literally cut into the surface of the paper. In the top left hand corner the moon is seen rising over Dight's Falls. Through the combination of all these elements Birrarung Dreams incorporates various cultural perspectives and times into the one contemporary view of the landscape, revealing the scars of its history.

Katie Roberts Birrarung Dreams Copyright 2006
Dimensions: 50 x 31cm Ink, pencil and pastel on 100% cotton watercolour paper.

Welcome to the Journey

Welcome to Katie Robert's artistic journey along the Yarra River, the major natural feature in the landscape and life of Melbourne, Australia.

Since 2006 I have been following the Yarra River making artwork about her, as she snakes her way through the bushland, city and urban environment of Melbourne. I have created a body of work that incorporates the history of the landscape and how it has changed in less then two hundred years of colonisation. These pieces attempt to address the issues of environment, reconciliation and the connection between place, spirituality and our identity.

This blog will trace the journey of this body of paintings and works on paper, and document a series of exhibitions and other events that celebrate the Yarra River - or the Birrarung to use its Wurundjeri name.