Ondine Seabrook grew up on a small hunk of land floating off Sydney’s Pittwater, where visits to the shops require a trip in the dinghy, and an annual dog swimming race remains one of the most exciting events of the island’s social calendar.
But there’s more to Scotland Island than just dinghies and dog races, and it comes mostly in the form of idyllic oceanside living. Growing up with quiet swimming coves out front and scraggly bushland out back, Ondine’s love of nature would eventually take root in her art practice and subject matter. Working with bold and playful palettes, Ondine’s work is an exploration of the natural world around her that relies more on the senses than paint-by-numbers pragmatism.
After a run of successful solo and group exhibitions, Ondine is bringing a new body of work, Private Guests Only, to the walls of China Heights Gallery in Sydney; a series that taps into a sense of nostalgia for tropical holidays of times past. How does Ondine tap into seaside vacation vibes all the way from her inner-city studio? With a quick dip at the beach, some pastel palettes, and a bit of Italo disco blasting on her paint-splattered JBL speakers. We dropped by the studio to watch Ondine work her magic.
How do you think growing up on Scotland Island affected who you are and what you create today?
It’s embedded a connection and comfortability with nature in me. Even toughened me up with the oyster cuts, exposure to funnel web spiders… Really just spending so much time in nature and the ocean at a young age is something I feel very grateful for and this inevitably has seeped into my work.
You have a solo show, Private Guests Only, coming up at China Heights Gallery in Sydney. Can you tell us a little more about what we can expect?
It’s a strange mixture of desert and island holidays, tied together with common private nostalgia for place and the way you look back on something.
What has to be going on in your studio space for you to be at your peak creatively?
It’s actually more about what I do outside of the studio which carries into it. I basically just need to be happy and in a good mood and to have had some sort of recent connection with nature to be inspired.
Your work shows a deep affinity with the natural world. Are you inspired by any other particular artists who explore similar subject matter?
Yes, I’ve always loved lots of landscape painters but I can’t say I’m directly inspired by any right now. I’ve always admired painters who capture the essence of the landscape rather than realistically depicting it.
What’s been blasting on your JBL speakers lately in the studio?
I’ve been listening to an NTS surf genre playlist called Fake Trip to Fake Hawaii a lot because it almost makes me feel like I’m on Lord Howe Island and really gets me in the headspace for these works.
You’re on a deadline. What’s on the speakers getting you to the finish line?
I’ve been listening to Italian disco recently to gee me up. Loredana Bertè’s ‘In alto mare’ is a good one.
Colour has such a strong presence in your work. What kind of colour palette are you digging at the moment, and how is it making you feel?
Colour always comes first for me and I love how directly it can make you feel something. I’m digging pastels again at the moment. They are making me feel sickly nostalgic and dreamy. I’m also digging popping colours over a dark background; this is making me feel a bit mysterious.
If money, time and space were no object, describe your dream studio space.
I would be able to jump out of my studio window into the ocean but would still be with the same dream team.
What’s next for Ondine Seabrook?
Just Private Guests Only at China Heights on the 23rd of April.