Belynda Henry is one of the most celebrated Australian landscape artists now making a foray internationally. Embedded in the countryside, Belynda takes inspiration from the natural beauty of her surroundings when creating her works. During Belynda’s illustrious career she has compiled more than 30 exhibitions of her own, working with Australia's greatest gallerist's - however she says her most recent 'to paint is to love' is made up of her "most revealing paintings to date". X Files speaks to Belynda about her career journey, as she discusses her creative and personal style, and the importance art has played in her life.
Briefly describe your early years and what shaped you into adulthood?
My parents are both artists, so you could say I joined the family business. Their photo albums are full of me making clay sculptures and painting. I had a typical childhood in the country, complete with imaginary friends, so in that environment my imagination was free to roam and develop. Painting then became my journey and I always had a lucid vision for it. I have never been swayed by any other path.
Please unpack your education journey...
I have always had a curiosity in learning from the masters, all serious artists start there. Then a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Sydney College of the Arts followed. I guess though my real educational journey is embedded in life’s joys and disappointments and they of course are inexhaustible.
Do you think art was always your calling? When did you first start creating?
I clearly remember developing a fascination at the age of ten. After painting in a paddock one summer holiday with my father and a red suitcase of watercolour paints. I painted two landscape scenes, which I still have; the second important memory was flying for the first time, with my grandmother to Tasmania. It was my first experience of the landscape from above. That vision took hold of me and has never been able to subside.
Where do you gain inspiration from?
I am of course always open to the adventure of a new landscape, however living in the same hidden and isolated valley, Dooralong Valley, for over twenty years has obviously been a conduit for source material - I loath to fall into the well worn trap like many a landscape painter before me claiming that it is ‘the landscape inspires me’ that is loose change for any artist. I will say this though which may illustrate the point.
“The serpent, perhaps the most potent symbol since the birth of mythology, is also a metaphor for the landscape.
It slithers and curls around you . . and effects your psyche.
It entices, tempts and draws you in - all the while aware of its inherent danger. And what a powerful landscape we have here in Australia that is like like no other, evidenced by our precious indigenous culture and their fundamental connection to it.
Most artists have visited the landscape or embedded themselves for a while.I have been lucky enough to live and paint within it. I have always lived within it.
My landscape breathes and shakes with the wind - and is in constant regeneration or decay. The sounds of the birds - like sonar, bounce around my studio before they dissipate, keeping me on edge.
Beware though the serpent landscape - once it takes hold of your mind, it may just ingest you whole”.
Please explain your creative style. Do you have particular materials you work with?
Painting is usually automatic based on a mix of memory and new discoveries. The only paint I use straight from the tube is white, everything else is mixed and created into unique tones and shades. I like to have as many colours out as physically possible. I love the palette knife - it is a physical experience attacking the canvas with it.
Also to counter my painting process, I love the delicacy of watercolour work. I am a member of the prestigious Australian Watercolour Institute (membership is by invitation only.) I use the most exquisite French hot pressed watercolour paper. My style? Well I always welcome mistakes as it is a gateway to explore and discover new techniques.
How do you measure the success of your art?
I think it was that great Greek Socrates who said - ‘To move others you must first move yourself’. So if I refer back to a work and see new things in it, it is a measure that it has captivated me, and therefore in my mind a successful piece. I never remember the sale or the monetary reward, just the work and the people that responded to it.
How do you balance creativity & commerciality within your creations. Does this influence your practice & design decisions?
I am lucky to have a small team of professional people around me to help with decisions so I am left to my own devices.
As for balance? I think it just may be one of life’s great myths - do we ever achieve balance anywhere?
Do you have a favourite piece of your own art?
I do have favourite works and some I don’t sell - they are strategically placed with loved ones.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career to date?
Other than being a multiple Wynne and Archibald prize finalist I must say my recent sell out show in New York was a thrill. One of the world’s great style arbiters and a design hero of mine, Christian Louboutin purchased half of my show within the first week. Art brings special people into your life. Without it, I would not have met some of my closest friends. For that I am grateful. Mostly though the luxury of being able to raise two beautiful daughters whilst painting and working from our compound is a great reward in itself.
Belynda working in her home studio.
How do you find balance between your work & personal/family time?
I was lucky enough to have the girls in my studio whenever they wanted over the years. I hope that is a wonderful memory for them in the future. Of course they are my priority. I hope I gave them as much time as they needed and in return they saw that I do work hard and independently and could only hope that they respect that. Having the studio on the same property makes it much easier as I’m only a tiny bicycle ride away on the 20 acres.
What are you favourite Parlour X brands?
Oh gosh, how can you choose a few! Chloe, Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant, Paco Rabanne et all . However the experience of Parlour X is always a thrill as well, the beautiful free standing stone converted church is a real jewel in the crown and one of Sydney’s great shopping luxuries. It is a great respite where one can go and dream in among all the most exquisite pieces hand selected from around the world. I've been told on numerous occasions that I may not represent the typical landscape painter and perhaps shouldn’t wear a particular style of dress or high heels and that makes me laugh, talk about a triple standard - it also makes me want to go out and get higher heels . . . . and I usually do, unapologetically.
Belynda wears Y/Project Convertible Argyle Print Dress, Jil Sander Cage Sandal, Bottega Veneta Woven Leather Pouch, Paco Rabanne Eight Large Stud Earrings and Chain Link Chunky Bracelet from Parlour X.
What is next for you Belynda?
LA, New York, Paris, London and hopefully the National Gallery of Australia.