Meeting the grand old dame of painting in her home is exactly what a visit to Tweed Gallery offers you – there is a lot more as well but for me this was the standout of the day.
The Tweed Gallery is approximately 90 minutes from Brisbane pretty much straight down the Pacific motorway. The journey is easy if a little monotonous but as soon as you turn off the motorway and head towards the Gallery, the landscape changes to green pastures and rolling hills and in the distance the imposing shape of Mount Mitchell.
The Gallery has been in operation since 1988 but moved to its present location in 2004. Stage II of the building was opened by Margaret Olley herself in 2004 and after her death in 2011 the Margaret Olley Art Trust in collaboration with NSW and QLD went ahead to create the Margaret Olley Art Centre MOAC, which was officially opened in March of 2014.
Has it been a success? I think beyond its wildest dreams because not only is this a venue for fresh and innovative art, through the Nancy Fairfax residency programme that Tweed offers, but also it has become the home, once more to the grande dame of painting Margaret Olley.
A home I hear you say? Yes, in every possible last detail with the dust and the dirt that such a home would entail and the effort involved in recreating it all here in the midst of the Gallery with thousands upon thousands of pieces carefully transcribed moved and repositioned in their new setting.
The project was conceived some years ago and it was decided that the house in which Margaret Olley lived in in Duxdford Road in NSW would be moved, lock stock and every dried flower, to a purpose built area within the gallery. This massive and complex project was undertaken carefully and meticulously and completed to great public acclaim.
Since then it has become a key attraction to the Gallery. Not only is there a chance to see her paintings on the walls of the Gallery, you can also picture her in her yellow room, or throwing an elaborate dinner party for her friends, in a house which eked creativity, hoarding and colour.
She was born in 1923 and within a couple of years she moved to Tully with her family to a sugar farm. They moved back to NSW in 1931 and eventually she lived in Brisbane where she attended Somerville House as a boarder.T hat is where her talent for art was noted and encouraged. After an Arts Degree she spent time abroad, in Brisbane and then Paddington in NSW ending up in her house in Duxford St next to a Hat Factory where she spent the rest of her days until her death in 2011.
The centre and her home are full of engaging artefacts and memorabilia, signs of everyday life and of an artists palette with boards and paints on many surfaces. Her talent and her love of colour evident in the paintings that hang on the wall. There are also some illuminating tapes of Margaret talking about her life and her work.
If you visit the gallery you will always enjoy the eclectic exhibitions on show at the time, there are no less than six exhibition venues, and all will offer something new and exciting. The Gallery through its many programmes and sponsorships often hosts first exhibitions of aspiring artists so this is where you will see their work first.
Perhaps a lasting memory but also an enduring inspiration to all of them is the legacy of the lady with the large brimmed hat who was happy to fill her life with paintings of flowers and fruits that lay on every surface of her cluttered home.
Combine this with a lovely lunch on the terrace of the Gallery looking out at a stunning view of Mount Mitchell and you can see why a day out at Tweed is not that far from heavenly.