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4 Our artists

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Communicating essence, empathy and engagement

J

ENNY Merkus migrated to Australia with her family at 19 after living in Singapore, India, Holland and England. Both her sisters live in Europe and all three have a strong love of diverse art, developed through their travels, and parents who inspired them with visits to galleries and passionately educating them about art and the expression of culture. Jenny told her story to Donna Kelly. "I completed a degree in social studies and worked in various roles in counselling, social planning, community development and human services management. My last position was at the City of Moreland as the director of Social Development. In this position I had the wonderful opportunity to influence arts in the city and to provide opportunities for the celebration and exhibition of arts in the community and I had some shocking and weird requests from artists. One was to show a very diabolical caricature of a high-profile politician and the other was to exhibit a pickled intimate body part as part of an installation. There are many other stories I could tell. When I moved to the Goldfields area in 2010 I started making art and applying my skills in organising arts events through the Maldon Artists Network. I have been particularly lucky in finding generous, encouraging teachers and mentors who are part of my network. I have so much to thank them for. I am a painter and drawer. I mainly work in oils as I love the creaminess and flexibility of the medium, but I also work in other mediums including pastels, acrylics, water colours, charcoal, ink and pencil. I use mixed media to communicate. My body of work is varied including portraits, landscapes, still life, and life drawing and painting. I hope that my work communicates essence, empathy and a sense of deep engagement through subject, form composition and colour. I approach my work with passion, which I want to communicate to the viewer. I started exhibiting my work locally in 2014 when I entered the first Maldon Portrait Prize with a portrait of Tricia Migdoll, which was the winner of the first prize. Positive comments about my portrait gave me the confidence to continue showing. In 2015 I was thrilled to win an award for a pastel landscape and in 2016 I won the overall prize for my portrait of Nancy Whittaker, a Maldon identity and a fantastic person to engage with in the process of painting. She is active in the arts, including film and the visual arts and is involved in community radio. Her background is in arts education as a senior bureaucrat.

Encouraged by feedback and the above awards I have continued to exhibit in several group exhibitions, including the Art Walk and Maldon In Winter exhibitions, the summer and winter exhibitions in the Castlemaine Market building’s Drawing the Line exhibition, two Bodyline exhibitions of figurative art during the Castlemaine State Festival and a group exhibition at the Newstead Arts Hub. I have sold several pieces of work and I plan to continue exhibiting in the local area. I also plan to develop an online profile. The Maldon and Central Goldfields Portrait Prize will be held in Maldon at the Community Centre from March 10 to 18. I am thrilled to be one of the artists exhibiting portraits of local identities who live in the area. The quality of the work in the last two exhibitions was exceptional and this one promises to be the same. Artist and portraitist Peter Wegner will be the judge for the prize."

Above, Artist Jenny Merkus, left, with Maldon identity Nancy Whittaker Image: Contributed

The Local Issue 117 February 12, 2018  
The Local Issue 117 February 12, 2018