Bringing colour to life: Barbara Trapnell exhibits at BDAS

LIFE'S WORK: A Celebration of Life in Colour will be on display at the Bowral Art Gallery from Friday, October 13 until October 22. Photo: Charli Shield.
LIFE'S WORK: A Celebration of Life in Colour will be on display at the Bowral Art Gallery from Friday, October 13 until October 22. Photo: Charli Shield.

Artist Barbara Trapnell has been painting life as she sees it in vivid colourscapes for the past 60 years. 

Her latest exhibition, ‘A Celebration of Life in Colour’ is, in essence, her life collection. 

It features almost 200 artworks produced over the past 40 years. 

An exploration of her love of colour and still life, the collection includes watercolours, acrylics, screenprints and pastel and gouache artworks.

“It’s part retrospective. There is almost 40 years work in this gallery,” Barbara said. 

The earliest artwork featured, a still life, is dated 1975 – the year Barbara and her husband Tony Trapnell moved to the Southern Highlands.

Barbara had visited the Highlands for an en plein air art tutorial in the early 1970s, and became enthralled by “the natural beauty and slower pace of country life”. 

Although she worked as a commercial illustrator in Sydney for a decade in the 1960s, which taught her “the importance of form and design”, Barbara said her approach to painting has always been organic and free.

“You have to come at painting with a free mind and not too much technicality. It’s better to be technically imperfect but to have your own style,” she said. 

Barbara cites Claude Monet as a powerful influence on her artistic attitudes, especially his maxim, “I do what I can to convey what I experience before nature and most often, in order to succeed in conveying what I feel, I totally forget the most elementary rules of painting, if they exist that is.”

“It is one of my favourite quotes from Claude Monet. That is my motto. I think it is just wonderful,” she said.

It was in the early 1970s that Barbara, disillusioned and craving artistic freedom, abandoned her career in commercial art and went on to explore “more radical techniques” in classes at artist John Ogburn’s studio in The Rocks. 

“That was an inspiration for me,” she said. “It’s where I saw what painting could really be.”

But some of Barbara’s techniques have stayed the same since her illustrator days, like her tendency to work from photographs and her vibrant colour palette. 

“I think I have always painted much the same. I love colour.”

And although she has not picked up her tools in a year, Barbara is adamant she will paint again.

“I can gradually feel the inspiration creeping back,” she said.

A Celebration of Life in Colour will be on display at the Bowral Art Gallery from Friday, October 13 until Sunday, October 22, officially opening at 2pm on Saturday, October 14.