Ondine Seabrook's Paintings Will Bring You Closer To Nature

by: Lucy Jones | 5 months ago | Features

Ondine Seabrook with her painting Enchanted Garden (2018). All images courtesy of the artist.

Cranky grey clouds descend on a field of flowers in one of Ondine Seabrook's works. In another painting, two bright yellow sunflowers are frozen mid-sway. These artworks capture the movements and moods of the natural world that we rarely stop to register, even though they effect us every day. 

Growing up in the northern, Northern Beaches with a name like Seabrook, the Sydney-based painter was bound to end up working in nature. Her latest series — Sharks and Roses — was inspired by everyday places in Sydney, including the Petersham pool where she picked up a toy shark one day. 

Painting landscapes and working in a health food store has made Seabrook more conscious of the way she consumes food and fashion. When it comes to clothes her philosophy is simple: buy less and buy better. We caught up with Seabrook to chat about the Sydney art community and feeling comfortable in the middle of nowhere.

A selection of works from Seabrook's Sharks and Roses show.

Lucy Jones: Who are you and what do you 'do'?
Ondine Seabrook: My name is Ondine Seabrook and I am a Sydney-based painter represented by China Heights Gallery in Surry Hills.

Have you always been artistically inclined?
Yes, I remember from a very young age being drawn to certain colours and shapes. I think a lot of people are from a young age, but they forget about it… I was also surrounded by art as a child, so that helped.

What drew you to painting specifically?
I've just always loved the medium and playing around with what you can do with it. It's so immediate and expressive and you can mix so many colours. It all happened quite easily. 

Out of range (2018).

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest series Sharks and Roses?
The Sharks and Roses show at China Heights Gallery started from some studies done outside, not in particularly significant places in Sydney, just outside. Simple things in my everyday, mostly city-bound, environment that stuck out to me started to filter into it. For example, I was swimming at Petersham pool and found a toy shark and put it in my studio. And the roses, well, I just love red. In the studio it naturally evolved from there and became as much about colour, style and shape. My work often becomes completely abstract in the studio as the paintings take on a life of their own. It was also my first solo show!

You paint landscapes and animals, have you always had an affinity with nature?
Yes, I was born in Mittagong in a small house in the bush. I then moved to Scotland Island and grew up on the northern, Northern Beaches, so I have an affinity with that part of the world. My dad also took us on crazy camping/hiking trips growing up. Car camping was never an option!! So yes, it was basically forced upon me but I am grateful for that… now. It’s nice to feel comfortable in the middle of nowhere.

Seabrook's Sydney studio.

Do you think painting landscapes has given you an even greater appreciation of the natural world?
Once you sit down in the landscape and start painting and really start paying attention, you see all these subtleties you've never seen before which brings you closer to it and makes you appreciate it more. This is always an important starting point for me. Although sometimes it's important to just be in the landscape and not try to paint it, especially when I am in a place for the first time. It’s a bit ambitious to just whip out your paints first go. 

Is environmental conservation important to you?
Yes, I don't get people who it isn't important to. It's our home and it's beautiful.

Has your work affected how you consume things like food and fashion?
Ah-huh, yeah, mostly my day job directly has because I work in a health food store which has had a very positive effect on my diet. The planted and organic veggies taste SO much better. I also much prefer natural beauty products. I think that just generally though being an artist I'm in a much more conscious producing/consuming cycle and value better quality, more beautiful things and less of them.  

Wall outside my studio with sunflowers (2018).

How do you minimise the environmental footprint of your wardrobe?
I don't just mindlessly buy things. I hate having more clothes than I need. Most of my clothes are second-hand and most new items are good quality, preferably ethically made, that I know I'll have for years.

Are there any other ethical practices that are important to you?
Just simple things like minimising consumption of plastic. I don't drive either.

What art projects are you working on at the moment?
I just curated a big group show — A Show For Love — with Poppy Williams at Campbell Project Space. It was my first time organising a show, which was really nice to do something that wasn't all about me, haha. It was also a huge success and gave me an even better appreciation for the Sydney art community. Apart from that, actually just having a bit of a breather and re-fuelling. I have another solo show at China Heights in August next year. 

Blood sniffing sharks (2018).

Outside of the natural environment, what inspires your work?
In a broader sense, my friends and doing things that make me feel good. If you're not good, neither are your paintings. But my work certainly goes beyond the landscape and is as much inspired by colour and other things like that.

What is one message that you hope your work communicates?
I think my work really just offers up my own expressive, whimsical view of my surroundings. It can be hard to have a perspective on something when you're the one who has made it, and it’s subjective, so people can take what they want! I don't think I can really narrow it down to one message, haha, it’s too abstract for that. But if this gives viewers a greater appreciation for the natural environment that’s great!

Hurricane (2018). 

Head here to check out more of Ondine Seabrook’s work.

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