In Our Gallery with Vanessa Allegra

Vanessa is a contemporary figurative oil painter whose works in the Here + Now exhibition pays a loving tribute to a friend.

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How long have you been an artist and how did you get started?

I've known I was meant to be an artist my whole life but I ignored it for a long time.

Seven years ago I took a few classes at the Brisbane Atelier School and learned how to handle oil paints, which are my chosen medium.

Tell us about your artwork displayed by Bundaberg Regional Galleries as part of the Here + Now exhibition?

My painting, Love & Adoration, is a memorial of sorts.

It is a small artwork painted on three wood panels.

The outer two panels show the peaceful faces of two young women, and the centre panel features a pink magnolia flower.

The flower is almost luminous, and represents an incredible friend who I lost three years ago. 

What was the inspiration behind this piece?

We met at university, where Paul was studying food security.

He went on to re-grow mangrove forests, he set up a threatened species sanctuary and by teaching them new harvesting techniques, Paul helped countless families live sustainably along third world coastlines.

He was brilliant.

Days before he died, Paul told me how ancient magnolia trees are and how they evolved during the era of dinosaurs 140 million years ago.

It was the last thing he ever said to me. 

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What medium was used and how does this reflect your usual practice?

I am a contemporary figurative oil painter - meaning I predominantly paint people in oils.

Oil paints have this deep richness of colour and feel which I adore. 

They're the same paints used by most of the old masters and I love the way these old mediums are used by today's painters.

For example, I often fuse mine with spray paints.

What are some of your artistic highlights?

It's always a heart-in-throat moment when you win an art prize, and over the past seven years I've been privileged to win a number of them.

My proudest achievement as a painter has been seeing my student's individual styles shining through as they go off and create art long after our lessons have ended.

I feel like a proud mumma bear when I see them taking on the baton.

What do you love most about what you do?

My paintings all feel like I've revealed part of my soul to the world.

It's a difficult thing for someone who is fairly private, but I have to do it.

Painting is what I'm meant to do.

Previous In Our Gallery: Lesley Perk