Archibald winner Wendy Sharpe speaks at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery

Guest speaker Wendy Sharpe enthralled guests at the Friends of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery fundraising dinner. Photo: ‘and the trees photography’.

THE joy and power of art was discussed by Archibald Prize winner Wendy Sharpe, the guest speaker at a fundraising dinner held by The Friends of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery on Friday 17 June at C.ex Coffs.

Having one of Australia’s most acclaimed and sought-after artists in town was a rare opportunity for the community of art lovers, artists, students, teachers and professionals to come out in support of the fundraiser by the Friends of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, who thronged for the occasion.

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The Sydney artist was welcomed to Gumbaynggirr country by elder Tina Powell, before the Friends’ Heather McKinnon and Lorraine Gordon from Southern Cross University highlighted the role art plays in the wellbeing of regional communities.

It was a nod to Wendy Sharpe’s recent work in the ABC TV series Space 22, proving the benefits of art on mental health which she says “really does make a difference”.

“Art is really for everyone, it’s not just for so-called professional artists,” Wendy said.

“People who play sport on the weekend, you’re not doing it thinking you’re going to represent Australia, you’re doing it because you love to do it.

“That’s the same with art.

“You’re doing it because you love it, it’s fun, you’re with community, mixing with other people, it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Wendy Sharpe took the audience on a journey revisiting some of the sights and stories behind her successful career of 40 years.

“Wendy explained how winning awards like the Archibald Prize in 1996 has led to major commissions and work in East Timor as an official war artist.

“Her art has also taken her on many international residencies including Antarctica and Mexico.

What is evident from Wendy’s impressive body of work is her unwavering work ethic.

“I live entirely from selling paintings,” explains Wendy, whose exhibition Transience is on show in Brisbane at Philip Bacon Galleries until tomorrow, 25 June, with works for sale.

“One of the exciting things for an artist about having an exhibition in a regional gallery is you’re not thinking about the commercial things, you’re just thinking of creating an interesting experience.”

Wendy also has a heartfelt willingness to use her art to support those less fortunate.

In one of her fundraising exhibitions, Her Shoes, Wendy’s drawings represent victims of domestic violence.

“I’m pleased to say that for Lou’s Place Women’s Refuge, the Asylum Seekers Centre and the Catherine Hamlin Foundation, we raised close to $100,000 for each.

“It just shows you the power of art.”

Wendy returns to her second home of Paris soon and the Friends have invited her back to see the new Yarrila Arts and Museum once it’s finished construction.

“It is fabulous you are able to get this new gallery and everyone should come see it.

“How incredible it will be right in the middle of town and put Coffs Harbour even more on the map.”

The night’s fundraiser is a timely boost for the new gallery’s collection which Wendy Sharpe also donated to with a gouache painting of herself, ‘Rialto Bridge, Venice 2008’.

Another donation which raised funds as the raffle prize was Wendy’s etching San Marco At Night.


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