An Italian artistic journey rooted in Mildura

Mildura Arts Centre showcases the 35-year creative journey of Mildura-born, Rome-based painter and educator, Andrea J Smith.

Mildura-born painter and educator Andrea J Smith has honed her practice in New York, Florence and Rome for the past 35 years. Her oeuvre blends classical still life and portraiture with contemporary technique.

Smith’s current solo exhibition at Mildura Arts Centre, PERCORSO: Rhythm | Balance | Structure | Texture | Harmony, brings together over 100 works from public and private collections, as well as those from her various studios.

Antonette Zema, Arts and Culture Development Manager and curator of the exhibition, tells ArtsHub: ‘It’s such a significant exhibition to have for Andrea, but even more so for it to be in her hometown.

‘The exhibition has grown with a level of discovery. Even for me, working closely with Andrea in recent months, it’s been a chance to really uncover where her works have gone and who she’s become,’ Zema says.

Accompanying Smith’s many works are documentation, sketches and photos offering insight into her expansive career. Collectively, they offer a holistic view of the artist’s practice, especially in light of her experiences overseas.  

‘How I’ve curated this exhibition is that it creates a sense of Italy and the Italian city,’ says Zema. ‘We have banners, quotes and photographs that inspired Andrea – images of her journey, such as her feet standing on pavements or mosaic tiles. When visitors are in the space, we really want to transport them to Italy.’

Fellow artists and art enthusiasts can also gain an understanding of Smith’s style and technique – including a morning routine of paint-mixing – with photographs of works in progress.  

‘Through photographs and multimedia, visitors can have a greater insight into how her artworks are developed, from the models and their positioning – such as a prickly pear leaf or an onion – and how she’s got her palette knife mixing that exact colour.’

‘PERCORSO: Rhythm | Balance | Structure | Texture | Harmony’ installation view. Image: Supplied.

Zema hopes that the exhibition will be an opportunity to ‘build exposure for Andrea’s artwork and her career on a national level, as she has an international career, which is not necessarily known in Australia’.

‘This is also about bringing that awareness into our local community on what an amazing journey and career an expat from Mildura has achieved.’

Zema explains: ‘We’re a regional gallery and many people coming through may have never heard of Andrea. It’s really a chance for people to start discovering her work, in many ways. Previously, she has only exhibited in a group exhibition in Mildura, so this is really a significant milestone to showcase and celebrate one of our own, a Mildura expat who has created an extraordinary internationally-based career, and who we are honoured and privileged to share her artworks, her story and her journey’.

Smith will presenting a Walk and Talk through her exhibition on 13 April, followed by a painting workshop inspired by the historic house at Mildura Arts Centre, Drawing on the Past – Rio Vista on 17 April.

Zema says that the workshop is ‘a wonderful opportunity for practising artists because Andrea will share tips and techniques that she has used and taught’.

The highlight of this exhibition is the opportunity to see the breadth of Smith’s work in person, Zema says, and she encourages others to share this discovery.

‘When the works arrived and we were unwrapping them here, I thought it was so fantastic and different to see these works in real life and face to face. Once they were then hung on the walls, they translate into a whole other story and bring those principles of Andrea’s practice – Rhythm, Balance, Structure, Texture and Harmony – to life,’ Zema concludes.  

PERCORSO: Rhythm | Balance | Structure | Texture | Harmony is showing at Mildura Arts Centre until 14 May; free entry.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Most recently she took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram: @lleizy_