2021 Gunyah artists-in-residence program announcement

Congratulations to the artists selected for the 2021 Gunyah artists-in-residence program: 

James VicarsMelinda YoungPrudence Holloway & Benjamin KiehneRox De LucaWendy TsaiBlake LawrenceAnnelise Roberts & Jack PalmerNadia OdlumDanica Knezevic.

You can follow their residencies on Instagram @gunyahartists #gunyahartists 

Thank you to everyone who applied – the number of applications more than tripled last year! 

Gunyah sun deck


Residency report: Isabelle Devos & Helena Pastor

Isabelle: I made the long drive down from the tablelands of NSW to the coast, towards the promising thoughts of creative focus, rest and restoration with friend and writer, Helena Pastor. We had agreed to meet at Gunyah that afternoon. As I unpacked my car in the driveway at Gunyah, I marvelled at the simple natural beauty of the place. 

The following ten days were long, restful and creative. Never before have I had such time to myself to devote to creative introspection and outward expression. I collected botanical materials from each walk, created daily bouquets and arrangements, exploring their shapes and colours. My creative work was to be purposely undefined, allowing myself time to play and create, based on no outcomes, some of the work in response to the location and some work out of my memories.

The water of the cove was mesmerising to someone who lives far from the ocean, ever changing from clear and inviting to dark and ominous with building storm clouds and winds. I found myself down at the jetty many times each day to sit and observe the water, land and light. I allowed myself time to breathe, rest and observe for periods of time during the day and the studio space became a place of focused creativity. After the multiple challenges during the past 18 months, this residency was the perfect antidote.

Each afternoon, I met up with Helena and we shared stories and laughter and enjoyed preparing meals together. Helena began writing lyrics to a song based on stories of my childhood memories of my French grandmother’s house. I hope to create a painting to go along with this song, when completed.

Thank you to all who make the gift of Gunyah possible. I will never forget my time here. 

Isabelle Devos, December 2020

Isabelle Devos, Approaching storm at North Arm Cove

Isabelle Devos, Ink painting on paper, study of beach at North Arm Cove

Isabelle Devos, Study of North Arm Cove water and land, acrylic on paper

Isabelle Devos, Botanical colour study, gouache on paper

Helena: I loved every moment of being at Gunyah with my fellow artist-in-residence, Isabelle Devos. Over the ten days of our residency, my world became very small and I often felt like I was living on a peaceful tropical island. My Gunyah routine consisted of a morning coffee on the window seat overlooking the ever-changing waters of North Arm Cove, then a long walk past a variety of interesting letterboxes and house styles, meeting local residents and dogs, and then home – yes, Gunyah felt like home – to work on ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’ – a new memoir project that reflects on the wartime and immigration experiences of my Dutch parents who came to Australia in 1959.

With the help of a 2019/20 Create NSW Small Project Grant (a wonderful validation of this new step forward) and the nurturing creative environment of Gunyah, I completed the first big baggy draft of ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’. The draft is currently an unwieldly ‘prose blob’ that needs wrangling into shape and whittling down, but it exists and I’m feeling excited about beginning work on the next stage. I also enjoyed hearing about Isabelle’s fascinating and eccentric French grandmother, and I’ve nearly finished the song lyrics that came out of our conversations.

Like Isabelle, I particularly enjoyed the jetty at Gunyah, where I tuned in to the tides, listened to the water gently lap against the shoreline, and occasionally spotted dolphins. Shortly after returning home to Armidale – which certainly doesn’t feel like a tropical island! – I found out that I was one of two writers shortlisted for the 2020 Varuna New England Writers’ Centre Fellowship, a fabulous opportunity for writers in the New England area. Whatever the outcome of the judges’ final decision, I’m so happy to see ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’ resonating with readers. I’ve also just heard that I’ve been awarded a second Create NSW Small Project Grant to work with an editorial mentor on ‘One Fork’ once I knock the manuscript into shape. Hooray!

Thank you, Gunyah, for restoring my creative faith and optimism … I can’t wait to return.

Helena Pastor, December 2020

Helena Pastor, One Fork, One Knife, One Lifefirst big baggy draft

Helena Pastor, Feet up by the Gunyah waterfront 

Residency report: Riona Tindal

Riona Tindal in the Gunyah studio
Riona in the Gunyah studio

After finishing my PhD degree, I stopped making art full time. Utterly burnt out in 2016.
The urge and the trickle of the desire to create began towards the end of the year 2019 when I applied and was successful for a Gunyah residency. I spent the entire year planning and dreaming. And longed for it to happen “now”. Life was so hectic, even with COVID, losing one job, resigning from one, and starting a new job and a business at the same time, I had no time for art.
Busy work life with poor balance. 

I was so grateful to just get away and do something purely creative.
Once I arrived at Gunyah, it was a familiar environment as I spent summers as a child not far from Gunyah. The first night I was excited and set up everything and had a dinner looking out the cove.
Next day, I hit the ground running doing videos, sketching and planning.

Then… 24 hours later, I got stuck! Mentally stuck.
I was surprised. I completely could not function creatively.
Thank goodness for the Residency. If I was at home or at a studio, I would just give up and focus on my job or house, neglect my art again and again, possibly for months if not years, not dealing with it.

The residency – I was in a space that I had to deal with my mental mindset. It was a very good opportunity to do this. I needed this. I finally broke through on the Saturday (halfway!) and my creativity changed when I went back to my grassroots of my art education, right all the way back to when I first learned to paint, and then travelled with my memories, the people who were part of my creative journey and my skill sets, exploring and finding myself again and I slid into the creative groove that was mediative, into the zone. And I know I prefer this art style and it is not “modern”, so I removed the pressure of myself to be on the ‘trend’ and do what I am confident in.

It clicked.
I worked and explored colours across two main mediums and felt more in the groove. While I have not yet found what I want to do, I am more comfortable and letting go.

After the residency, I got offered a studio space/office space which to me, the universe is saying I need to do this! so this is my journey into reclaiming my creative side and explore being a full-time artist down the track. Will be applying for exhibitions in 2022.

I am grateful for the opportunity!

Riona Tinda
November 2020

Riona Tinda, Field study of the North Arm Cove, 2020, acrylic on canvas
Riona Tinda, Field study of the North Arm Cove, 2020, acrylic on canvas

Isabelle Devos and Helena Pastor: upcoming artists-in-residence

Isabelle Devos is a visual artist and Helena Pastor is a writer, they both live in Armidale NSW. 

Isabelle Devos and Helena Pastor
Isabelle Devos and Helena Pastor

Isabelle Devos grew up in the Great Lakes area of Canada, graduated from Art School on the Canadian east coast, and moved to rural Australia in her adult life. Her creative work includes painting, photography and conceptual art. Her collaborative conceptual piece The Insecurities Project received international attention from 2002 to 2004 from New York Times and in Vogue Italian magazine.

Isabelle Devos, Looking Back, 2009

Isabelle Devos, Looking Back, 2009

acrylic on linen 60 x 90 cm

Isabelle has spent the past fifteen years painting the suburban and rural landscapes of her region, and she exhibits her work in both group and solo shows in Sydney, Canada and across the New England area of NSW. Her work has won art prizes and been selected as finalist in several art prizes in both Australia and Canada. Her work is in the collection of the Art Bank of New Brunswick and her paintings have been commissioned by the University of New England among others. In her paintings there is a sense of disquiet, a seeking to capture the unsettled feeling of being on the verge of recalling an elusive half-remembered dream. There are stories in the landscapes and suburban scenes, and the viewer is asked to consider what stories are within these scenes. Isabelle has always enjoyed working with other artists within the arts community and has collaborated with Arts North West for an annual artist studio tour as well as a sculptural work Putting the Pieces Together with rural and isolated artists with disabilities. 

Isabelle Devos, Wallaroo Lookout, 2014

acrylic on linen 90 x 110 cm

Helena Pastor was born in Australia, but the rest of her family were born in the Netherlands. Through memoir, fiction and song lyrics, she explores topics close to her heart including women’s issues (especially all stages of motherhood), troubled youth, the aftershocks of war, and growing up in an immigrant family. Helena's writing has attracted Australian Society of Authors’ Mentorships, along with residencies at Varuna Writers’ House, Bundanon Trust, and Booranga and Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centres. She has completed two postgraduate degrees in Creative Nonfiction writing, and her first book, Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love (UQP, 2015), is an intimate insight into reconnecting disaffected teenagers with their families and communities.  

Helena Pastor, Wild Boys, published 2015

Helena Pastor, Wild Boys, published 2015

For the past five years, Helena has been collaborating with Armidale composer Chris Purcell, creating emotionally engaging songs that illuminate sensitive aspects of human life. Pastor & Purcell are currently recording their songs for an arts project called ‘Stories in Song’ (funded by Arts North West and Regional Arts NSW). In 2019, Helena collaborated with photographer Bernard Alberecht for the Art.Word.Place exhibition at Artstate Tamworth. 

Helena Pastor, FourW Twenty Seven New Writing, 'A daughter's dream', 2016

Helena Pastor and Bernard Alberecht, Art Word Place exhibition, Art State 2019 Tamworth

"... We are two friends – an artist and a writer – who have been living in a drought-stricken landscape, looking forward to a focused time away from family and other responsibilities to meet up for a restorative creative residency at Gunyah. Our new collaboration will be nurtured by spending time together in a house made with love and good intentions, surrounded by water and bushland. We are excited by the possibilities and projects that may emerge between painter and writer – words and thoughts, textures and stories. We hope to explore ideas around family, memories, and the flora and fauna of the beautiful Port Stephens area..." 

You can follow their residency via @gunyahartists on Instagram; and find out more about Isabelle's work at isabelledevosartist.blogspot.com.au and Helena's work at helenapastor.com

Applications for the 2021 Gunyah artists-in-residence program are now open!

Gunyah artists-in-residence program provides low cost self-contained accommodation for solo, collaboration, group and family short term creative residencies for visual artists, writers, composers, designers, curators, new media and performance artists.

The 2021 residency program will run from May to November, with seven residencies each lasting ten days, Monday to the following Friday week.

2021 residencies at Gunyah will be partially subsidised by the Gunyah owners, so the cost to artists is $360 for ten days or part thereof (for the whole property, not per person). A refundable $60 key deposit is required. Artists are welcome to bring their families and friends, up to six people.

Before applying please read about Gunyah. In your application you'll need to include your contact details, preferred dates, bio and artist statement, three images and a short description of what you plan to do during your residency.

To apply please fill out the online form or email gunyahresidency@yahoo.com 

Applications close Monday 30 November 2020. 

Residency report: Kathryn Cowen

Kathryn Cowen and Natalya Shinn at Gunyah

It is with thanks and gratitude that I reflect on my time at Gunyah. What an unexpected gift it was to step away from the craziness of 2020 life to spend a couple of weeks immersed in my practice at such a special place.

Exploring North Arm Cove near Gunyah

After a few long walks to soak in the surrounding bush and beaches, breathing deeply and fossicking for treasures, I settled into the studio to start drawing and constructing small sculptures. It was a time of play and experimentation interspersed with long chats with my dear friend and fellow artist Natalya Shinn who came along to keep me company.

Fossicking for treasures at a beach nearby

Combining natural materials that I found in the local area such as rocks, driftwood, seed pods, shells and twigs, with synthetic materials that I had brought along with me such as string, feathers, fabric, paint, plastic, beads and polymer clay; I pondered the future of biological forms. A collection of specimens emerged.

Kathryn Cowen, Work in progress - Biofuture Specimens, 2020

The world and how we live in it has changed this year. I am curious as to how our relationship with each other and our environment will adapt as a result. I can only hope it is for the better.

Kathryn Cowen, Work in progress - Biofuture Specimens, under UV light, 2020

Thank you to Kath Fries and the Gunyah Collective for the opportunity to take part in this residency. My cup is full and I am excited to be back in my studio exploring the possibilities generated by the Biofuture Specimens made at Gunyah for an exhibition in 2021.

Kathryn Cowen
October 2020

Kathryn Cowen, Work in progress - Biofuture Specimens, under UV light (detail), 2020

Upcoming artist-in-residence: Riona Tindal

Riona Tindal

Riona Tindal is an artist and passionate conservationist based in Newcastle. She completed her PhD in Natural History Illustration at the University of Newcastle in 2016. Riona recently expanded her creative arts career as the Deaf Arts Coordinator with Accessible Arts and Co-facilitator of the Artist Run Initiative Inside Out in Maitland 2016-2018. Sharing her time between Sydney and the Hunter region, she is a strong advocate for inclusive, cultural accessible arts. Riona was born Deaf, she grew up surrounded by nature and takes inspiration from the environment in her creative practice. Being Deaf brings its own unique isolation, discrimination, different communication methods and attitudes, so Riona sees things visually and differently. However, deafness is not a main identifying part of her, nor is it a defining disability for Riona, but rather an aspect of a multifaceted part of her being. Art is her language. Riona uses arts as a visual communicative language working with mixed media, illustration, photography, typographic design, painting, poetry and writing.

Riona Tindal, Leaf Utopia study - detail from Moss Garden, watercolour and pencil on timber board

In both her art practice and conservation advocacy, Riona seeks out the impact of climate change in different landscapes, and these firsthand experiences have a profound effect on her arts practice. In 2018 Riona travelled solo through central Australia for two months, experiencing the diverse uniqueness of the landscape, reflecting on the symbolic shapes and structures that show the beauty of the earth that is slowly being destroyed or transmuted to serve humanity’s needs. Riona is expanding and exploring traditional and contemporary arts practice, with science, seeking to combine the three as a trinity in the arts. Conservation through science and arts where she hopes to educate the audience around our rapidly vanishing earth, climate change, species driven to extinction, communicating through creative media where it can immediately capture the audience and engage. 

Riona Tindal, Scientific illustration of a frog, 2016, stippling ink, 27 x 21.9 cm

During my residency I plan to develop poetry, narrative storytelling and imbedding poetry working on watercolour sheets and recycled timber boards to explore pathways that make connections and move between the rigidity of science into storytelling and communicative visual language.

You can see more of Riona's work on Instagram @riorioartist

Kathryn Cowen: upcoming artist-in-residence

Kathryn Cowen with her work A Field Guide To Reality, 2015-19, acrylic, aerosol and oil on canvas

Kathryn Cowen is a Sydney based multidisciplinary artist working across the fields of painting, sculpture and installation. Drawing on a diverse range of influences from cosmology and literature, to neuroscience and psychology; Kathryn reflects on our experience, understanding and perceptions of reality from a physical and psychological perspective. A ‘hyper real’ colour palette is a central feature of her work, used to prompt a shift in perception and creates portals to a place that is ‘Other'. 

Kathryn studied painting at the National Art School, Sydney, where she was a finalist in the John Olsen Prize for Drawing and winner of the Chroma Paints Award, graduating with a Bachelor Fine Arts (Hons) in 2007. Since this time she has exhibited regularly in solo and group exhibitions across a variety of commercial, artist run and institutional galleries. Kathryn has been a finalist in the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award (2019), the Fisher’s Ghost Art Award (2019, 2015), the Calleen Art Prize (2018), the Waverley Art Prize (2015), and the Portia Geach Memorial Award (2006). She has participated in the NAS Artist-in-Residence Program at Hill End, NSW and the Movers and Shapers Collective Residency at Turondale, NSW. Her work is held in collections throughout Australia, the Netherlands and the USA.

Kathryn Cowen, Field Guide Specimens (studio installation), 2019, seed pods, twigs, date palm inflorescence branches, shells, rocks, expanding foam, paint, laboratory glassware, plastic figurines

During my residency at Gunyah I plan to work on components of an installation using found natural objects and small sculptures, housed in scientific glassware. This new work will present specimens from a post apocalyptic world where the scale and relationship between fauna and fauna has been inverted, minuscule life forms rule and the light we live by has changed. The work is intended to question our ecological future and invite the viewer to imagine alternate realities and future biological forms. The COVID-19 pandemic has diminished our perceived human power. Desperately peering into microscopes looking for an answer, how will we adapt and grow in our relationship to nature in this new world order?

While at Gunyah I will continue fossicking and refine this work in progress for presentation as part of the Movers and Shapers Women and the Land' sculpture exhibition to be held at Hazelhurst Arts Centre in 2021.

You can see more of Kathryn's work on her website kathryncowen.com and instagram instagram.com/kathryn.cowen

Residency Report: Vanessa Berry

On my first night at Gunyah there was a bright full moon. Beneath it, reflected in the bay, was the moon's silver path, which shimmered with the movement of the water. I looked out over this scene, wondering how being here would shape my thinking, and what kind of reflections I would go on to make during my residency. Places shape thoughts and actions, and residencies draws attention to this exchange: the relationship between the atmosphere of the place and the artist's own mental weather.

The next morning I set up a desk by the window where I'd been looking at the moonlight and unpacked my bags of materials. I'd come with two projects to work on, one a manuscript that's reaching completion, and another that's so new it is mostly a set of scribbled notes, and vague thoughts I need to do hard work to chase after. Both of these stages, end and beginning, require courage and confidence, although they require different levels of attention. The manuscript I examine carefully to consider how its pieces work together, as I engage in the careful work of editing it into a whole. For the new work I set meticulousness aside. The important thing was to open up my thoughts, take a notebook down to the water's edge, let my ideas shift and collide. In this way I divided up my days, between the 'desk work' of the manuscript, and the 'jetty work' of the new project.

On residency an artist is lifted out of their routine, their familiar places and habits and constraints, and has space to consider their practice. Most days I found myself sitting by the jetty, beside an empty black flowerpot over the mouth of which a small white spider had spun a web. Each day it was at the centre of a newly-spun web, the pattern slightly different from the day before. Writing, rewriting: the spider was my companion in contemplation.

As the water lapped at the rocks I thought about my intentions, of what I do and how I might continue or modify it. The practice of writing is an exchange between self and world, and made up of activities that bring them together. At its most broad this is everything the writer does, their continued experience and all the interactions that come with daily life, observing and feeling, balancing moment with momentum.

As well as writing and thinking, I went out walking, gathering a sense of place on this Worimi country of North Arm Cove and balancing out the quiet, concentrated energy of writing. On the suburban streets I was particularly drawn to the houses and their architecture. North Arm Cove is a secluded place, and the houses were built as retreats, and to be open to the natural environment they are surrounded by. As I walked, I collected my favourites.

One of the things that I find particularly rewarding about walking is that each walk forms a story, with particular moods and details, so I thought that I'd include a walk story to end this report, as a way of describing my time at Gunyah as it unfolded.


Walk Story, Gunyah, 11th August 2020 

At the desk by the window I look up, over the bay. In the days I've been here I've seen it smooth as a mirror, with the silver track of the full moon reflected in its night surface. I've seen it high and lapping the rocks at the shoreline, seen its ripples extending out as if it's a shivering skin. On the day the storm front came through it was turbulent with low, rapid waves, which raced in towards the inner cove as if in a great hurry to arrive. Today the bay is calm and grey, tinged a slight gold as the afternoon settles. While there's still light I decide to go out walking.

As I turn the corner, out into the road that follows the water's edge, a kookaburra looks down from a high branch, turning its attention from the ground, to me, then back to the grass, studiously hoping for insects. I like their solitary, concentrated attention to observing, and today feel something of an accord with this approach, for the way that I have been working: concentrating on reading my manuscript, looking out for the details that have a life and energy to them.

I pass holiday houses with names like "Stray Leaves" and "Nightjar's Rest" and "Whispering Tides", with their wide windows and balconies, good positions for watching the water. I follow the road down to where it crumbles to an end beside a small beach. Like the other days I've walked this way, two dogs run up to greet me. The first time the younger one had rushed up barking, and I'd veered away, but then the older dog had come up and sat by my side, looking up with an imploring expression, and I knew they had accepted me. Today they bound around me, the young one carrying a fish in her mouth as if it's a great prize, until I reach the end of their territory and they stand as if at an invisible barrier, watching me walk away.

At the top of the hill is an A-Frame house, perched at the back of a wide front lawn on which a flock of corellas are grazing. More fly in, making nervous bleats, then turn down to tear at the grass. Behind the house is the edge of the bushland that extends across the headland. I walk until I reach a path that leads into the bush, a dirt road still muddy from the previous day's rain. At the corner is a wooden post with two blank wooden road signs pointing towards the forest.

A century ago, there were plans for this forest. Reading the history of the area on the Gunyah blog I'd found out that in the early 20th century this area was destined to be cleared for the building of a city. In 1918 the plans drawn up by Walter Burley Griffin for Port Stephens City were approved, and lots offered for sale. But the plan dwindled when the 1930s Depression hit, and all that was ever built of the city are the roads, which carve out trails through the bushland, marked by blank signs.

Walking on the paths I imagine Burley Griffin's plan overlaid upon the land, the ghosts of parks and civic buildings. It is hard to imagine the place other than how it is now, with the tall bloodwoods and stringybarks, and purple pea flowers and sprigs of native orchids in the undergrowth. Imagining the map of what it could have been I thought how the land was carved up, with the colonial mindset of land as space to be renamed and repurposed, as it has been across the continent. I walk here on Worimi country, holding onto the understanding that a city is only something temporary or provisional.

Thinking this, letting thoughts trail out with the rhythm of my steps, I follow the bushland paths until I'm back on the sealed stretch of road that follows the shoreline. The kookaburra has moved on from its perch and the sun is lower in the sky. I turn back to Gunyah, to the desk and my notebooks, with the walk's new thoughts to record and observe, hoping within them there is a quiver of something that I might take up and take further.

My time at Gunyah was precious and rewarding, a chance to write, think and dream, and connect with the abundant creative energies of the house, land and environment. Thank you to Kath and Gunyah for your support and generosity in having me on the residency. It is a privilege to have had Gunyah influence my work and thinking, and to now carry the work and insights from my time here with me.

Vanessa Berry

August 2020


Vanessa Berry: upcoming artist-in-residence

Vanessa Berry is a writer and artist who works with memory, history and archives. She is the author of three books, most recently Mirror Sydney, a collection of essays and hand-drawn maps that investigate the city’s marginal places and undercurrents. Within the Mirror Sydney project Vanessa has used multiple formats - blog, book, hand-drawn maps, zines, guided walks - and she usually works in this way, drawing on variety of textual, visual and performative forms, around a central idea or theme.

Vanessa Berry with her book, Mirror Sydney (photo courtesy of Better Read Than Dead), published by Giramondo Publishing in 2017, 300 pages
Vanessa's work has been widely recognised: Mirror Sydney won the Mascara Avant Garde Literary Award, her visual artwork has been exhibited at major galleries such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and National Gallery of Australia, the hand-drawn maps she produced for Mirror Sydney were purchased by the State Library of NSW for their collection, and Vanessa's work has been commissioned by institutions such as the Powerhouse Museum and Museum of Sydney. 

Vanessa Berry, St Peters map (detail), 2017, A3 risoprint

At the heart of her creative work is an interest in the storied nature of everyday life, and a desire to investigate expressions of memory within the physical environment and material culture.

Time and Memory, Powerhouse Museum (includes essay Time Machines by Vanessa Berry).

"During my residency at Gunyah I'm going to continue working on my two current collections of essays. The first is about physical and symbolic relationships with animals, and the second is about chance, coincidence and objects. In both projects - considering human-animal relationships, and also the relationships we have with mundane and everyday objects - I consider the connections we build, sustain, and inherit, between ourselves and the world, and how encounters with animals, and with objects, can shape our lives and identities."

You can find more of Vanessa's work at mirrorsydney.wordpress.com