Gemma Rose Brook graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Adelaide Central School of Art in 2019 and since then has established a strong emerging practice throughout South Australia. In her first year of professional practice she was awarded a year long Artist Residency at Carclew House and the Carclew Fellowship where over three years she had the opportunity to be mentored by Sydney based painter Tom Carment and travel to Sydney for opportunities, including a Masterclass at the National Art School. Working with Tom has enhanced Gemma’s perception on depicting light and hue in her paintings from life while also fostering a connection between Sydney and Adelaide.
In 2020, Gemma was a finalist in the Heysen Prize for Landscape and in the same year won first place in the Royal Society of the Arts Youthscape Prize. In 2021, Gemma received a grant for Adelaide Central School of Art to support her successful solo exhibition at Floating Goose Studios. This exhibition was painted as a quirky diaristic reflection of her time living in Pukatja (Ernabella), a remote indigenous community in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. The close interpersonal relationships she developed, while managing the Pukatja Art Centre studio, deepened her respect for and connection with her environments and the land. Last year she was also selected for the Gallery M Art Prize and worked in multiple arts and teaching roles all over South Australia, including the Art Gallery of South Australia.Gemma’s work has been exhibited in group exhibitions in South Australia since 2013 and more recently in New South Wales. Her paintings are held in private collections throughout Australia.
Gemma is currently painting, working in the arts and teaching from her studio in Verdun in the Adelaide Hills.
Written by Gabi Lane is an Independent curator and arts writer living and working on Kaurna Land. She is currently Gallery Assistant at Hugo Michell Gallery.
Ghostly gums amidst twisted scrub, red earth under bright skies, Hills Hoist clotheslines, and a sun-bathed sitting room; artist Gemma Rose Brook paints places brimming with familiarity.
As an artist who paints from life, Gemma seeks to create an emotional dialogue between herself, the environment, and the work. Beginning with the slow process of hand-making and preparing her boards, care and sensitivity are at the forefront of her practice.
Having drawn and painted from a young age on family holidays spent hiking and camping, Gemma is driven by a desire to paint the natural world as she experiences it in the moment. Her en plein air approach allows her to channel the emotional agency of her surroundings, painting not only what she sees but also what she feels.
While en plein air painting originated in Europe during the Impressionist movement, Gemma has more in common with Australian post-impressionism and modernist artists like Grace Cossington-Smith, Jane Sutherland, Clarice Beckett and Dorrit Black. Like these artists, Gemma’s practice is dynamic, responsive, and informed directly by what is around her.
Gemma is also more interested in an engagement with nature that is more in line with Indigenous conceptions of connection with Country; being of the land rather than in it. Working closely with Indigenous artists has strengthened her approach of connecting deeply with her environment.
Painting from life, she works quickly to capture the sensory dimensions of a particular landscape in a moment of time; the light, colour, and mood as it flits and changes. Working alla prima, her loose and gestural brushstrokes convey this sense of urgency. The speed of her brushwork and richness of her colours create a dazzling effect in which her foregrounds seems to vibrate as colours bounce off one another.
The complex overlapping of brushstrokes, chosen to conjure the textures of native gums, red sand and dense bush, create a sense of depth that speaks to her technical skill. Her sgraffito provides a gestural energy and creates a surface suffused with texture. These scratchings are also a loving nod to the drawings she would scratch into the back of receipts while riding the bus to and from school in her youth.
Memory plays an important part in her practice and is most apparent in her artwork titles. Written in the style of a single stream-of-consciousness, her titles, which are often sentences themselves, share with the viewer the thoughts and memories of the artist whilst painting.
In a time when there is a collective urge to return to the natural world, wrought by pandemic-induced isolations, Gemma’s paintings are placed firmly within the zeitgeist. Her emotively charged paintings sing with light and life. They are joyous, hopeful and exactly what we all need.