Photo 6-12-2022, 1 19 53 pm

Gemma Rose Brook is an emerging South Australian artist currently based on Peramangk land. Gemma's paintings are only made from life and are a direct emotional dialogue with the environment, interior or still life she is observing. She paints what she sees and what she feels informed by observations of environments, personal experiences and historical painting narratives. In the act of painting from life she aims to capture a certain psychological mood or an emotional narrative. Her story like titles add depth to the emotionally charged paintings through odes to painters before her, quirky personal narratives or descriptions that honour the land she is working from. Technically her painting has shifted from trying to capture likeness of a landscape to more visceral and expressive bold expressive marks that speak of female modernist influences, capturing movement and emotional interchange in making only from life. She often paints on residencies and camping trips but her studio base is an old converted dairy building nestled on a family property in the Adelaide Hills.

Gemma 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 and more recently, interstate. In Gemma’s first year of professional practice she was awarded a year long artist residency at the government youth arts organization Carclew as well as the Carclew Fellowship; were 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.

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. She then received a grant from Adelaide Central School of Art to support her successful solo exhibition at Floating Goose Studios that was based on her time living in Pukatja (Ernabella) in the APY Lands over 2020 and 2021 as an Indigenous arts center manager.

In 2022 Gemma was a finalist in the Gallery M Art Prize and began working towards interstate exhibitions New South Wales alongside working in diverse community art roles.

In 2023 Gemma was selected as a finalist in the Paddington Art Prize. The work selected, was made on the prestigious Kangaroo Island Residency; supported by Country Arts South Australia. Her work was also included in exhibitions at Project Gallery 90 and Art2Muse in Sydney, as well as, The Royal Adelaide Hospital, Murdoch Hill Winery and The State library of South Australia and Side Gallery in Queensland. She was also a 2023 finalist in the Elaine Birmingham National Watercolour prize.

Alongside her studio practice Gemma is continually involved in many community initiatives, public programs and teaching roles with diverse community groups, including working at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Carclew, Hans Heysen-The Cedars, Disability arts programs, Iwiri Arts, Ernabella Arts, Junction Australia, Niniku Arts, Adelaide Central School of Art and The South Australia Living Artist Festival (SALA).

Her work is collected both nationally and internationally.

Curatorial Statement

Written in 2021 by Gabi Lane is an Independent curator and arts writer living and working on Kaurna Land. She is also  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.


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