Making art from our landscapes

The landscape you grow up in speaks to you in a way that nowhere else does and I grew up in Port Lincoln.

I crawled around these beaches and rocks as a child of the 70s caked in sand and sunscreen, never cold, never hot, never tired and I drove to hiding spots as a teenager of the eighties and dreamt of the world.

Little by little I stopped looking at the landscape around me but wondered what was beyond it. So, I left for Adelaide, then France.

I was a Ruth Tuck Scholar in 1996 and studied with Ted Seth Jacobs from the New York Academy of Art in his studio school in France in 1997 and lived with old castles and green fields, and motorways and mad people.

Between 2000 and 2010, I exhibited my work in France, Italy, Germany, China, and the United States.

I was accepted into the Accademia di San Luca in Rome for painting and received by the Australian Ambassador at that time and 25 years later I came back to Port Lincoln.

Apart from the fact that everyone got old except me, I was plunged back into the landscape of my childhood.

After two and a half decades away from Port Lincoln, I came back and regional art is considered in the same way it was when I left.

Wonderful intelligent work created in a context of vague disdain from city-based institutions.

The response is always one of thinking that regional artists are stuck in the region, isolated and secretly want to go somewhere else to create.

So, to prove this idea is as stupid now as it ever was, I contacted Jeff Bridges.

It sounds like a strange response in retrospect considering I didn’t know him from a bar of soap but he is an art photographer in his own right and I am an artist. I’m Tim Coote, a dude. He is, you know - Jeff Bridges, the Dude.

So, I asked if he wanted to exhibit in Port Lincoln. I offered fish which was politely ignored by his team but after a year of negotiating Jeff said yes and I created the SALT Festival.

I shoulder tapped an amazing group of volunteers who worked hard and were inspired to create the success the festival became.

One experienced festival organising person who helped on the committee told me that festivals do strange things to people and SALT didn’t come without its disappointments and revelations of people’s true worth.

However I was proud to be in the background and know that artists and innovators would have a platform for their work in the region.

All this time the landscape continued to talk to me and on New Year’s Eve this year I had a near death experience.

I realised that I am, at best, 50 years away from death and this suddenly felt very near.

In looking at what I have completed as a painter in the past 20 years since I studied, there were at least 200 landscape paintings I hadn’t painted and which presumed I probably would have by now. I knew what I had to do.

Art creates an emotional response. For everyone who has the pleasure of experiencing the wondrous landscape we live in I will be speaking to you through my paintings and this is motivation enough to be back painting in the region again.

I look forward to exhibiting at the Nautilus Arts Centre in March 2019 and I invite you all to share this with me.

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