Unlocking Margaret's House Still Life Challenges with Margaret Olley No 8: White Still Life

White still life by Margaret Olley (1)

Margaret Olley painted ‘White still life’ 1977 in David Strachan’s kitchen in his Paddington Street home in Sydney. Strachan was a long-time friend of Olley’s and fellow artist. Tragically, in 1970 he died in a car accident. For much of the 70s Olley used his home as a place to paint as she found inspiration in the objects in his home and an affinity with the light that moved through the house from morning to night.2

It was here that she really started to explore the light, incorporating the time of day into her compositions. In ‘White still life’ the objects are arranged in front of a window. Instead of revealing light, the window instead frames only the darkness of night time, intriguing and poised with possibility.2

For this special still life challenge we invited local artist René Bolten to create a composition inspired by Olley’s ‘White still life’ 1977 using objects from Margaret Olley’s home studio.2

For this challenge artist René Bolten chose to work with two key pieces from ‘White still life’ 1977 - a teapot with its stand and a terrine dish filled with the original egg shells from Margaret Olley’s house. In this arrangement René has created ‘two islands of curves’ with a strong light coming from the side that emphasises the way surfaces might be painted in different ways - using either soft, gentle strokes or strong, gestural marks. For René, respecting each object and its material qualities - its delicacy, robustness, smoothness, or coolness even - helps to broaden the painterly language. 2

Enjoy the video and perhaps pick up a pencil, crayon, chalk, paint brush and start sketching. The first stroke on the paper is always the hardest.

If you would like to read the Activity Sheet and maybe engage in creating a still life picture please click here.

1. ehive.com
2. gallery.tweed.nsw.gov.au

Image Credit: Margaret Olley (1923–2011), ‘White still life’ 1977, oil on hardboard, 66.3 x 89.2 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Wayne Kratzmann, 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. © Margaret Olley Art Trust