Interview With Bernadette Trela

Bernadette is a Painter based in Sydney. Her works are powerfully evocative of coastal Australia and seem to echo the ebb and flow of nature. Her works seem to me, perfectly coupled above the couch as one reads a Tim Winton novel.
Bernadette is also, among other things, an art teacher and through her teaching has given creative birth to (what I’m sure to be) many students, as our very own Emilya is one of them. Her style is unique and explores an abstract yet unmistakably realist study of the land and the sky. Her languid colour palate meets a vibrant and dynamic art making style as her landscape paintings transpire into a creative chronicle.

Besides from being an artist what is your professional background?
I'm an intuitive painter who is informed by theory and other painters. My background is in The Arts mainly working in Art Galleries, Teaching and Visual Arts/Academic study. I have studied painting at National Art School, SCA Sydney College of the Arts University Of Sydney and COFA, University NSW. I Teach and work in Art Galleries to support my career. Recently I spent time on the Far North Coast Painting and doing some work as an Education Officer in Regional Art Gallery.

It’s come to my attention that you were Emilya’s art teacher... Was Emilya a good student? Or was she reckless, wreaking havoc in your classroom?
Yes! Emilya was a Student of mine in classes I taught at Waverley/Woollahra Art School. As anyone who know's Emilya discovers, she is a warm, genuine person with a refined sensibility for the Arts and Artists. I'd love to say she was disruptive student lacking focus... but then I would be perjuring myself lol. She was quiet, caring and loved. The Class really had a special dynamic of students who have gelled to this day.

How does being an art teacher influence your artworks and art making process?
For me being an Art teacher promotes a connectivity and vitality with the actual world of paint, painters and painting. It enhances my practice by stimulating open dialogue, to describe what painting is or can be. I love to discuss and talk about painting and work through the problems and failures. Teaching feeds my need for research, learning and Visual Language. I'm a teacher who recognises the need to continue learning as I teach. 

What’s your standard process when creating an artwork?
My standard process when painting is to work in multiples starting a series of 6 to 12 boards or Canvas's and to build up the surface of the works thinly and rapidly. I prepare my sizes and grounds then organise my restricted monochromatic palette and begin under painting and gradually build the paintings up over time. I work mostly from photographs, blurred or imperfect, glimpses and imagination. My relationship to the Landscape is tenuous at times. 

Your series that is currently on the website is rather abstract; what do you depict in your artworks?
The works currently on the website come from are figurative abstractions of skies and landscapes I view and perceive. I enjoy the ambiguity of paint and subject matter and structuring it into a Landscape Painting of sorts.  I enjoy seeing ambiguity out in the Landscape. It's huge, dark and intense out there. I love the night and nocturnal, romantic imagery. 

Conceptually speaking, what do your works communicate?
Conceptually speaking, a move to Northern NSW with an idealised view to paint culminates in my being confronted by an intense Landscape. A landscape I grew up in but is not really what I know. It's the Familiar/Unfamiliar (a discussion I had with fellow painter John Stanfield) and it's challenging for me as a painter and person. I have been developing the work like you would a new relationship with the same ups and downs and my own notions of what it is to be a Landscape painter, which is not always steeped in the traditional sense. I have always worked closely with a desire to depict emotional response, mood and atmosphere. These qualities rule and influence me strongly in my own life as a painter and person. 

Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am always working on paintings. Presently I'm back in Sydney feeding a starved Visual eye for more paintings. I'm really focused and interested in the surfaces of paintings presently.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up?
Currently I'm a Finalist in the EMSLA Eutick Memorial Still Life Art Award, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery and working towards an Exhibiton in Sydney next year.

Bernadette will be teaching at the National Art School Public Programs Summer School 2016.

Check out more of Bernadette’s work here.

Words by Lotte Thomson-Vock