Solomon Grainger

Column: Artist Profile   |   Date Published: Saturday, 13 May 17   |   Author: Andrew Nardi   |   1 month, 2 weeks ago

Describe your artmaking practice. To make art in the style I have entered this year. I enter a really uninhibited frame of mind, painting out of instincts and through feeling much more than thinking.

When, how and why did you get into it? When I was old enough to hold a pen I was trying to draw and depict my interpretation of the world, but it’s only now that I realise how important those times were.

What ideas do you explore through your art? My series at the moment comes from discovering my childhood drawings from when I was around three to four. I am drawing inspiration from these and exploring the instincts within humans that makes us want to create, and interpret our experience of life. I suppose I want to find out what is the essence of our soul that provides us with our deepest instincts.

Who/what influences you as an artist? I am really influenced by the earth physically and spiritually, this is why I incorporate parts of it in the paintings. My palette is comprised of many earth tones, and I use mud and sand from the desert to create pigments for many works.

Of what are you proudest so far? My upcoming exhibition Dragon and Boy.

What are your plans for the future? This year I am lucky to be travelling through Europe. I hope to be able to use that time to put out some quality work.

What about the local scene would you change? I would actually love to be involved in more ventures that let musicians from our area show their talent and build a community for that. Music for me is another passion and I have a lot of friends who are deserving of more ways to get to know one another, and for their own city to get to know them.

What are your upcoming performances/exhibitions? I have an exhibition called Dragon and Boy launching on Saturday May 27 at Aarwun Gallery in Federation Square, Gold Creek. It’s running for three weeks, so I’d love to see everyone there.

Contact info:


Instagram: @Solevisual

Facebook: Sol Grainger

Julian Laffan:

Describe your artmaking practice. I make hand cut and coloured woodcuts – a very old process but I use current imagery, sourced from my photographic and drawing archive. 

When, how and why did you get into it? I completed a course at Studio One (now Megalo) and I followed lots of other print and sculpture courses and then I attended ANU Art School, and I found woodcut was the best fit for me. 

What ideas do you explore through your art? I am just back from three weeks in Mongolia where we lived with a herding family. We have been fortunate to travel a great deal internationally and these experiences are currently a big part of my creative response to the world. I am interested in questioning identity, history and place. I also have interests in art, anthropology and archaeology and I enjoy collaborating with others.

Who/what influences you as an artist? I am interested in collections and how images and objects can create stories about people, animals and places. At the moment: Brancusi, Goya, Kathe Kolwitz, Taryn Simon, Jessie Traill and the great Canberra community of artists and makers. 

Of what are you proudest so far? I am happiest making my work in my studio and that artists, friends and many others collect my work. I enjoy communicating my ideas and experiences through art.

What are your plans for the future? I am interested in exploring future collaborations that cross disciplines, including working with new materials. I have started a collaboration with a film composer in New Zealand.

What about the local scene would you change? Just more artist run spaces and more collaborative workshops/galleries for artists to show at. We saw some amazing shared spaces in Norway and Denmark that were artist run but government supported.

What are your upcoming performances/exhibitions? Le monde: observations of place at Beaver Galleries opening on Thursday May 18 is keeping me busy and is open until Sunday June 4. I hope you can make it!
Contact info:   

Cat Mueller:

Describe your artmaking practice.

I am working on two very different series that explore colour and optical effects in contrasting ways. I make large, high-contrast, gestural airbrushed paintings and small subtle dotted paintings with atmospheric colour gradients.

When, how and why did you get into it?

When I was little I dreamt I’d live in my house in the bush painting on a big easel overlooking the paddocks. The dream has changed a little. The easel has been swapped for milk crates in a grungy studio in the Inner North but art remains the driving force of my life.


Who/what influences you as an artist?

Outside influences make an impression on my aesthetic, but my inspiration for the next painting comes from a desire to test an altered composition or colour scheme to explore its effect on the optical reading of the work.

Of what are you proudest so far?

I am proudest of how much I have learnt and refined my own unique process. I have learnt to simplify and let one idea come through strongly. Through mistakes I have figured out what to be careful about in future for a more ‘perfect’ result. I feel proud when I peel off the last layer of tape from a painting and can see how it has come together.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to continue on the same trajectory and further pursue exhibition opportunities outside of Canberra.

What about the local scene would you change?

I graduated Honours at the ANU School of Art in 2015, which was an invaluable experience. I have found the Canberra art scene to be very nurturing and supportive. As a smaller community I think Canberra is very accessible to emerging artists, providing many opportunities to gain exhibition experience and mentorship.

What are your upcoming performances/exhibitions?

NONSTOP, ANCA Gallery, Wednesday May 17 – Sunday June 4. Public floor talk Friday May 19 at 1:30pm.

Morph, Gaffa Gallery, Sydney, opening January 4, 2018.

Contact info:


Instagram: @catmueller

Emily Birks:

Describe your artmaking practice.

I’m a wildlife artist. My focus is on Australian animals, using acrylic ink to express the colour, pattern and texture of fur and feathers. My aim is to create portraits showing the beauty and character of each subject – and how lucky we are to share Australia with them.

Who/what influences you as an artist?

Nature. I became a carer with ACT Wildlife several years ago, and that awakened an interest in our local environment and the abundance of animals. I have cared for birds, and now I primarily care for orphaned possum joeys. They are amazing little creatures – each one has a different personality and health issues. I learn a lot about animal behaviour, biology and the environments they live in. It is a lovely way to be connected to the landscape. I have learnt about different native plants, how to spot signs of wildlife present, and how to enjoy just being quiet in the Australian bush. That awareness has really shaped how I work.

When, how and why did you get into it?

I’ve always made things and been involved with art. I learnt to draw while at TAFE in my 20s. After that I studied art history, art conservation (I’m a qualified art conservator) and I’ve always had a creative outlet. In 2015 I went to a couple of bird painting workshops and it really clicked. To combine my love of animals and my love of creating, it’s perfect!

What ideas do you explore through your art?

The uniqueness of Australia’s birds and animals, their intelligence and their playfulness. Lately I’m working on ideas of conservation and plan to depict some rarer species.

Of what are you proudest so far?

I was part of a small group exhibition late last year. It was the first time people other than my family and friends had seen my paintings. As an emerging artist that’s a really scary moment! My paintings were really well received – I sold several and even got a commission for another piece so it was really exciting to know that people liked my works. I love creating them!

What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently preparing some prints and small original works for a market stall, and working on my first solo exhibition.

What about the local scene would you change?

I don’t think that I’d change much! It’d be nice to have even more galleries, but I think you just need to know where to look! We are lucky to have all the national cultural institutions to draw inspiration from, and plenty of smaller galleries for emerging and established artists to show their work. There is even support for our local wildlife artists – I am a member of the Wildlife and Botanical Artists group (WABA). We get together for presentations by artists and have workshops to further our skills. We welcome new artists too, if anyone would like to join us!

What are your upcoming performances/exhibitions?

I have a painting in an ANU exhibition about local extinction. There’s an exhibition and panel discussion with artists and scientists on Monday May 22. See for more info.

Contact info:

Instagram: @ebirkswildlifeart


Martin Paull:

Describe your artmaking practice. Currently I’m painting miniature landscapes of Canberra and the region. Most of them are views from the road. The paintings are a mix of abstract and realistic. I’ve recently been experimenting by painting on surfaces like lead sheet and cigarette packets.

When, how and why did you get into it? I started art school when I was 17. Back then you could get in pretty young, providing you passed the entrance test. I was always interested in painting and drawing, two things I remember – visiting an artist’s studio when I was about four and being given a paint set when I was eight.

What ideas do you explore through your art? I use photographs taken on my phone as the starting point. The paintings are made possible by the car, Canberra’s road-connected location and our ability to instantly take pictures on our phones.

Who/what influences you as an artist? I’m always looking at art and artist’s work, current and historical. For my current exhibition I looked a lot at the Australian impressionists. I go to the National Gallery often and am doubtless influenced by a lot of the work I see there.

Of what are you proudest so far? Probably like many artists it’s my most recent paintings – currently at M16 Artspace. I was very proud of being a finalist in the 2010 Blake Prize and touring exhibition. I feel humble when I sell a painting – I want to greatly thank all the collectors and institutions that have supported me over the years.

What are your plans for the future? To keep making interesting art. I think I’ll start putting some figures into my landscapes.

What about the local scene would you change? Nothing. Realistically Canberra is a wonderfully supportive place for making art – I’ve had a lot of great opportunities here. I do miss some of the cool commercial galleries which I’ve shown with over the years.

What are your upcoming performances/exhibitions? I have an exhibition at M16 Artspace until Sunday May 21. I am hoping to have another exhibition there next year. The M16 gallery is such an important space for Canberra – it gives artists like me an opportunity to exhibit in a top-class venue.

Contact info:


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