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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
You could assume that husband and wife
artists, each working in the abstract field,
may have met in a gallery or a studio,
but Novoca strian James Drinkwater and
former Melburnian (now Novocastrian)
Lottie Consalvo fir st encountered each
other through the ar t of music. James
belonged to a band -- "a necessary hiatus
from ar t" -- and Lottie's on-again off-again
boyfriend did too. An after-gig par ty led to
James painting an impromptu por tr ait of
Lottie with per manent marker -- and they
were engaged after eight months.
The couple has been married for six year s
now and Lottie says endearingly, "That's
always been the exciting thing about our
r elationship, ever ything we've done, we've
pretty much done it for the first time
together. . .we've grown every step of the
Travel has been an impor tant component
of their shared lives, with a three-year stint
in Berlin, and a shor ter stay in Paris, key
As the daughter of Newcastle ar tist, Dino
Consalvo, who, for a period, chose a
business career in his family's best interests,
Lottie inherited both her father 's gift and
his reluctance to trust ar t as a breadwinner.
She worked as a jeweller, and chose a
degree in entrepreneur ship over fine ar ts,
but Lottie admits, "I spent the whole time
drawing in the class !
"Later, we went to the Pompidou in Paris
and I saw all the modernists and thought, 'I
have to paint.' Then we went to Berlin and
I tr eated that like a fine ar ts degree really
-- we both locked our selves in the studio
and painted every day -- we didn't have any
other jobs for three years." Both her father
and Lottie now pur sue their ar t practice.
Looking back, James is clear that he wanted
to be an ar tist "since I was little". He r ecalls
r unning around his aunt Leonie's house
while she painted landscapes around the
kitchen table; "everyone else kept running
by and I stopped and thought, 'what is she
doing? ' I was fascinated by the colour. . .her
ability to put paint on a canvas and make
an image appear. ..that was the first thing
that flicked that switch for me."
Two ar t teacher s were significant
influences on James ; Ellyen Davies at St
Pius X High School and Penny Buckley at
St Fr ancis Xavier's College. He also cites
Ron Har tree (of the Ron Har tree Ar t
School in Newcastle) as a r eal mentor and
Newcastle itself is critical to his maturing as
"I went to national ar t school in Sydney and
had a solo exhibition at ar ts centre in Par ry
St. I was only at art school for a year and
scurried back to the cave, 18 going on 16. I
just knew I wasn't ready to be in Sydney.
"Young ar tists need to go over seas and have
a look at the great works. At high school
you're only exposed to a few influences
and you're often too young to digest it all
. . .too young to put it all into categories. . .
"I learned my own visual language, who
I wanted to be as an artist and how I
wanted to paint, through looking but also
working really hard and experimenting
-- mucking round -- with different media ,
different ideas.. ." From the Berlin period,
James and Lottie both recall "lots of
conver sation around the table -- poets ,
musicians, filmmaker s -- there was the
chance to see how it all overlaps".
There's no evidence of ar tistic
temper ament in this creative household
with splendid views of Merewether Beach,
and although each ar tist has a distinctive
style , they complement -- and compliment --
each other beautifully.
James is renowned for sweeping abstr act
works with strong brush strokes and
commanding use of colour. For m and shape
are cr ucial and what can seem like r andom
daubs reward closer contemplation.
Lottie is a multidisciplinary ar tist working
across performance, painting, installation,
assemblage and video. Her space is rich
with tex tur e and colour, and seemingly
unrelated objects are instinctively placed in
ways that evoke relationship.
A steep staircase separ ates two studios
and when both ar tists are working, there is
clearly plenty of cross-inspiration. "We help
each other a lot," says James. "Our work is
very different, which is the best thing, and
that's how the relationship, as ar tists and a s
husband and wife, sur vives."
Lottie says, "We tr ust each other. We
both look at the same ar tists but we also
look at different ar tists we've introduced
to each other. We're ver y aware of each
other's practices and where we're heading.
We talk non-stop about what we're doing.
I don't know what we'd talk about if we
weren't ar tists! "
While feedback is clearly shared, there
is time for solitude too. James obser ves,
"We've always worked side by side but
you do need a divide," and Lottie adds,
"We don't want to see each other's work
while we're working." In fact, Lottie
acknowledges "a growing desire for ar t
and life -- which can never be separate -- to
converge mor e and more. My ideal would
be to have a large studio with door s
which could be open to what other s
are doing but then closed when I need
Two significant factors have influenced
James' and Lottie's work pr actices in
recent years. The first was the r andom
meeting with their neighbour Anne, an
avid reader of crime novels and a collector
of paper weights and beautiful objects .
Anne is the widow of a local ar tist and she
allowed Lottie and James to move into
her husband's studio. Over time they have
become very close, almost family. The
second wa s the ar rival of their now 17
month-old son Vincenzo.
James and Lottie long to travel again and
to show Vincenzo the great ar t works
they love, but for now, Newcastle is very
much home and there is no shor tage
of inspir ation. James' comment about
what inevitably happens when they share
exhibition space mirrors their relationship:
"We always sit well together in a group
show. . .if our works are hung in the same
room, cur ators will often instinctively put
us right next to each other. . ."
To learn more please visit
TWO BY TWO
BY TRACEY EDSTEIN
THE ART IS
Vincenzo, Lottie and James with Lottie's works "I don't dream" (left) and "I knew I knew you".
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