GAARA Arts looks back and ahead

Jenny Cattonar with ‘New Life’.PICTURE: NARDIA KEENAN

Jenny Cattonar has created a painting called ‘New Life.’

“It’s a burnt-out tree and you’re getting new growth coming from the bottom,” she said.

Which, after a bushfire, it does give you that new growth.

“And the birds are coming back.”

The artwork pays homage to the Darling River, to the new water coming through.


With the drought also breaking, a surge in renewables mining and an influx of new people, the artwork is a metaphor for new growth sprouting throughout the Far West on many levels.

Jenny will bring that sense of optimism to ‘Retrospectives,’ an exhibition at Trades Hall for Broken Hill Heritage Festival, by Girls and Art in Regional Australia (GAARA) Arts.

GAARA was formalised in 2008 by Annette Minchin, who was in an informal group with artists, Bronwen Woodroffe and Deirdre Edwards.

The women were very interested in exhibiting art which reflected women’s issues and would exhibit around the time of International Women’s Day.

There are now approximately 20 local female artists in GAARA, with an exhibition at Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery every 2 years. GAARA enjoys a great deal of success, with many tourists buying artworks.

Whether portraits or landscapes, Jenny’s paintings seem to glow and she has a natural ability to translate light from nature into her artworks.

“I just capture it,” said Jenny.

“I can’t explain how I do it. It just comes to me.”

Jenny never had any training but the artist’s streak runs through her family.

“My grandfather was a professional and my father was a very good drawer and he was a sailor,” said Jenny.

“He used to go from Italy to North and South America on a luxury liner.

“He did pen and ink drawings and he used to do alot of people onboard – portraits, small caricatures.

“If they liked them, he’d do a bigger version to make some extra money.

“He was offered a job in America illustrating for some newspaper but he was courting Mum.”

Jenny also excels at portraits and, unlike many artists, has no difficulty drawing hands.

“You treat a hand like you do a face,” she said.

“Well, you have to know how many bones are in the hand to draw it.”

Jenny’s art spans traditional, through contemporary, to quirky and leaves her admirers anticipating the next surprise.

“I did Bondi Beach, with Tweety Bird in a yellow polka dot bikini,” she said.

‘Retrospectives’ opens at Trades Hall on Good Friday and runs until April 30, from 10am to 4pm every day.

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