Local artist draws on Mid West for inspiration

Peta Riley, Claudia Karvan and Helen Ansell wearing Mulla Mulla designs Acclaimed Australian actress Claudia Karvan has opened Geraldton artist Helen Ansell’s exhibition, Floribundus.

The actress opened the exhibition which is described as "an innovative exploration of textiles and paintings that celebrates Western Australian wildflowers", to a crowd of 500 people at the Courthouse Gallery in Port Hedland two weeks ago.

Helen’s vibrant decorative paintings have an unmistakable sense of composition and colour, with meticulous brushwork and a celebratory spirit which enlivens the canvas.

Helen’s choice of subject matter is an expression of the memories she has of living close to the land.

Helen has a deep sense of connection with the West Australian landscape and refers to the area where she lives outside of Geraldton as her backyard.

Whilst she has an affinity with the Midwest, Helen has also travelled extensively throughout the state which is the inspiration for her paintings and textiles, illustrating her interest in the broader Western Australian environment, particularly its fauna and flora.

"I’ve always had a close affinity with the outback - the desert," Helen said.

"When I find myself surrounded by red dust and miles of flat horizon I feel a sense of home.

Wildflowers are one of the hidden treasures found there; they transform the landscape into fields of colour beyond where most people can see them, beyond the fence line."

Helen’s interest in wildflowers has been catalysed by the time she spent as a child on her father’s station collecting native seeds and her experiences growing up in Ululla, a remote Aboriginal community outside of Wiluna.

In Ululla her life was entwined with a group of Martu Aboriginal women artists whose art work became a major influence, as did the extraordinary forms of the indigenous flora. Helen has worked across WA as an art teacher, most enduringly with Aboriginal artists in Port Hedland, Wiluna and Greenough Regional Prison.

Two years ago, Helen and fellow Geraldton artist, Peta Riley, started a company called Mulla Mulla Designs. The partnership emerged from the natural translation of Helen’s work into patterns for textiles and other products.

Launching a series of works inspired by this collaboration the exhibition shows the enormous potential of Helen and Peta’s creative partnership.

As well as featuring Mulla Mulla custom designed furniture and fabrics alongside Ansell’s exhibition, a range of exciting new products were also available for sale at the West End Markets to a crowd of around 5,000 people, including cushion covers, silk scarves, prints and tea-towels.

“We couldn’t have hoped for a better launch of our new West Australian designed products – seeing Claudia Karvan wear one of our scarves on the opening night of the exhibition was certainly a big endorsement! We are looking forward to launching our our brand in our hometown of Geraldton and having our products for sale there very soon.”