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Painting the town

Carnarvon and the region beyond have provided rich inspiration from generations of artists. Sue Helmot shares how her creativity was sparked for an exhibition in conjunction with the Gascoyne Food Council. By Gabi Mills. 


After moving to Carnarvon over ten years ago, artist Susan Helmot found the vast, remote Gascoyne landscape immediately invigorated her work. "I had an urge to interpret my new surroundings and express my love of colour with an unbridled freedom," she says. "It was the catalyst for transforming from a ceramic artist into a painter." Such a metamorphosis has garnered Susan rich rewards. In 2018 she partnered with the Gascoyne Food Council as their first artist-in-residence, a role which culminated in her first solo exhibition later that year.

"I'm now busily working towards my second solo exhibition to open the 2019 Gascoyne Food Festival in August," she says, drawing on the beautiful soft and natural palette of the Gascoyne region, its infinite horizon and expansive sky. Such is the unique nature of the environment however - taking in so many pastoral and farming businesses - she's also keen to include the cultivated landscape, a key feature of Carnarvon's rich history and current place as Western Australia's premier fruit and vegetable-producing region.

"When you look at the landscape in Carnarvon, it's hard to conceive that it has the capacity to grow fruit and vegetables," says Sue. "I see it as being unique as the environment appears to be in contrast with the perceived requirements of fruit and vegetable production." The dry delta, the arid conditions and baking sun bely the region's secret super power: it's a frontier of food that demonstrates perseverance, initiative and innovation in order to succeed against the odds. 

The people who make this seasonal miracle occur - the farmers and plantation owners - figure large in Susan's new exhibition. "As I spent more time meeting these people and capturing inspiration during field trips to plantations, pastoral stations and fishing harbours across the region, I realised that there was an important story that could be shared through my art. "My exhibition - Frontier of Food - explores the contrasting landscapes of the Gascoyne and the people who interact with it to produce outstanding food in a unique and isolated environment." 

The landscape itself - raw and beautiful - plays an equally large part in Susan's work. "In my paintings I like to emphasise beauty in what others could easily overlook or not consciously notice until it is captured through my work," says Susan. "I hope that this exhibition evokes pleasure through experiencing a different perspective that has a level of familiarity. "The Gascoyne has a wild energy that's difficult to describe in words but readily expressed through my art." Frontier of Food opens in August 2019 as part of the Gascoyne Food Festival. The exhibition will be held at the Carnarvon Library and Art Gallery. 

For the latest news about Susan's work and the exhibition join the mailing list on her website at

Waste not, want not


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