Mary Tonkin

Hush Kalorama, 2005 a celebration of the forest floor.

This work was purchased for the Whitehorse Art Collection in 2007 and is one of just two works by Australian artist Mary Tonkin in the Whitehorse Collection.

Mary Tonkin’s work is a breath of fresh air. It is a new take on the intimate closed-in scenes of the natural world as demonstrated by the artists of the Box Hill Artists’ Camp in the late 1880s and early 1890s. In these works the undergrowth was but a border that lead the viewer up to the main subjects. Here, in Hush, Kalorama, Tonkin celebrates the lush and sultry green and tan undergrowth, drawing attention to the worth of the scene as valid subject matter.

The artist travels often to her family’s secluded bulb and flower farm in Kalorama, where she works from an open studio built with funds awarded to her in 2002 when she won the Dobell Drawing Prize. The studio sits in a large clearing surrounded by the Dandenong Ranges National Park. She writes that it is an ‘enchanted paradise’ where the bush is ‘wet sclerophyll with tree fern gullies, Stringbark, Mountain Grey and Manna Gum’.

Ms Tonkin exhibited her work Ramble, Kalorama, 2017-2019, at Artspace in March 2020. The work is surely her magnum opus – a brilliant painting of 19 metres in width, painted on 21 canvases that she positioned in the bush to paint directly en plein air.

The vibrant forest floor, illustrated here in Hush, Kalorama, shows us an often overlooked fragment of the whole bush environment where every leaf fights for the viewer’s attention.

Hush Kalorama thumbnail

Image credit: Mary Tonkin, Hush, Kalorama 2005, oil on paper on canvas, 49.0 x 57.0 , Whitehorse Art Collection, Purchase, 2007