Artist Interview: Ann Thompson

Ann Thompson has a solo exhibiting history spanning over fifty years, her latest show at the Olsen Irwin Works on Paper Gallery  ‘Variations’ has an amazing sense of vibrancy and energy that protrudes the gallery walls.DSC_0456

Her show follows a recent artist residency in Riems, France, where Ann, aside from learning about champagne, was able to produce a dynamic collection of works show both at the Olsen Irwin Works on Paper Gallery and also at a survey of her paintings at the Drill Hall Gallery.

Barbara Hess once described abstraction in Abstract Expression  as a ‘constant searching of oneself’.

As an artist now in her 80’s, it seems an interesting idea that Ann is still  searching for herself.

Her works have a wonderful sense of irreverence that can only be instilled by  an artist with a particular confidence to their work.

“It is very important to know that it is always possible to  make a fresh start and rediscover oneself in another place.”


The show has been well received with visitors searching her abstraction for meaning and figurative narrative.

“I can see a Fish”, “That’s a duck”, “Oh, it is people dancing” have been the constant chatter of the gallery as viewer’s eyes are led from one colourful étude to another.

I spoke to Ann to try and get a glimpse about how this force of energy continues to capture peoples imagination  fifty years on .


Adagio VI


gouache on paper
55 x 38cm


 Q1) You have recently returned from an artist residency in Reims, how has this experience influenced your art?

I have worked in studios both here and overseas.  Last year I rented a big studio in Reims.  Some of the works I made there are in this exhibition and others, including large paintings, are in my survey exhibition at the Drill Hall in Canberra. It is very important to know that it is always possible to  make a fresh start and rediscover oneself in another place.

Q2) For an artist that has a career spanning many decades your works have an amazing sense of vibrancy and energy to them, do you think this is a reflection of yourself?

Your question opens many questions for me.  What is expression?  What is the self?  What is a career?  When I am working I don’t feel any particular age.  I tend to be as surprised as anyone by the outcome of the creative process.

Q3) In creating your artworks what do you believe is more important, colour or form?

To me colours have different weights. They can create a discourse amongst themselves.  When I am painting it is the composition that concerns me.  Colour becomes form and form becomes colour. 
Q4) ‘Accapella’ in the gallery window is an example of you using mixed media. Do you believe that artistic experimentation is important to maintaining a long artistic career?  

I have always made collage and sculpture and this perhaps informs the way I paint.  I begin a work and after a while it begins to take its own course. I am always conscious of the differences that make up a work and it is what happens when they spark off each other.



mixed media on paper on canvas
118 x 79cm

Q5) When preparing for a series of works do you find yourself working to a routine or is the creation more organic?

I usually work in a series that continues until I feel that is played out  It is a highly intuitive process and it is the same instinct that initiates and expands and then terminates the series, until it is played out.  It is exactly like music.
Q6) Many people people feel there is an underlining aquatic reference to the show, how do you respond to this interpretation?

Maybe the fact that I swim every morning causes the sensations and impressions of water and under-water to enter into my paintings.

Q7) Lucian Freud once said “The longer you look and an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real”, your works are already abstract, do you believe these works have a subject matter or do you believe it is the up the responder to search for their own meaning?

This question is difficult to answer because both of these propositions seem valid and the one doesn’t necessarily cancel out the other. An abstract painting can invent its own imagery and in a figurative painting, as Freud says, the real can be abstract.

Q8) if you could offer advice to a young artists looking to establish a career in the art world, what would you give them?  

 I think it is a wonderful thing to have a creative life.   There is a world of difference between a career and a vocation   But if a young person has strong sense of vocation nothing can stop them.

Vibrato I


gouache on paper
50 x 35cm

Ann Thomson: Variations is on view at the Works on paper gallery 40 Queen Street until the 14th of March 2015.


















Ann Thomson | Freehand exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery

A survey of recent paintings by Ann Thomson is currently on show at the Drill Hall Gallery in Canberra. ‘Freehand – Recent works by Ann Thomson’ exhibits paintings, mixed media collages and works on paper from the past seven years.

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Ann in her studio in Reims, France where she spent three months of 2014 on an artist’s residency

For an artist in her 80s, Ann’s work is remarkably youthful displaying a remarkable lightness of touch and gestural freedom. Her works have always been very generous, exuberance being as much an identifiable characteristic of the artist herself as much as it is of her paintings.

Indeed in his speech to open the exhibition, author David Malouf was quick to express his awe at the energy in each work, a testament to the energy of Ann and the vitality imparted upon each painting during the act of creation. And while her brush is loaded with an unbounded energy, her often overlooked collages embody a wondrous fascination with the world’s systems and the way they work, at once existing as reflections of the place in which Ann lives as well as evidence of a spirited inner logic.

Freehand (detail), 2014, acrylic on linen, 93 x 93cm

“Ann Thomson’s pictorial conceptions are characterised by their great vivacity. She has a remarkable feeling for pulse and rhythm, for dynamic energy unleashed into space.” – Freehand, recent works by Ann Thomson

As Terrence Maloon wrote in his foreword to the exhibition: ‘in 2008 one began to notice signs of change in her art – changes that could not be ascribed to the attrition of age. On the contrary: her paintings and drawings were growing conspicuously stronger, wilder and freer. To all intents and purposes, they had begun to grow younger.”

To coincide with this important exhibition, Olsen Irwin is exhibiting a small collection of works on paper at the works on paper gallery. These gouaches were all created last year, 2014 while Ann was on an artist’s residency in Reims, France. Their shifting forms are suggestive of aquatic bodies, something that Ann attributes to her morning swims.

Ann Thomson
Freehand – Recent works by Ann Thomson
19 February – 5 April 2015
Drill Hall Gallery, Kingsley St Acton, 2601. ACT

Ann Thomson
Opening 28 February 2-4pm
Exhibition 25 February – 14 March 2015
Olsen Irwin works on paper, small paintings and sculpture
40 Queen St, Woollahra NSW


Ann Thomson | studio visit

We recently visited the studio of Ann Thomson to look at some new works. Ann spent three months of last year living and working in Reims, France. The gouache on paper and acrylic on linen works she made there were a highlight of the visit. Ann has also been organising paintings in her studio for a show in Canberra at the Drill Hall. ‘Freehand – Ann Thomson’ will open on the 20th of February, and it was a lovely opportunity to see some of the pieces that will be in the show.

Born in Brisbane in 1933, Ann Thomson has been exhibiting since 1965. Thomson moved to Sydney to study at the National Art School after initially learning from Australian expressionist Jon Molvig. Ann has had a long relationship with France. in 1978 she was awarded a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. She would be awarded this residency again in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2006. Ann lives and works in Sydney.






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Luke Sciberras, Sophie Cape, Guy Warren, Guy Maestri and Ann Thomson | The Blow-In Art Collective

More images of Guy Warren, Guy Maestri, Ann Thomson, Sophie Cape and Luke Sciberras’ painting trip to broken hill as part of The Blow-In Art Collective. Part of a group of ten, these five artists spent time creating artworks in the area, before exhibiting the pieces in an exhibition at the regional gallery, currently on show.

The images below allow for a good comparison between the kind of land these artists found themselves on and the way they decided to depict it. And while sometimes painting en plein air can be hazardous for artists (we need only refer to the picture of Sophie Cape’s bunched up paper canvas, a result of the wind) one can see here that painting in situ provides all sorts of opportunities for an artist to create an original piece of work. And to be in the company of other friendly artists provides another dimension to the process of creation. Not only have these artists produced some fantastic artworks, it also looks from these images as though they had a fantastic time producing them.

The other artists involved in the project are Steve Lopes, Euan Macleod, Kevin Connor, Peter Kingston and Dan Kyle.

The Blow-In Art Collective
Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
404-408 Argent St, Broken Hill, NSW, 2880
Friday October 10 – November 24


































Guy Warren, Luke Sciberras, Sophie Cape, Ann Thomson and Guy Maestri | Painting trip to Broken Hill

A group of five artists from the Olsen Irwin stables are currently in Broken Hill creating works of art for the Regional Gallery. Guy Maestri, Ann Thomson, Sophie Cape, Luke Sciberras and Guy Warren are part of the “Blow-in art collective,” a group of ten artists from Sydney who will be painting en plein air in the area for two weeks.

At the end of this period the fresh works will be hung straight away in the gallery. It is quite unusual for something like this to occur without the finishing touches being added to a work in the studio first. It really is something that requires quite a bit of confidence on behalf of both the artists and the gallery.

The other artists involved in the project are Steve Lopes, Euan Macleod, Kevin Connor, Peter Kingston and Dan Kyle. From the photos below (taken by Luke Sciberras) it seems the group are not only making some wonderful artworks, but are also having a fantastic time together.

The Blow-In Art Collective
Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
404-408 Argent St, Broken Hill, NSW, 2880
Friday October 10 – November 24











sophie cape




Ann Thomson | Reims Residency

Ann Thomson has just returned from three months working in the city of Reims, France. Immersing herself in the French culture and way of life, Thomson worked everyday in her studio producing inspired gouache on paper and acrylic on linen works. Thomson’s works will be exhibited at the soon to be complete Jacquart Museum in Reims.

Born in Brisbane in 1933, Ann Thomson has been exhibiting since 1965. After studying under the renownded Australian expressionist, Jon Molvig, Thomson moved to Sydney to study at the National Art School, then called the East Sydney Technical College. In 1978 Thomson was awarded a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. Thomson has subsequently been an artist in residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2006. In 1998 Thomson won the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Wynne Prize. In 2002 she was awarded the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize, and in 2005 was the Kedumba Drawing Award. Thomson lives and works in Sydney.
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Ann Thomson | Direction Now | Glasshouse Regional Gallery

Ann Thomson’s work is currently on show in the exhibition Direction Now at Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse Regional Gallery. Direction Now features the work of ten contemporary Australian artists all exploring the visual language of abstraction. The exhibition is takes its title from the 1956 exhibition Direction 1 held at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. Direction 1 included the work of John Olsen, Robert Klippel, John Passmore, William Rose and Eric Smith and marked an important turning point in Australian abstract art. Direction Now explores a contemporary approach to abstraction and, “celebrates all aspects of abstraction including lyrical, gesture, texture and objectification as individual expression.” – Glasshouse Regional Gallery

Direction Now will also travel to The Town Hall Gallery, Lismore Regional Gallery and Caboulture Regional Art Gallery in 2014.

Direction Now
27 June – 3 August 2014

Glasshouse Regional Gallery
Corner of Clarence and Hay Streets
Port Macquarie NSW 2444


Direction Now featuring the work of Ann Thomson


Ann Thomson | ABC Radio National | The Masterpiece

Olsen Irwin artist Ann Thomson drops in this Saturday 12 April to ABC Radio National to talk about the of great Australian Indigenous painter, Yirawala. The Radio National programme hosted by Melanie Tait, allows a prominent Australian artist to discuss another artist’s work that has had a profound influence on them. Previous artists on the programme include Australian great John Olsen, singer songwriters Kate Miller-Heidke and actor Geoff Morrell. Listen to the segment with Ann Thomson this Saturday 12 April at 3:45pm.

The Masterpiece
Featuring Ann Thomson
ABC Radio National
3:45pm, Saturday 12 April 2014


Artist Ann Thomson in her Waverly studio


Ann Thomson | Studio Visit

Feeling very inspired after morning tea with Ann Thomson in her Waverly studio. Ann’s studio is the ultimate artist’s haven – brimming with work, paint, pastels and all things creative. A great insight into the process that goes into creating her paintings, works on paper and sculptures.

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