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A Full Circle Moment with Marnie Wark

It’s been twenty years since acclaimed Australian abstract painter, Marnie Wark, held her very first exhibition above an Adelaide café at the inaugural South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA) in 1998.

Her upcoming exhibition at the Yalumba Wine Room represents a true full circle moment for the internationally recognised artist who recently returned to the Barossa to raise her family in the place she calls home.

“Once I had children, the Barossa was the only place I wanted to be,” she said.

“From the moment I returned to the Barossa it felt like I’d never left. I felt safe, I felt nurtured, I felt surrounded by a whole community of people who respect things that are made slowly and made by hand.

“People who make wine, and cheese, or produce wool or turn pottery, it’s a creative culture but it’s also incredibly cosmopolitan for a regional area.”

Marnie discusses her signature style in her studio on the grounds of Yalumba.

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Growing up in the Barossa surrounded by family and friends, Marnie describes her upbringing as idyllic, but like many country kids, she couldn’t wait to get out and experience what the rest of the world had to offer.

“I studied visual arts and graphic design in Adelaide and then I worked in Sydney and Milan as a graphic designer,” she said.

“I was 22 when I was working in Milan. It was pretty amazing to be living and working there, but my true dream was to become a painter.

“I knew that I could always come back to design if I needed to, but art couldn’t wait.”

Not long after returning to Australia and setting up a studio, Marnie was commissioned by QANTAS to paint five images for the airlines’ in-flight dining boxes.

“The QANTAS work gave me incredible exposure on an international scale,” she said.

But Marnie’s big break came, when she was approached by the producer of the HBO TV Series Sex and the City, who commissioned her to paint a large canvas for the backdrop of a bar scene.

“After going to New York and working with producers of a show at that level I gained a lot of confidence,” she said. “I was young and naïve and it made me feel like anything was possible.”

“When I came back to Australia I had a list of art dealers I wanted to work with and approached them all, that was really the turning point for me, that’s when I became a serious exhibiting artist.”

Twenty years on, Marnie’s upcoming SALA exhibition, named Adrenaline – which will be held at the Yalumba Wine Room throughout August – shows a slightly more complex side to her signature style of soft, colourful, circular shapes that “dance around each other”.

“Adrenaline is really about the internal battle I feel, a battle that oscillates wildly between being ambitious and creating more, and the desire to find serenity, to lie in the sun on a warm rock by the beach,” she said.

“Ultimately, I think this exhibition is about aging. It’s quite different to the works I produced when I first started painting, there’s a lot more depth, life experience.

“Growing older and having a family has given me immense perspective about what I do.”

With a long historical connection to Yalumba, Marnie is delighted to be presenting her new works at the Yalumba Wine Room to celebrate her twenty-year career as an exhibiting artist.

“My grandfather Alf worked as the company secretary at Yalumba for 25 years and my grandparents were good friends with Helen and Whyndam Hill-Smith – they did a lot of community work in Angaston together,” she said.

“My father James, who is still a Director of Yalumba and has been for 37 years, is passionate about food and wine and people, and the culture of Yalumba.

“We grow Shiraz for Yalumba and the studio I rent even sits on the grounds of Yalumba.

“For as long as I can remember, Yalumba has been in my life, it makes a lot of sense to celebrate this milestone together.”

Adrenaline by Marnie Wark will be held at the Yalumba Wine Room 1-31 August as part of the 2018 SALA Festival, courtesy of Peter Walker Fine Art.