My mother was an antique shop devotee – a browser rather than a buyer – and, living in Coorparoo in the 1960s, a favourite destination was a fascinating store jam-packed with heirloom objets run by Margaret Olley in neighbouring Stones Corners. That was before she became a one of Australia’s most beloved artists.
Last week, with southern relatives visiting, I made the trip to the fine Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah which recently won art world lotto as a beneficiary of Margaret Olley’s will. In a purpose-built extension three key rooms of the artist’s famously eccentric Paddington, Sydney, home have been painstakingly put back together, right down to the cigarette butts and chocolate wrappers.
There is the huge dining table, capable of seating 12, and set with place mats adorned with images from the Karma Sutra at which she would host her legendary luncheons to guests from all society stratas. There’s her “Lamb of God” statue, vases of flowers, an altar, baskets – and of course lots of art work. Any corner of any of the rooms could be the subject of one of her paintings. Her kitchen was far from your fancy, marble-benched, European-appliance variety, more like the kitchens our parents cooked in.
A peek through Margaret Olley’s window.
The famous dinner table, and “Lamb of God” and altar at the rear – and lots, lots more.
No new-fangled phones….
The Tweed Regional Gallery, to which the Margaret Olley Art Centre is the latest addition, sits in a stunning location overlooking lush green pastures leading down to the Tweed River with the crooked thumb volcano core of iconic Mt Warning overlooking all from its skyline vantage point. It is built on land donated by former deputy Prime Minister and local federal member Doug Anthony, and his wife Margot. All three stages, the first of which opened in 2004, were designed by Brisbane architect Bud Braddigan. Key elements include horizontal and vertical slit windows strategically located to capture striking views of Mt Warning and the lush Tweed River Valley. Decorative slat feature walls and ceilings are crafted from timber taken from the property. The combination of place and contents is drawing the crowds with the carpark overflowing and vehicles lining both sides of the approaching road, even mid-week.
Decorative ceiling timbers milled from the property.
Mt Warning framed in a horizontal gallery window.
Shaded vertical view of Mt Warning.
Classic Tweed scape.
The Tweed Regional Gallery is an appropriate beneficiary of Margaret Olley’s bequest with nearby Lismore her birthplace and the abundant Northern Rivers region the place of her early years. She attended school at Somerville House in Brisbane, not far from her Stones Corner antique shop. Recalling that 60’s shop you could certainly see the genesis of Margaret Olley’s idiosyncratic and chaotic living and working quarters. She was famous for her love of bric-a-brac and never throwing anything out. In total 75,000 items were transported from Paddington to the Tweed. Apparently one of her philosophies was: “Don’t tidy up before people come because you’ll only have to tidy up again when they go.”
I might try that at my next dinner party.