Home is where the art is

Frank Nowlan in front of a house he painted in Arthur St Thirroul. PICTURE: KIRK GILMOUR
Frank Nowlan in front of a house he painted in Arthur St Thirroul. PICTURE: KIRK GILMOUR

Artist Frank Nowlan has been painting the interesting and the quirky in his home town of Thirroul for more than 20 years.

He has witnessed changes in that time, including some transformations in the urban landscape as more homes are built and older buildings are demolished or renovated.

Nowlan's acute observations have resulted in a new exhibition of paintings titled Locale, which has recently opened at the Egg and Dart in Raymond Road, Thirroul.

Locale comprises 20 paintings which were completed over a five-month period from last September to February.

The latest paintings are a continuation of the theme on local houses that Nowlan has been painting over the past 10 years. During that time, he has painted more than 80 local houses and sheds.

Nowlan finds homes interesting because most people have a keen interest in the appearance of their house, and it is a reflection of their personality and individuality.

"Many houses featured in my paintings are not the newest or the most grandiose but they are simple and well loved.

"Some of my paintings of houses are a little quirky, for example, the house at Sandon Point which is painted in the colours of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian.

"The house opposite Jacksons' has a most interesting frame around the windows and a beautiful vine growing over the front of house."

Nowlan said the suburb of Thirroul had changed in appearance since he started painting in 1992.

He has concentrated more seriously on his art practice after retiring from a school teaching career at the end of 2003.

"Unfortunately, many of the local houses I have painted over the years have now been demolished and replaced by new and not so interesting structures.

"A lot of people are spending money on renovations and altering their homes and buildings.

"Eight or nine of the buildings I have painted in the last decade have completely disappeared.

"There was a double-storey shop opposite the Catholic Church in Thirroul.

"The builders were allowed to demolish but they had to keep the facade at the front. I have painted that a number of times but recently the standing facade had to be taken down for safety issues."

Nowlan's painting of a house on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul.

Nowlan's painting of a house on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul.

Nowlan walks around his suburb and notices things but he also relies on friends to point out possible painting subjects.

"People come up to me and say: 'There's a quaint little house in Moore Street, go and have a look at it', which I do follow up.

"There's spotters out there reporting back to me.

"In many of my early house paintings I used to paint people but many of my present paintings feature garbage bins - that is not a comment on humanity," he said.

"I like to paint the quirky and the interesting. The subject is whatever interests me. Sometimes I have painted letterboxes or sheds in my work."

Nowlan has just finished another series of paintings on the subject of child abuse in institutions.

Yet Nowlan's beloved Thirroul is never too far away from his thoughts and his paintbrush and canvas.

"What I believe is special about my community is that it is still a community," he said.

"One can duck into Thirroul village for a five-minute shopping visit and still be there, talking to a local, some two hours later. The Butchers footy side, the coffee shops, the Austi pool and the watering holes all add extra flavour to the cake."

FRANK NOWLAN, LOCALE is on until June 6 at Egg and Dart, Shop 2/1-3 Raymond Road, Thirroul.


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