The beauty of life in all its intricate details Canberra Times

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Sometimes art is so smashingly beautiful, it stops you in your tracks, and you can not help but pause, stare, and get lost in it. Narelle Zeller’s work does it to me every time. She is a local in Canberra and is a modern realistic artist who primarily concentrates on figurative oil paintings but also “explores still life painting”. And where. Her amazing still life work is now on display in the Grainger Gallery on Dairy road in Fyshwick in the exhibition Mirror Mirror. It’s her first shared show with her sister Colleen Stapleton, though the couple has been to group shows before. Colleen’s work is all beautiful portraits and figurative pieces, great on texture, color and deliberate strokes. The sisters grew up on a property outside of Grafton in northern NSW, and both showed early artistic inclinations. “We have become more serious in recent years,” Narelle said. “Our father was a traditional cartoonist. He always painted in our backyard by hand. But we’ve always been creative.” Narelle says she was mostly self-taught and fine-tuned her skills while raising her family while Colleen went to art institutions abroad and in Australia. The decision to make an exhibition together was not difficult, their two artistic paths came together. “We just share the journey together,” Narelle said. “We’re both really serious about it at the moment and we have such a good relationship, we’re really close.” Narelle has been praised for her figurative work. Most recently, she was selected as one of 40 finalists in WA’s leading portrait award, The Lester Prize. The portrait, Brave New Worker, was of her husband Sam, in lockdown. She has also just put the finishing touches on a portrait of Ngambri-Ngunnawal’s oldest Aunty Matilda House, for access to the Darling Portrait Prize. She ventured out into still life as she painted a botanical headdress for a portrait of a friend. It also created a collaboration with Canberra floral artist Amy Clement from The Wild Side Florals, who provided the flowers for the original painting. “Just getting her to make a headgear, I thought as she went and picked up all those materials, it would also be nice to make some still lifes out of it,” she said. The intricate detail requires hours of careful application of paint. Narelle recently shared a timelapse video on social media showing her painting a flower, which took five hours. “And I usually make more layers,” she said. “The fastest piece to paint would be a few weeks, up to a month.” For the current exhibition at the Grainger Gallery, Amy Clement has also provided stunning flowers to complement the paintings. Narelle said the reaction to the Mirror, Mirror had been “very positive”. “We were just so happy with how many people came out for the opening night, even though it was streaming,” she said. “There were so many people there and we still get feedback from people who are visiting now and really enjoying the show.”

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