Ursula Theinert Emerging Artist

In a follow up to a previous post on Ursula Theinert as she took us step by step through her first solo art exhibition, we now have her interview. For art enthusiasts everywhere wanting to know more about the process of starting out through to emerging as a contemporary artist, here is “part 2” of the process from Ursula’s viewpoint. Steve Gray.

Ursula lives in peaceful Callignee which is South of Traralgon on the way to the beautiful Tarra Bulga National Park, she is an emerging contemporary artist…

Ursula, can you give us an “Artists Statement”?
I like to call myself an Environmental Expressionist, because my work explores the relationship between human kind and the environment.
My focus is on the profound spiritual connection we have with nature and the duality of our behavior to our world.  I draw my inspiration from the Australian bush around my home, amid remote farms, plantations and quarries.

My work looks at the disfigurement done to the land, and in order to heighten passion and empathy I express the landscape in human terms, as a living entity.  My current series relates to the dichotomy between managing our forest and the environmental harm that results. My work attempts to highlight some “hidden” realities in our forest management practices that I became aware of during the walks and drives around my home. It fascinated me that on the “surface”, plantations of often alien species may give the impression of environmentally positive outcomes, however on closer scrutiny they lead to “deserts” under the canopy for native flora and fauna.
I feel that the challenging environmental issues facing us, requires us to look closely at our land use practices with fresh eyes and lateral thinking.

This heightened appreciation of the countryside has been influenced by living overseas for eleven years. I traveled to Bahrain in 1992 with my husband and son and taught in a small International school.  We enjoyed the full and rich experiences of living as an expatriate, which included visiting many European and Middle Eastern destinations.  On returning home to Australia, due to the second Gulf War, I began a Diploma of Visual Arts and a Certificate IV in Ceramics at GippsTAFE, in the Latrobe Valley.  This homecoming has definitely intensified my love and respect for our unique country, and a growing awareness of the beauty and fragility of the global environment.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
It does have social and political messages because I am genuinely concerned about the challenging environmental issues that confront and threaten our global future.  I believe that many problems can be helped simply through seeing what is often hidden and rethinking certain mindsets and finding improvements in the way something has always been done in the past.  Humans are adaptable and innovative and I have faith that problems can be overcome when there is an awareness of certain realities and the will for change.

There is a quote from Henry James which I feel relates and encapsulates my feelings about the need I have for my work.
” Despite the rejection of bold claim, art remains subversive —not because it demands revolution but because it illuminates life’s resonant meaning which is normally hidden, and which exposes the limitations of, rather than contradicts, society’s straight forward assumptions. “
I certainly don’t have the answers but I think it is important to begin the discussion.

What are you currently working on?
I am very excited about my next project which is to be involved in a group show called 4 the Love of Green with two fellow artists and friends, Kerrie Warren and Leonie Ryan.  We all share a love of the environment and love of art.  It is still in the early stages but we want and feel a need to create an intrinsic and powerful exhibition that expresses our own perspectives and values within our own styles and mediums. Hopefully, this exhibition will connect with the viewer’s perspective and will create an emotional experience and an awareness of alternative thoughts.
The plan is for the exhibition to travel to Regional galleries to promote discussion within the communities and to highlight the importance of the interconnectedness of our environmental choices to ourselves, families, communities, country and the world.
I am also in the process of organizing another exhibition of my ‘Forest Management’, exhibition at the Libby Edward’s Gallery at Jink’s Creek Winery, which is a great thrill.  The address is Tonimbuk Road, Tonimbuk (55 minutes East of Melbourne), and will be exhibited from about the middle of December.  I will post the firm date soon.
There is a video you can view of some of Ursula’s photographic works http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=UZCrjOMhKm4

What fascinates you?
This is a difficult question but I am attracted to the “hidden” and the “surface” aspects of issues.  I am also amazed at the profound spiritual connection we have to nature.

One word to describe your current works?

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
My current works are a further exploration into forest management and they are based on my photographs on pine plantations.

My paintings are acrylic on canvas, which can be read as a triptych or separately.  The paintings represent the “natural forest”, the “alien plantation” and the “devastation of the harvest”.  Each painting contains elements of spirituality, otherworldliness and Mother Earth.  As I said before these paintings are based on my photographs which were in black and white, negative prints and solarizations that conceptually linked the consequences of our actions.  The photographs are connected and mirror-imaged to suggest reflection and to highlight the panoramic vista and drama of what we have created.

The spirituality became obvious in the mystical interconnections of the photographs and I felt compelled to extend these images through Environmental Expressionism.  I wanted to tap into the subconscious spiritual bond that connects me to nature through the use of texture, colour and intrinsic emotion.

Why are you an artist?
I am not sure; it just seemed to become part of my life’s journey.  It wasn’t something that I deliberately planned; it all began when I wanted to learn ceramics.  The TAFE College experience was a stimulating one, and gave me opportunities to discover ceramics, photography, drawing, sculpture and painting.  I became hooked on the creativity and the freedom of expression that opened up for me, and now feel almost driven to create and question.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
I have been extremely lucky in my art career because I have had several wonderful experiences.  I entered the Archibald Prize three times, with the encouragement of my art teacher Peter Biram.  I first painted my accomplished ceramicist teacher, a Master Potter, Chris Myers.

Then in 2007 I painted Peter Biram, and thirdly, my friend, and abstract artist, Kerrie Warren.  Even though I was unsuccessful in becoming a finalist of The Archibald, the portraits were accepted into the Salon des Refuses, which was thrilling.  And to top it off, last year I had the honour of being asked to sit for an Archibald Portrait, by Janette Arnold-Collins, which also got into the Salon des Refuses.
This year I shared my first photographic exhibition with my husband, Werner, which was very special and touching, because we could share the experience together.

And lastly, just last week I had my first solo exhibition at the Latrobe Regional Gallery, in Morwell, which was always one of my goals and turned out to be a dream come true.

Was art a thing that was encouraged in your family?
Yes, I was very fortunate to feel that art was an extremely important part of life and learned a great deal of art appreciation from my father.  He is a wonderful drawer, and talked about his dream,  long ago, to become an artist, but because he had to provide for his family, a choice many other people find themselves in, he put that wish aside.  He always encouraged me to draw, and look closely at nature and we spent many hours enjoying art books together and going to exhibitions.

What or who inspires you?
I think nature inspires me and a need to express our connection to the world around us.  I am also inspired by many artists like, Edvard Munch, Arthur Boyd, Mark Rothko, Jan Senberg, Susan Norrie, Peter Booth, Rick Amor and Mandy Martin, the list could go on.
But I also feel that inspiration for me is coupled with being able to work within a supportive environment.  I have felt this type of encouragement by the many wonderful fellow students, teachers, like Peter Biram and Chris Myers and friends, like Kerrie Warren and Leonie Ryan and my husband who all have stimulated ideas with their discussions and talented work.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
I feel that this need to communicate with the viewer is extremely important to me.  Not in the terms of total understanding of what I am trying to say, but rather that the viewer connects with the work on an emotional level.

Are there special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
What I find almost magical about making my work is that while I am in a particularly focused process of mark making I feel as though I go into a type of meditative state.  When I become aware of my work again I marvel at the results because they have somehow come from within my subconscious. When this altered state occurs I feel particularly close and true to my work.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
Yes, I definitely do.  I have felt connected to all the art I have undertaken.  My ceramics and sculpture work were such a tactile experience that you can lose yourself in the work and I enjoyed all the 3 dimensional problems that had to be overcome.  The ceramic work also required a great deal of skill attainment, like throwing on a wheel and learning about glazes that also took you to a new level of understanding of the creation of an aesthetic object.

Photography has opened up a whole new medium which helps push my exploration into human kind and nature and my personal journey which I can then extend further in my paintings by the use of texture and colour and through my emotional energy, hopefully, create my own individual instinctual expression.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Well I feel that there are several factors that have worked for me. To begin with I think it is necessary to see yourself as an artist even as a student, with the experiences and education at school as a vital part of your artistic life journey.  With that attitude in mind I decided to immerse myself in all the different mediums on offer.  As a mature aged student I was able to not feel the same amount of time constraint as other students and had the luxury of being able to extend my course.  That meant that I took my time and focused on one or two art forms at a time and tried to learn as much as I could about them.  Then I moved onto other forms and did the same again.  To me each medium gave me invaluable creative experiences which helped open different perspectives and approaches to solving problems. In this preparation, the insights studied in art history were invaluable and of course remain a lifelong quest for more knowledge.  I found that by going through this multi-layered learning process it enable me to find my true direction.
It is also important to learn about the art industry and to consider yourself as a professional artist in your art practices and to be passionate about what you do.  Buy the best canvases and paint you can afford.  Have business cards, trifolds and a website as soon as you can, and remember to consider the point of view of the gallery, or media representative.
It is hard work to be an artist and it helps a great deal if you surround yourself with stimulating, like-minded people who are supportive and sharing.  I believe that creativity grows when you feel safe and accepted and most importantly, you must reciprocate those kindnesses.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
While I lived overseas my family and I had many holidays in Europe and were fortunate to go to the many extraordinary galleries in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Athens, and many other wonderful destinations.  They were awe inspiring and moving. We also went to nearly every cathedral in each of these countries.  My husband and I were captivated but it was a little harder to convince our young son of the educational merit of the excursions! Now our son is in his twenties, he fondly looks back at his holiday experiences and realizes what a fabulous journey of discovery they were for us all.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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15 Responses to “Ursula Theinert Emerging Artist”

  1. Ursula Theinert : ArtStuff on November 15th, 2008 2:01 pm

    […] Read more about her emerging life as an artist. November 15, 2008 | Filed Under Uncategorized  […]

  2. Eamon on November 15th, 2008 4:39 pm

    More details and more interviews, It’s great to see the work in detail the other interview gave us the show, great to put it all together. Seems like it’s all happening for you, keep going!

  3. Ursula Theinert on November 15th, 2008 6:25 pm

    Thank you Eamon for your kind words. I have been very lucky lately… the stars have been aligned!
    I will post the dates for the exhibition at Jink’s Creek Winery as soon as I get them.

  4. Stefan Maguran on November 16th, 2008 7:33 am

    I simply love your colours. So vibrant and warm.
    Good luck with your shows.

  5. Ursula Theinert on November 16th, 2008 9:49 am

    Thank you Stefan for your comments about my colours. As you can tell colour is very important to me and my art.

  6. Carolyn Henry on November 17th, 2008 8:52 am


    Love the new work, especially the arched portals, but I have never seen a work of yours that I don’t like. You have achieved so much and you are a great role model to other artists. It has been such a pleasure to paint alongside you at TAFE.

  7. Kerrie Warren on November 17th, 2008 4:01 pm

    Thank you for the insight into your personal world. You are so inspiring. I love the connection you express so beautifully between the landscape and yourself (and us). Your messages are strong, your colours vibrant. I particularly love the repeated patterns, the mirror imaging within your latest works….a rythm, a beat is visual and quite tantalising to the eye!
    All my love, Kerrie

  8. Ursula Theinert on November 18th, 2008 6:16 am

    I am chuffed that you like my work and thank you for your kindnesses. It has been a great pleasure painting with you too and I am certain that you will be a great success. You have achieved so much already, its marvellous!!

  9. Ursula Theinert on November 18th, 2008 6:21 am


    Your words are always so supportive and encouraging, they mean a great deal. Thank you very much, you have made my day!

    Lots of Love

  10. peter biram on November 18th, 2008 1:24 pm

    I agree with all the comments above. You have come such a long way in a short time.
    I am expecting great things from you Ursula, expecting nothing but the best. You have a great future in front of you, it has been a great honour to be your teacher and most of all a fellow artist.

  11. Ursula Theinert on November 19th, 2008 10:10 am

    Thank you very much Peter. You have been an inspirational teacher and a wonderful guide. The importance of supportive and encouraging environments within the education system along with the credibility of practising artists as teachers cannot be underestimated and you encapsulate all these factors. I appreciate my good fortune and all your kindnesses.

  12. Ursula Theinert on December 11th, 2008 8:43 am

    Hello Everyone,

    I am having a Solo Exhibition – Forest Management on 14th of December, 2008 to 25th of January, 2009 Abi Edwards Gallery at Jinks Creek Winery, Tonimbuk Road, Tonimbuk, Victoria. It is a beautiful destination about 55 minutes from Melbourne. It is open on Sundays 12-5 pm or by Appointment Ph: (03)56298502. This Sunday the 14th of December is the “Afternoon with the Artist”. I look forward to meeting you.

    Kind regards
    Ursula Theinert

  13. Ursula’s exhibition… : Art Re-Source on December 11th, 2008 9:46 am

    […] Theinert, one of our interviewed artists is having a Solo Exhibition – Forest Management  on 14th of December, 2008 to 25th of January, […]

  14. artist on January 3rd, 2009 5:08 am

    Thank you very much Peter. You have been an inspirational teacher and a wonderful guide.

  15. Black Saturday - A Tale of Two Artists : Art Re-Source on May 13th, 2009 8:27 pm

    […] now gained the strength to write and share their story with us. (For regular readers you will know Ursula as one of our interviewees and also her contribution of a story on her first solo exhibition.) Both Artists will be part of at […]