It has been said that an artist’s studio can reveal much about the artist. I was lucky enough to capture a rare glimpse of this artist in her backyard studio in Dorrigo. The light is streaming through, illuminating an opulence of artworks carelessly stacked against every wall and object of any weight. Paints, pastels, palettes, cloths and other tools of the trade are scattered across the workbench. Amidst this sits Chris herself, completing the picture, seemingly at peace in her secret world of art.
At 76 years old Chris Hundt is possibly more productive than ever. “I will always create, whether I’m working on a two-dimensional surface or a third dimension – creating in my garden. As long as I can use my hands I’m happy” she says.
A common theme throughout Chris’ works is the depiction of the ordinary; the everyday, mundane elements of life. As a self-proclaimed feminist, her art speaks for women. “I want to acknowledge women’s work and women’s efforts. I’m saying this is what women do and it is of value.”
She has depicted this sentiment in her series of washing lines. “I don’t want to follow the traditional masters of still life although there’s many I admire. I endeavour to avoid the male view of the world – and in most works I try to portray the ‘female’. This is how we live, these are the things we do in our lives. So painting washing lines is a bit of a laugh to me, yet I want the viewer to see the rhythms of shapes, the light streaming through, and the humour.”
When pressed, Chris was drawn to the symbolism of washing on a line because she has a particular predilection for hanging washing. I actually enjoy it! Gets me out of the house! Great to stretch and bend! I think I’ve secretly got a black belt in hanging washing.”
Light and the patterns it can create is heavily explored throughout Chris’ works. “I think I have always been looking for the light, almost as an unconscious drive. Hence light and shadow are common in my images,” she says. It was the expansive light across a distant view that drew Chris out of the Kalang Valley and up to the Dorrigo Plateau twenty years ago.
Chris originally moved to Kalang from Sydney in 1983, seeking an alternative lifestyle. “Sydney didn’t offer me room for painting. I’d been working in graphic design and illustration, but at that time abstraction was all the go. My 18 years in Kalang were spent painting the microcosm of the valley, searching for a balance between abstraction and realism. But eventually I heeded the call of the open spaces and light up on the Plateau. The escarpment, streams, fine rain and the mistiness create the most romantic and interesting landscape. It’s magic for an artist.”
Despite being drawn by the beauty of Dorrigo and surrounds, many of the paintings lining the walls of her studio depict a more industrial landscape. “Even in the harshest scene or landscape there is beauty. I love communicating through visual things, looking for the light and the patterns of shadows it creates. I want to say -just look at this.”
Chris is passionate about the arts generally and isn’t impressed by funding cuts to the industry. “The arts sector contributes billions towards the country’s GDP. We have been hit hard across the board by government decisions and the current loss of public exhibitions, concerts and the like. And yet the very culture and identity of our country is defined by the arts. Artists can convey a message. I believe artists should be engaged right now to convey a message of positivity and community. We could be the solution as we emerge from these difficult times.”
Closer to home Chris understands the importance of supporting the local creative community. “We support each other, share ideas and buy each others artworks. But we need the support of our whole community. A strong, healthy arts sector is so vital for the recovery of this entire region.”
Still evolving as an artist, Chris occasionally revisits older paintings, making changes depending on new ideas about the work. She likes to adapt a particular style according to how and what she wants to say in a particular piece. These days her artworks show a loosening up, moving away from the purely representational. Despite dreams of being part of the artistic elite, she has chosen the richness and happiness that her Dorrigo community, stunning surrounds and life of creativity have afforded her. “Even if I was a well recognised artist in Sydney I’d be saving for my dream home in the country. Well I have that already.”
To view Chris’ artworks CLICK HERE