Guus Brunnekreef: Art Reflecting Life

Guus Brunnekreef values family, culture, community and tradition above all else, reflected in her portraiture work and her volunteer work with Miindala.

Guus Brunnekreef values family, culture, community and tradition above all else and these values are woven through every aspect of her life.  Her most recent emergence as an award-winning artist has been both “unexpected and humbling” says Guus.

Guus Brunnekreef values family, culture, community and tradition above all else, reflected in her portraiture work and her volunteer work with Miindala.

‘In Tune’ -won People’s choice at the Bellingen Community Arts Council Members Art Prize

However, her latest series of Indigenous portraits so fully reflect her connection to culture and tradition, one could say this is the culmination of her life journey.

Guus was one of 14 children, raised in a rural region of the Netherlands.  “Being creative was a necessity- if you wanted a toy you made it, if you wanted a dress you made it. Growing vegetables, preserving, crocheting, knitting were all essential skills,” says Guus.

These early years also gave Guus a true appreciation of our responsibility to every living creature and the earth.  “My father used to say there is something wrong when the farm animals don’t have names anymore. I learnt as a child the importance of crop rotation and not depleting the soils. These were the concerns of the farming communities in Holland so many years ago. It’s not about quantity but quality. This always resonated with me,” says Guus.

Guus describes these early years as “full of happiness. It was like boarding school at home. With 4 children to a room it was all about us, never about me.  We were and still are all so close,” says Guus.  So the decision to immigrate to Australia with two young children wasn’t an easy one.

After a few false starts Guus and husband Robert moved into the then empty café space at the Old Butter Factory Bellingen in 1992 and created the now iconic Butter Factory Cafe.  “The Cafe was a 7 day per week business, which we ran for 17 years.  This was a marvellous time.  We had the most brilliant staff who worked with us for years.  We became part of this rich community and working at the café allowed us to rejoice with those celebrating and provide a shoulder for those in need,” says Guus.

It was during this time Guus also realised the distinct differences between her new found home and life in the Netherlands.  “Death and grieving were dealt with so differently in Australia.  Overall death was so clinical here.  Birth and death happened at home in Holland.  I would often hear my clients at the Old Butter Factory lament about not having the opportunity to spend the final moments with their loved one.  To have missed out on that last cuddle,” says Guus.  “It is a privilege to be at a birth, just as it is a privilege to be at a death.”

Guus began working with Miindala, formerly the Bellingen and Dorrigo Bereavement Group, now our local branch of the National Association for Loss and Grief [NALAG], established by Leah Munroe. Miindala is the Gumbaynggirr word for “doing things well”, reflecting the group’s philosophy for how things can be done at end of life.

The group comprises 14 volunteers under the co-ordination of Anna Chetan Bloemhard.  All have received training in loss and grief and ‘how to listen’.  “We provide an ear for the grieving,” says Guus.  The group has also revived a booklet ‘Do Your Own Funerals’, by Leah Munroe for those wanting to personalise their own or loved one’s parting and have purchased a cooling plate and cuddle cot with funds raised, which enable families to be with their deceased loved one in their own home for longer. “There is no right or wrong way to grieve – it just is.  But we believe having more control over the process assists the grieving process,” says Guus.

Guus Brunnekreef values family, culture, community and tradition above all else, reflected in her portraiture work and her volunteer work with Miindala.

‘Insight’ Nambucca Valley Arts Council Inc. 1st prize in open section and People’s Choice.
Dorrigo Show Champion and People’s Choice.

This rich life, so full of love, human connection and experience is now reflected in Guus’ portraiture work.  Her chosen medium is water colours combined with drawing.   “I am drawn to faces and hands, this is where the true story and culture are reflected.  To capture the ‘soul’ of my subject is the challenge,” says Guus.  Having won three ‘people’s choice’ awards in the past 12 months means the viewers are also connecting with Guus’ subjects.  “To think that my work resonates with people is very fulfilling,” says Guus.  And resonate they do.

“Insight” together with other similar artworks are currently showing in the Indigenous & Australian Art Exhibition at the Bellingen Framing Gallery, 44 Hyde Street Bellingen until the 8th December.

Guus Brunnekreef values family, culture, community and tradition above all else, reflected in her portraiture work and her volunteer work with Miindala.

‘Breeze’ by Guus Brunnekreef- Art Space Urunga

12 Comments

  • marlene Griffin says:

    What an amazing artist you are Guus. Your ‘Peoples Choice ‘ win ‘ with your art work titled “Insight” at the Nambucca Valley Art Show recently was a very inspiring work and admired by so many visitors to the show. We look forward to seeing more of your work.
    Marlene Griffin

  • Vivienne Evans says:

    Guus, Beautiful, creative soul you embody….will always remember our choir times with your talented daughter and amazing sister…….absolutely LOVE your work in all areas and look forward to seeing what you’re doing at present………Viv Evans..

  • Lynne Emerson says:

    I just love Your beautiful indigenous portraits Guus. I voted for you in both Bellingen and Nambucca. This lady ‘s work is amazing and I can’t wait to see a lot more. I’ll have to make a quick track up to Bello to see your show Guus. Good luck. Lynne Emerson.

  • Giri says:

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your art! Here is a great example of art bringing healing to society!

  • Margot says:

    Such beautiful work Guus. You are a very talented artist.

  • Sandra says:

    Dear Guus
    A great down to earth beginning nurtured a sensitive soul such as yours, enabling you to paint beautiful heart felt images is truly a gift ,
    Thank you for your input to our community
    and a sharing depth of compassion when we need it most

  • Gust says:

    Mooi tante Guus

  • Leah Channon says:

    Dear Guus,
    What a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing, not only your personal life but artistic journey of achievements . Well deserved lovely lady xx

  • Esther Tholen says:

    Wow! Great article. I’m not surprised…you are great at whatever you put your hands to. I was one of the privileged people to work with you and Rob at the wonderful Butter Factory Cafe. I learned so much from you both. And feel even more privileged to call you my friend. So proud of you…your art work is amazing. 🙂

  • Hans says:

    Hoi tante Guus. Wat n mooi verhaal. Suc6 met de tentoonstelling. Groet. Hans

  • Cmc says:

    Mooi artikel Guus! En ook terecht geweldige reacties….ben benieuwd naar je volgende schilderijen.
    Ligt er nou een grote druk op je? Veel succes!

  • Jolanda says:

    Je bent een geweldig mens.

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