Posts Tagged ‘Art Gallery of NSW’

The first house and Billabong

January 12, 2020

Billabong by Oosterman.jpg

Billabong 1972 entree for the NSW Wynne Prize.

It is a miracle that this painting has survived because, as indicated above, it was shown decades ago in 1972 at the NSW State Art Gallery. Each year this gallery runs a competition for the best portrait, the best Australian landscape, and the Sulman for the best genre or subject painting. It is a yearly well published artistic event followed keenly by the public almost as enthusiastically as the Melbourne Cup, which is a world famous yearly race-horse event where many women turn up wearing funny hats and many men with ties get drunk. Well, not all men, but some do, and then some of those inebriated men end up grabbing women inappropriately (who are wearing the funny hats), and end up in court charged with indecent assault or even worse.

But the real miracle about the painting is that it is still in my possession. I am not sure when I painted it because it is not dated. The year after we moved to The Netherlands so I must have taken it with me and then some years later back again. It now rests in my garage at Bowral. Amazing. Another oddity is that not only was this painting accepted for hanging but the very walls on which the paintings were hung were also painted by me. I had won the contract for the painting of the new addition to the gallery of NSW. I am sure that this combination of painting walls and the art object hanging, from the same person, was unusual. I have now been asked to provide a photograph of Billabong in order for the Gallery to update their electronic data. The photograph was taken yesterday by my American friend who has the right very large and heavy cameras.

After the taking of the photo we decided to go around our old haunts where we lived in Balmain so many years ago. The little cottage where I painted Billabong is still standing upright . Here it is. Helvi and I lived there between 1969/73 and from 1972 with three lovely children.

IMG_0384 18 St Mary's Str

We bought the house for $12.500.-in 1969. It was built in 1869 on a very small block of just 135 Sq. m. It has extensive harbour views including Sydney’s harbour bridge, the city itself with lots of water including the coming and going of boats, both large and small, luxury yachts, ferries, pleasure boats, anything that can float and move about on water. Large freighters when being pulled ashore by tug boats and reversing their engines used to make the landmass shake including our old weatherboard cottage. It was probably the nicest place to bring up children and paint pictures. It was a life of excitement. The house was stimulating to live in. In fact all of our places we lived in have been stimulating or at the minimum they were made to be inviting and stimulating.

Here an old photo from the inside;


Our daughter on the phone

Notice the modest b/w TV now-a-days  overtaken by many people showing giant screens to such an extend they have to have ‘home theatres’. Some TVs are now so large they are being sublet to small families. The house was completely open and all walls downstairs had been taken out by the previous owners, an architect, leaving a large living space that included the kitchen and bathroom. Right in the middle was a slow combustion old cast iron heater that heated the whole house. With the exposed wooden floor and a mat here and there we made it into a lovely and glorious home. Oh, the nicest memories I have of that period now.


Our little daughter in front of the cast iron solid fuel heater.

Here a photo showing the living room. Behind the pine wall is the bathroom and laundry which we partitioned off. Previous the bath was fully exposed to the living area which our friends thought as rather progressive.


Christmas party. Helvi looking at the camera.

Notice the modest sitting arrangement on paint drums and wooden planks! We felt like Lords. A real pine Christmas tree on the left.

Those were the times!

( the present value of that timber house is estimated at 2.7 to 3.5 million dollars)

The good years 1966-1973. (Auto biography)

July 30, 2015
Gertrude's Cottage.

Gertrude’s Cottage.

With the birth of our two daughters, life in Gertrude’s cottage was enjoyed on a steady forward path. I remember it mainly as a very bright sunny yellow reflection on the timber floor with a shimmering expanse of water in the distance. A  few years of uninterrupted family bliss. I had my own business. The painting of pictures was done in between shooting out to deliver material or organise meetings with builders, clerk of works or quoting for new contracts.  I can’t remember if I had an easel or  just painted on the floor. Most of my work was entered into municipal competitions and I had a list of dates and places of when and where to send the paintings. I do remember that the size of the paintings became larger and larger perhaps in tandem with the growing of our little family. An expression of exuberance? The paintings also became braver.

It was one of those inexplicable fates of lucky circumstance that I met a Hungarian painter who taught art in the very heart of Sydney. It was at Sydney’s Rocks, just metres away from the Harbour bridge. His name was Desiderius Orban.  He had established himself as a modern and successful painter. He had also published a book on art and was a well-known  teacher. He did not really teach in the sense that he showed you a skill or technique. He encouraged rather than taught and very much pushed the students in expressing whatever was in them and did not care if you painted with a brush, a stick or your fingers. He was already very old but even so, lived on forever. Some people when getting old seem to get a new burst of live when already well past the age when most people are happy to take a permanent rest in the urn or the reserved plot of no return. He died aged 101.!

Another of those artists that seem to deny or defy the welcoming (but icy embrace) of the dearly departed is John Olsen. Readers might remember I took art lessons at the Mary White school of art  where he and Robert Klippel were doing some teaching. This was before my marriage while still living at home.  Both were free spirits and  indeed used to go to the local pub and imbibe a couple, only to return rather jovial and praising all students no matter what they had cobbled together.

John Olsen is still alive today ( 30/7/2015) and one of the only too rare an instance where his paintings are selling for millions and the artist able to enjoy it. How Vincent would turn is his grave?

With the continuation of entering my paintings in competition it would be outside the law of averages, if sooner or later, I would not hit the jack-pot. Hitting the jackpot might be a bit exaggerated  seeing the prices were rather within the limits of the Shire’s income forever struggling with keeping rates low. It was more of a way to climb the ladder to getting known and even more important, able to sell the work. I did win a couple of prices and more importantly had a painting accepted in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

It was also in that year that Helvi visited her family in Finland with both our daughters. I stayed behind to continue the decorating business. I had promised to look after the eldest daughter’s teddy bear by giving it porridge. The KLM flight included a photo taken of Helvi carrying the youngest in the Papoose which at the time was a novel way of traveling with very young children. This photo went world wide in the KLM’s magazine. It was a great shot and just wished I could find it. Alas it is ‘somewhere’ in our apartment but hidden in either boxes, linen- drawers or even albums, …