Lorna Crane: For love of country
Painter and mixed media artist Lorna Crane talks about her ‘Australian-ness’ and her unwillingness to follow the rules.
Lorna’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Wollongong-based Lorna Crane has been developing her signature style of uniquely abstract paintings and mixed media work for over 40 years.
Lorna has contributed to countless solo and group exhibitions by setting a personal goal to exhibit at least once a year. Her work can be found in private and public collections all over the world, including at the National Irish Visual Arts Library in Dublin and the Bundanoon Trust in New South Wales.
Lorna joined Fibre Arts Take Two to chat about what it means to be an intuitive artist, the importance of not following rules and ‘staying Australian’ despite travelling the world.
“I have never been able to follow rules,” Lorna explains. “As a young child, I wanted to be able to knit like my sisters, but I could never follow a pattern or do anything at all like that.
But it’s liberating when you give yourself permission to create rules. You can set some parameters about how you’re going to work but then, as you start working, that changes, and why should you stop that flow? You need to work on something and let it become what it’s meant to be.”
Lorna was lucky to have art school teachers who encouraged her to let her hands do the talking.
“I decided to take textiles because I wanted to prove that I could follow rules! One day I was trying to spin on this spinning wheel. I was just a ball of sweat! The teacher Joan Chappell said, ‘Oh my gosh, just relax.’
The next exercise was trying to do landscape-based fibre work, and I didn’t know how to start it at all. Joan said, ‘Well, just do a background wash on the cloth and treat your needle and thread like a pencil or a paintbrush.’ This gave me permission to follow that thread and let it just be what it was meant to be. That was a pivotal moment because I realised it’s ok to do things your way. It’s how you put your own stamp on things as well.”
Lorna adds, “I’m very much an intuitive worker. I really, honestly trust what I do now. But it’s taken me a long time to do it. It’s been a really long journey, but it has been lovely having mentors who believed in me, even in the very early days. They reminded me to just keep on with it and be true to myself. They said, ‘You’ll grow into it,’ and that’s what happened.”
Lorna says that giving others permission to find their voice is a gift. “That’s my strength as a tutor, and it’s what I love about teaching. I hope to give artists the strength to stand up for themselves as whatever artist they want to be.”
You can take the artist out of Australia…
Lorna’s work reflects the moments of time she has spent in the Australian landscape.
“Years ago, I went on a teacher exchange in Canada with my partner. And it was an incredible time. I ended up organising an international art exhibition between the gallery in Wollongong, as well as in Ontario in, Canada.
In the summer, we decided to travel across Canada, from the south of Toronto to Vancouver Island. Then we caught the ferry to Port Angeles and went through different parts of America through to Chicago and back out east. Every time we were in a new city, I went to every gallery I could go to. It was really interesting because you could see how the landscape impacts us as artists.
Every time I go away, I think that it’s a time to reflect on my Australian-ness. Where I come from, where I’ve been, and the impact that landscape has had on me. It’s something I once listened to the writer Tim Winton talk about; him feeling more Australian when he is away.
I like to sit in the landscape and let that place settle into me, so I’ve got a sense of what it’s all about.”
Like Tim Winton, Lorna has recurring themes in her work, and many of her pieces reflect the Australian landscape. Her latest book is based on her time in Central Australia (Lorna did an artist residency in Broken Hill, NSW).
“I just love the fact that I live in this sunburnt country, and when I was thinking about this, I was thinking of the poem by Dorothea Mackellar;
I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping planes
Of rugged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains
I love her far horizons
I love her jewel sea
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
“This is my story about my country. I just wanted to do panoramas and celebrate some of the gifts people have given to me.”
Lorna’s book incorporates a number of recurring motifs while also exploring mixed-media fibre works, even though she is a painter. “I’ve come out of the closet!” Lorna exclaims, “I’ve loved cloth ever since I was a young girl. It’s a sensitive medium to work in, and it’s so tactile.”
About the artist
Since February 2015, she has taught brush-making workshops within NSW, Victoria, ACT and QLD. Known as The Brushmaker, she sources materials from her natural environment, including driftwood, bamboo, and organic fibres along with found objects making unique rudimental and utilitarian brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes.