When Jenny Riddle and husband Danny moved from Aspendale to Red Hill in 2002, pieces of a larger puzzle seemed to fall into place. By coincidence or serendipity, they purchased their new home from a local artist so the property included an artist’s studio. That artist encouraged Riddle to submit her paintings to annual art event, Art Red Hill and to consider showing her work to Manyung Gallery. She’s been exhibiting at both ever since.

This year Riddle won Best Visual Image at Art Red Hill, an accomplishment made all the more impressive because it was judged by superlative Australian art writer, publisher and curator, Susan McCulloch who chose Riddle’s work from a vast and impressive field because  “It was evocative of the Peninsula, was beautifully resolved and had a wonderful sense of atmosphere.”

Their tree change decision certainly landed Riddle in the right place. In addition to being an artists’ enclave, the surrounding coastline and verdant rolling hills provide the inspiration for her subject matter. In fact, the couple chose Red Hill because they loved coming up to the Hinterland to hike, bushwalk and to be closer family.

Exploring open spaces, breathing fresh air and getting lost in the big sky provides Riddle with ample artistic stimulation, but it’s the way she translates the landscape that makes her paintings so transcendent. Paddocks breath, stillness permeates and the very atmosphere of place envelops the viewer.

When she found out her beloved sister, Andrea, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, painting helped her cope with her sister’s illness taking her to another place both literally and figuratively. During that illness, Andrea emphasized to her sister the importance of following her passion.

Riddle had studied art and design after high school, but chose instead to work in visual merchandising creating store windows for Myer. When that field became more corporate and less creative, she decided to take her sister’s advice and shift back to art – painting, exhibiting and illustrating the children’s books her father, Gerry Lane, had written.

When her sister died, art brought catharsis. She found peace, solace and healing through connecting with the land expressing the emotional release it provided. Working intuitively, she could take in a scene and translate it into feeling. Viewers and patrons also seem to find a healing peacefulness in her paintings. They are not just beautiful to look at; there is something deeper in them.

It is poignant to find peace in any practice, but to be able to pay that forward is a real gift. The first time she saw a J. M. W. Turner exhibition, she wept for the overwhelming emotion she felt standing before his immense emotive images. Seeing the suffused light, endless skies and moody atmosphere of her land and seascapes, the influence is clear, but Riddle’s paintings are distinctly Peninsula based. Some of the trees may be European, but the landscape is clearly Australian.

Delving beyond what the eyes can see, her paintings must be experienced. You can get a glimpse online at: www.jennyriddlepaintings.blogspot.com.au, but it’s best to enjoy them in person. To see some of her work yourself, request a viewing at Manyung Gallery in Mt. Eliza.

ANDREA LOUISE THOMAS