Summer 2006

By Eliza Thomas

It was opening night and the gallery was overflowing. People sipped wine, viewed the fine art and queued for the privilege of purchasing a piece. The recent “Four Sisters” exhibition, held at the Goldsmith’s Hall Gallery in Geraldton, could only be described as a resounding success.

Ailsa Small, Elizabeth Barnetson, Jean Jensen and Wendy Kennedy are the four sisters whose work was showcased in this unique exhibition. While it may be rare for two sisters to exhibit, four sisters would arguably be a first.
In their early years the girls’ artistic talents were fostered by their father who was a well established artist before immigrating to Australia.
As the sisters married they expressed their creativity to various extents and only recently did they all work diligently on a united goal, to exhibit together.
With all of her oil on canvas works selling quickly it is easy to see why Ailsa had made a career out of her painting. As she understatedly explains, “People have always supported me with my art.” In addition to the private collections in Australia and overseas, her work also graces the walls of Parliament House, University of Western Australia, Geraldton Regional Hospital and various shire councils. She has gained high regard and numerous awards for her representational art which is painted either on site or from her studio at Pindar east of Mullewa.
Living at Nabawa north east of Geraldton, Elizabeth is also an accomplished artist whose paintings are regularly commissioned. Her oil painting can be seen at agricultural shows and the Perth Royal Show where they have proven to be very popular. Elizabeth’s work displayed in the exhibition covers a range of subject matter although her love of rural life is evident.
Wendy primarily pursued her art as a hobby while living her adult life in Cunderdin.
“During my school years I received a number of art awards, after which art was a major subject at teachers’ college. Since then my artistic endeavors have been limited to drawing for children’s story illustrations and for fundraising art work,” Wendy said. Wendy was able to submit five watercolor paintings for this her first exhibition.
Now living in Kalbarri, Jean has made a significant contribution to a variety of crafts. She has written many instructional handicraft books and teaches her skills. Keen to
get his wife to paint, it was Jean’s husband who first suggested to Ailsa that all sisters should have an exhibition. Sadly, he did not live to see the result of this innovative idea.
Among the dignitaries, friends and supporters attending the exhibition was another artist from this talented family. Earlier in the year Elizabeth’s daughter, Anne Barnetson made
a significant impression on the art world when she became the youngest finalist of the prestigious Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.
The public obviously appreciated the talents of these four women who came together from around the state for this special event. The success of their first exhibition together could be best quantified with seventy five percent of their work selling on opening night.