Sunday, September 24, 2017

Our Eltham - Artistic Recollections

Artist - Nerina Lascelles & Ceramicist - Linda Detoma

Completed September 2017

From fire to flood, from gold mining to wheat harvesting, from the horse and buggy to the motor car and from Shillinglaw Cottage to the Eltham Library, ‘Our Eltham’ is a celebration of life in our Shire since the opening of the Eltham Cemetery more than 150 years ago.

Depicting scenes of life in and around Eltham, this collection offers us a deeper connection to our area through a series of visual narratives of our past, our environment and our community. Historic photographs ignite an impression of what our forefathers may have witnessed during their lifetimes as pioneers before, us while indigenous flowers and plants symbolically connect us to life and nature in our local area.

The Eltham Cemetery Trust commissioned this project as part of its ongoing vision to offer our community a fresh and unique relationship to the Cemetery and confirms the Cemetery Trust’s commitment to the continued support of local artists.

Our Eltham is a collection of panels that were collaboratively created by artist Nerina Lascelles and ceramicist Linda Detoma. The associated landscape was designed and constructed by Leigh Wykes with ironwork by Neil Carter. All contributors to this installation are residents of the Eltham area. 

The official unveiling of the project commencing at Montsalvat. September 21, 2017

An art object is like a time capsule...

....a portal to another time and place, it reveals insights into human behaviour, beliefs, dreams, habits and ideas. Art has been created by humans for humans across hundreds and hundreds of years because it can inform us, stimulate us, uplift us, inspire us and offer us an enriched view of life. That is what we hope to achieve with this work.

I have lived Eltham and the surrounding area for nearly 50 years. What drew me to this project is the wonderful opportunity to offer a fresh perspective of the rich history and beautiful landscape right here on our doorstep.

And, as with a time capsule Linda and I hope that we have brought the Eltham Cemetery Trust's vision to life and helped to make the story of historic Eltham, relevant to the present and to the future generations who will enjoy this work. 

Visitors to the cemetery reflecting on the collection of 31 panels at the opening.

The Eltham cemetery is a time capsule as well. It was established in 1858.  It is fascinating to ponder on what life would have been like and how life in the Nillumbik area has changed over more than 150 years. A reflection on historic imagery and story enables us to understand what our fathers and their fathers may have witnessed during their lifetimes. Historic imagery also allows us to contemplate the myriad of colourful tales that our dearly departed forefathers, now at rest within the Eltham Cemetery, would have perhaps told. Historical imagery offers us today, a connection with our past.

Great Hall Montsalvat with Donkeys, 1963. Photographer John T Collins

Leigh Wykes, renowned throughout the Nillumbik Shire for his talent as a designer, builder and stonemason, and who is here today, designed and constructed the 50 metre, curved stone wall in the cemetery upon which this series of panels was then to be displayed.

Leigh Wykes visited my art studio some 18 months ago. Leigh had also met with we'll know local ceramicist, Linda Detoma and suggested that Linda and I meet and discuss the idea of potentially working in collaboration on the project.

My artistic practice combines influences of the ancient artwork of the orient and the reverence that Japanese artists, poets and monks displayed towards the natural world around them.  Over recent years I have featured Australian elements in my paintings, endeavouring to reflect a similar sensitivity towards the natural world here in Nillumbik. 


Native flora and foliage features in my work

Perhaps it was the use of indigenous native flora and foliage within the layers in my work that struck a chord of connection with Leigh, like the inclusion of the typically Eltham round Red Box Gum leaves or the soft, misty green of the silver wattle that grows on the banks of the Diamond Creek.  Perhaps it was the bright yellow pom poms of Golden Wattle that cheerfully heralds the beginning of Spring at the end of a long Winter. Perhaps what Leigh recognised in that moment was a celebration of the bush treasures that surround us in Eltham; the beautiful native plants of varying shape, texture and colour that remind us of our own sense of home and place in this unique part of the world.

Historic map of Eltham

The process of creating this series of panels has been an unfolding journey,  each panel has seemed to take on a life of its own. Historic research, a series of interviews, sourcing local photos and on-site photography took me out of the studio on what felt like a treasure hunt. As each tale unfolded, I was able to sense a deeper and deeper personal connection to life here in this Shire. A connection that I hope has been relayed through this body of work, and a connection that I hope my 2.5 year old son will also experience as he grows up in this area.  

The newly installed body of 31 panels at the Eltham Cemetery

So to describe what this commissioned project actually looks like, “Our Eltham – Artistic Recollections” comprises a series of 31 ceramic panels, each measuring 70cm x 60cm, which have been installed into a rusted steel balustrade that runs above a 50 meter stone wall in the cemetery. 
The panels depict designs which incorporate a multi-layering of imagery including local landmarks of significance and of a collection of native plants that are indigenous to the Eltham area. 

A selection of tiles fresh out of the kiln after their third firing

Technically speaking, each panel is made up of 15 handcrafted ceramic tiles that piece together like the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, to picture the overall design. The panel designs have been created digitally with some of the designs containing more than 90 layers of imagery.  The digital designs are then transposed into a decal (or transfer image) which is produced using glaze materials, that when fired, the image adheres permanently to the tiles. Metallic or Iridescent luster is later applied before a final firing. Each of the 465 tiles in the project have been fired up to 5 times before being mounted, grouted and installed in the cemetery.

Eltham, Shillinglaw Cottage, 1963. Photographer J T Collins

Kangaroo ground War Memorial Tower, 1930's

View at Hurstbridge, photographer Rose Stereograph Co.

As mentioned, the subject matter within this series of panels largely comprises a range of photographs of scenes and sites in around Eltham.  Some of the historic structures may be recognisable to you as many are still standing today: for example (Shillinglaw Cottage by the library, the War Memorial at Kangaroo Ground or the Monash bridge in Hurstbridge) 

These scenes may remind you of stories that your mothers, fathers, grandmothers or grandfathers may have told, or possibly some of your own memories and stories are ignited when you visually connect with a familiar place. I loved sharing completed panels with my family: here and abroad, and listening for their memories of the Red Rattler or the Eltham Barrel etc…..

Eltham Trestle Bridge, 1981. Photographer G.L.Coop

The Barrel Restaurant Main Rd, Eltham. Photographer Peter Willie 

The use of indigenous flowers in the panel designs symbolically reconnects us with our local area. Native wildflowers and foliage also represent the beauty of the natural world around us. The little jewels that seem to miraculously arrive from the invisible and for often a relatively short period of time gift humanity with their physical beauty. To witness the life of a flower – from a small shoot, to then bud, flower and over time the wilting and falling of that flower, allows us to reflect upon our own life span and the life cycles of every physical form on the planet.

The sweet smelling Chocolate lily or Dichopogon strictus

Local species reconnect us to our area without any reference to a particular decade or period. A chocolate lily remains a chocolate lily regardless of the invention of electricity, the motor car and bitumen roads which have physically changed the landscape of the area over recent centuries. A gum tree remains a gum tree over the passage of time yet due to its long lifespan can be perceived as a silent witness to the changing environment around us.

This project has been like a dipping back into a time capsule for me: a glimpse back into the past of "Our Eltham" and bringing it to the present day. Today we offer it as a gift for future generations to enjoy.

Perhaps reflecting on the collection of panels in “Our Eltham” may reawaken in you a sense of connection to this area, offering you your own individual experience of home and place in this unique part of the world.

A selection of panels from the collection

On behalf of Linda and myself, we’d love to extend heartfelt thank you to:
The members of the Eltham Cemetery Trust and secretaries Rita and Julia for the wonderful opportunity to undertake this commission and for all of your support every step of the way.
Thank you to Leigh Wykes for your vision, support and unwavering belief.
 Thank you to also to the Eltham District Historical Society, Eltham Library and Andrew Ross Museum who, amoung others kindly granted permission for the use of our selection of historic photographs.
Thank you to John and Eillish at Decal Specialists for your assistance and expertise.
To Amanda Gibson for your wonderful talent with the design and layout towards the book
….. and everyone else who has contributed to this project over the last 18 months.  The incredible support from so many members of you, the community only strengthens the project title, Our Eltham.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Divine Nature

Divine Nature


What a delightful surprise to come home to a gorgeous magazine in the letterbox..... Even more of a surprise to find a seven page feature article of my work and art studio within its glossy pages!

I took these photos as I opened the magazine for the first time and posted them here so as to give you the experience of a similar 'quick flick' through the magazine. 
A month or so ago, I had such a lovely time in an interview for this story - but of course, like any interview, the article and choice of photo's are well out of the artist's hands. It is a great honour to have been so clearly heard and represented.

This Autumn issue of 'Yarra Valley & Ranges' is available through and will be available digitally when the next issue is released.

I'd love to extend and enormous thank you to Kristen Lee for her invitation to be a part of this publication and her beautiful way with words and to Celeste Faltyn for her accompanying photos.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Recent News

Recent News...

Over the past year I’ve been working on a very exciting new project that has taken me out of my own studio and into a collaboration with the very talented ceramic artist, Linda Detoma. Together we are in the process of completing a body of 30 individual ceramic panels as part of a new development at the Eltham Cemetery.  Construction on the “Grevillea Memorial” has already begun with the creation of a 50 meter stone embankment crafted by local stonemason Leigh Wykes and the erection of a rusted steel balustrade along the length of the stone wall. The ceramic panels that Linda and I are in the process of completing will be positioned along this balustrade above individual burial sites. Linda has carefully handcrafted a set of 15 clay tiles which will then make up each 70cm x 60cm panel.  She is assisting me in translating my designs onto the tiles through a combination of glazes, lusters and 

Hand made tiles

Imagery on these panels depict a multi-layering of local historic photographs and native floral images, which are indigenous to this area, arranged in a design that embodies cultural significance and interest. It is our intention that the panels emit a calming and peaceful influence allowing the viewer to quietly contemplate the imagery on the panels as well as reflect on his or her own layers of story and memories.  The works also engage the audience in a celebration of this unique and fascinating shire of Nillumbik.  

It’s an absolute honour to have been invited to design these panels as Eltham and its surrounds has been my home for as long as I can recall.  It is fascinating to ponder on what life would have been like over the last 150+ years since the Eltham Cemetery opened.  From fire to flood, from gold mining to wheat harvesting, from the horse and cart to the motor car, and from the Shillinglaw Cottage to Montsalvat, these photographs offers us today a connection with our past. Local historical imagery allow us to contemplate the myriad of both meaningful and colourful tales that our dearly departed forefathers would have perhaps told. I am also incorporating images of local current day subjects into some of the panels and therefore giving this generation a connection to their own stories too. Those living in or familiar with Eltham will have their own memories of Montsalvat, trips out to the Kangaroo Ground Memorial Tower and rides on the infamous ‘Miniature Railway’. I’m also thoroughly enjoying interviewing a number of elders and individuals in the Shire with a fascinating story to tell.  

Local historic photographs for possible use within the panels. Images thanks to the Eltham Historical Society and the Eltham Library

The use of indigenous flowers in the designs for the Grevillea Memorial symbolically reconnects us with our local area. Native wildflowers and foliage also represent the beauty of the natural world around us. The little jewels that seem to miraculously arrive from the invisible and for often a relatively short period of time gift humanity with their physical beauty. To witness the life of a flower – from a small shoot, to then bud, flower and over time the wilting and falling of that flower, allows us to reflect upon our own life span and the life cycles of every physical form on the planet.  Local species reconnects us to our area without any reference to a particular decade or period. A chocolate lily remains a chocolate lily regardless of the invention of electricity, the motor car and bitumen roads which have physically changed the landscape of the area over recent centuries. A gum tree remains a gum tree over the passage of time yet due to its long lifespan can be perceived as a silent witness to the changing environment around us.

A selection of photographs of local flora that I have taken for reference for the project.

The project is expected to be finished in mid 2017, so I’ll keep you updated as to the grand opening!!!

From the Studio...

Motherhood and Creativity

When I had my little one a year and a half ago, I somewhat naively imagined that I would be able to simply strap him to my front and keep on painting. This huge shift from how life was, to a completely new reality is of course nothing new for all mums out there, but no matter how many times I was told, I still thought, 'how hard can it be??' While I was able to take Miró to the studio and paint while he slept, I was only getting 20 minutes of painting done at a time. Not so handy when a huge '20 painting' exhibition is looming on the calendar! Thankfully my beautiful mum and dad were able to help and as my studio is on the same land as their home, I was able to then get two hour painting sessions completed between feeds. For this I will be ever grateful. 

Early days with baby Miró in the Studio

While Miró is my most precious of creation to date, painting to me is like food for the soul and a necessary life activity for survival. The blessing of a small person finely tunes the awareness of the important balance between creativity and other daily activities. 

Now that Miró is walking and beginning to explore he loves to join me in the studio to create his own artwork or explore the surrounding bush land. I'm glad that this little one is being exposed to the necessary element of creativity in all of our lives.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nillumbik Artists Open Studios November 2016

Nillumbik Artists Open Studios Artists Exhibit

"Join us at the Eltham Library Community Gallery as the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios Artists exhibit a taster collection of artworks. Exhibition runs from Thursday October 27th  to Monday 21st November. Check library website for opening hours here… "

It seems to come around so quickly.  The November season of Open Studios has just been kicked off with the opening of the group exhibition..


19th & 20th | 26 & 27th November 2016

"One of the beauties of this collective program is the diversity of practices and personalities that are all tied together by a common thread, the love of the landscape. Painters, illustrators, ceramicists and print-makers alike culminate to make a rich tapestry of multi-disciplinary artworks that can be discovered at your own pace, studio by studio."

This brand new year of Open Studio's introduces nine new artists to the program as well as the launch of a new website for Nillumbik Artists Open Studios that  encourages visitors to explore and map their very own artistic trail. "We are taking you on a journey to pockets of the beautiful Nillumbik Shire that have yet been traversed by this program such as Plenty and Nutfield, so pick up a coffee and engage in an adventure!"

This season, my studio is listed as Studio Number 10.
220 Long Gully Road (cnr Bakehouse Road, Panton Hill.  Love to see you there!!!

From an article in the Herald Sun, here is a photo of me in my studio.  An excerpt of the article as follows...

"ARTIST Nerina Lascelles doesn't have to look far from her purpose built mud brick studio for inspiration.

While her art has a distinctly Japanese feel, she enjoys painting uniquely Australian flora, the kind that surrounds her Panton Hill studio.  Lascelles studied drawing and painting at art school, but when she went looking for something more she was drawn to the Asian ethos of less.
"I started looking at different cultures and travelled through several Asian countries," she said.
"I went to Tibet and made mandalas with the Buddhist monks, which was an incredible experience, but when I got to Japan I thought 'I have found it'. There is a simplicity that comes with the Japanese style."

For the past 10 years Lascelles has been influenced by the sacred arts of a number of Asian countries. She has labelled her Japanese inspired work Japonism - "the influence of the arts of Japan on artists in the west"." ....... (read more)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Art Demonstration

I recently had the delightful experience of hosting a demonstration evening at a local 'Arts Society'.

Painting in one's own studio is generally  a solitary experience and it sees that over many years artist's tend to develop their preferred mode of expression.  For me, the combination of collage, printing, painting and application of 'encaustic wax' has now become a part of my 'art-making regime' so to speak.

I was introduced to encaustic wax over 25 years ago at art school. During the same period I was also using all sorts of different collage mediums to incorporate into my paintings. I recall screwing up paper tightly then applying paint to the creased paper.... and finally ironing each sheet. This gave me some interesting textures. Back in the art school days I completed a post graduate thesis on the 'Spiritual in Art'  with a particular focus on 'Synesthesia'. (the overlapping of the senses)

In this body of work I endeavored paint music from different tribes and cultures of the globe. Interestingly, with these early works I combined paper collage, paint, drawing and encaustic wax in a similar way that I do today.  Not only was I using paper collage, but I made papier mache frames for each painting as another representation of our link to the natural world and the planet.

(photos courtesy of DVArts Society)

During the presentation I initially explained about my influences and inspiration though the decades that I've been making art.  Since completing University, my work has been inspired by native cultures of the earth that may be able to offer us in the West a glimpse of how to live with more 'connection' to each other and the planet.  Early influences took me to parts of Africa, South America and Asia. I was also researching the art and culture of The Native American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, Tibetan monks and other Shamanic cultures across the globe.  As the years passed, my focus began to hone in on Asia and more recently the ancient arts, culture and philosophy of Japan.
More recently again, and my paintings appear to combine both the Japanese influence as well as including subject from the natural world more locally to where I live.

I showed the audience an array of materials that I would typically use within a painting - from gold and silver leaf to metallic foils and wallpapers and from Japanese Kimono and Obi to Washi Paper.

(photos courtesy of DVArts Society)

A more recently acquired technique is that of applying screen prints to my work. During the demonstration I printed a number of areas of a canvas I was working on to show the viewers this mode of getting an almost instant application of pattern and motif. 

I also demonstrated the application of gold leaf to a canvas.

(photos courtesy of DVArts Society)

"It was a successful and entertaining evening at the DVAS Rooms.
About 25 people watched Nerina with a bubbly personality demonstrate her artistic skills.
Nerina who uses encaustic wax and gold leafing in her work certainly has some very good
techniques and everybody would have gained something useful from the evening. Her
artwork is very different from the run of the mill and extremely decorative.
Thanks Nerina for coming and also thanks to all the people who came along and showed
support for our DVAS Demonstration Evenings: It was a really good turn-out...."

(excerpt from the newsletter)

This really was a fabulous experience to share my work - thank you all at DVAS for the invitation :)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Open Studios

Today I'm participating in another 'Artist's Open Studios' event in my local area. My studio in Panton Hill is one of 26 open throughout the Nillumbik Shire. As is written in the booklet that accompanies the program, 'Nillumbik invites you to discover over 30 artists in their studios, providing an intimate and privileged insight into their arts practice. Explore the inspirationalBackdrop of some of Victoria's most beautiful bushland and interesting architecture, constructed from mudbrick, stone and recycled materials'.


Please come along for a little 'sneak peek' inside my studio this weekend too :)

While I have paintings adorning the round walls (a bit like a gallery) visitors can also see the array of materials I utIlise to create these works. On these shelves (pictured below) there are many fabrics that I have collected from travels across Asia. There are also a range of greeting cards. My publication, Seizui, is available too.Up in the loft one can also glimpse clothing racks of Japanese Obi and Kimono and boxes full of material off-cuts.

On the shelves below this painting (pictured below) there are boxes of the papers that I use within the collage element of each painting. Amoung these are beautiful Japanese Washi papers, Chinese Joss, Indonesian foils, vintage wallpapers and vintage asian newspapers.

Below is a photo of a shelving unit full of paints, tapes, pencils, leaf, waxes and on the top shelf, a collection of vintage wooden stamps from. India, Nepal and Indonesia. These have been used to print patterns onto fabric in different parts of Asia.   Gosh - the stories these stamps could tell!


Because of the collage and screen printing processes within my paintings, I'll spend a deal of time with each canvas lying flat on a trestle table. Here is a little display of the process of screen printing an area of 'kikko hanabashi' (the traditional Japanese tortoise shell pattern) onto an area of gold leaf. Sheets of acitate act as a mask during the printing process. The paintings will later be transferred to a vertical easel for additional painting.

Below is a snapshot from a table of reading material, articles and catalogues from past exhibitions. There are four publications from recent shows.

A lot of visitors to my studio are also fascinated by the studio itself. This 'ferro cement' studio was built on my family property. My father, Wayne Lascelles, designed a stunning home some years before my studio was built. Below are a few of the magazines that this home has been featured in.

While my parents were building, I used their carport (a circular Mudbrick building to house 4+ cars) as my studio. It was then that I fell in love with the circular space to create within. One night out at dinner Dad and I drew on serviettes the basic design for a this studio ..... And with the help of local ferro cement expert, Mark Phillips, the rest is history :)

And finally, for today's little 'virtual' studio tour, another photo inside the studio space. This is the view through the tunnel from the smaller, two story 'storage' space into the larger area that I actually paint in. The stone for these steps actually came out of the excavated site beneath the studio.

Visit for more about the program.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Step by Step'

On open days almost every visitor to my studio asks what my process of painting is. While the 'step by step' of each painting varies, I suppose, just like other artists, I've developed my own technical process over the years...... which I'm more than happy to share :)

This is the process in painting a commissioned work for a couple with a beautiful 'Lemon Scented Gum' in their yard. After visiting their home to view their colour scheme and furniture, chatting about what they would like, I arrived at a design of a horizontal painting with a silver metallic boarder and featuring leaved and the colouring of the beautiful tree from their garden.

Step 1

The first layer on this painting was to paste down several sheets of tissue paper. This is a way of covering over the textured weave in the canvas, but also, the wrinkles in the tissue assist to create an aged and vintage surface to begin painting on.
Layers of acrylic paint have then been applied, between which I have painted a number of coats of 'Crackle Medium'. This also assists in portraying an aged affect and I am able to get a really loose dribble and crackled under-layer. Most of this texture will be lost as I continue, although sections of each layer will be visible in the final product. The first layers on this work were darker and have gradually become lighter as I proceed. This too gives the viewer a sense that time has passed and that possibly layers of dust have softened the once bright and highly contrasting colours beneath.

Step 2

Masking tape has allowed me to paste down silver foil to create a boarder on both the top and the bottom of the painting. I have cut a circle into the foil before pasting it to the canvas to create a silver moon.
The beautiful Lemon Scented Gum has so many beautiful warm and dusty colours in its bark. From mushroom to dusty pink and mauve and a beautiful almost powdery off-white on some parts of its trunk. The blossom and gum-nuts of this tree are so beautiful. Strips of Japanese paper featuring the hexagonal 'Kikko Hanabashi' pattern echoes the experience of looking into the open end of gum-nuts and the application of the 'Asanoha' via a gold silk screen pattern mimics the delicate 'star-like' flowers when the gum is in bloom.

Step 3

Now its time to apply more silver leaf and foil. The little squares of silver leaf in the background give the sense of a Japanese folding screen or sliding shrine door that would have been traditionally decorated with images from the natural world. I have made another screen featuring the same 'Kikko Hanabashi' pattern that featured on the paper used earlier. The layering of silkscreen pattern allows one to see the layers beneath as well as adding a new dimension to the foreground.
My application of the silver leaf and pattern in a diagonal arrangement also stems from traditional Japanese influences.... as does the area of 'mist' which appear to move across and into the composition above the moon.

Step 4

Waves of mist are also represented through the use of some vintage Chinese wallpaper I found some years ago. The trees and landscape scenes on this wallpaper offer us a sense that we're in nature.... and when the gum leaves are applied in the next step - that place in nature has become more specifically, Australia.

Step 5

What I always find incredibly magical is that while my body, mind and spirit are so immersed in the colour and imagery of the painting I am working on, nature or life seems to also give me 'hints' of what colour to apply next or how to achieve a desired affect. Sometimes I'll find the answer to a problem I have had in the studio that night in my dreams. Sometimes in the middle of a yoga practise or sometimes while walking. In this case, I was on a bushwalk when from high up above the canopy of shorter trees a cockatoo broke off a sprig of Lemon Scented Gum leaves and blossom. They landed right at my very feet!
After scanning these leaves, I have printed them in pigmented inks on archival paper and arranged them onto the painting.
This process often reminds me of the art of 'Ikebana' the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Lemon Scented Gum Collage
76cm x 122cm
Mixed Media on Canvas

And finally, the details and a fine spray of paint are applied to the canvas, followed by a combination of encaustic wax and damar varnish as a means of protecting the layers within the painting and also creating a uniform surface over the entire work.

Here is the painting, "Lemon Scented Gum Collage" featured in it's new home.

......And thankfully it's new owners are simply thrilled! :)

(Photo thanks to Barry Plant real estate)