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Racheal BRÜHN


I was born in Southport. Went to Seven Hills, finished in 1981 having studied visual communications. I have kept working on my own work during and since then up to the present. It is my constant companion and insight into my world, the pattern, pace.


I relocated to Canberra in 1990 but I have been unable to make artistic connections like I had in Brisbane. Some roadblocks with getting shows, workspaces as I wasn’t a graduate from ANU. I happily continued my artistic relationships with the people I knew in Brisbane. I have enjoyed having tandem shows friend Ross Booker over the years, we exhibited at Doggett Street regularly until recently, when it closed down. My sister Amanda and I are working towards a show on together, but still need to find an exhibition space. I have also showed Sydney, Melbourne and a couple of group shows in Canberra.


Some families like sport to express their shared culture an insight into their lives, values. Our family liked playing with buckets of clay, drawing on walls, painting and drawing on plies of butcher’s paper. My parents met each other at East Sydney Tech, where my mother–studied painting and my father–sculpture. Artwork was fun, silly, happy and frustrating, it was purposeful and taken seriously. When you were cranky with someone you drew an unflattering picture, you also drew jokes, made volcanos, built clay cities, blew them up, drew revenge, cut up, tore, outraged, then drew flowers, tractors, horses and trees…



My parents didn’t see us going to art school as very important. As any parent, they wanted us to have something more stable in our lives. So I studied film and television and illustration at Seven Hills. We had grown up with stories of their own art school experiences and were hoping to experience a similar world of belonging, excitement, acceptance.


Memories of going with my mother into the what I thought at the time was unfinished, Opera House in Sydney to see the first Sydney Biennale in 1973 a small show. An almost unpopulated show, with hardly any audience or work…the highlight of the show for me was when two European couples looking very urbane berated the reception people for daring to call the show a Biennale, the work dull, boring an outrage! That the art establishment world of Australia could be a shallow shadow world, in someone else’s very strong view, a pastiche of a ‘real’ Biennale could be, delighted the instinctual gossip in me. Europe still drawing the bow!


Going to the IMA with my mother for a show opening one night. It was crowded and it was hard to see the performance going on and then talking to her on the way home about the loss of object. Meaning and context of experience. Talking about one of her artist friends (after travelling to the states in 1968/69) was left in crisis about his object making after being challenged by the post objective world of sculptural installation of talcum powder.


All experiences helping me to build a view into a life where if I determined my own language, independent with my work. I would determine my language, my visibility and my access to a kind of audience. I am lucky enough to earn a living in the design world. So, I have delight in being my own person and quietly continue to make work. I have worked for myself since 1997 as a graphic designer, illustrator. I have also worked as an occasional design tutor at Canberra University.


Folio Bookshop opened doorways for me into different ideas, words and lives. The books arranged, on shelves creating relationships and presented ideas, taught me what to read and how to search for the next book to read. The people who sold the books were perceptive and always finding, suggesting new books, talking about ideas. I was delighted to find new ways of seeing the world and building my own sets of experiences and understanding!


During the 1980’s and I was an active participant, but a peripheral member within the Brisbane ARI sector. I exhibited in Le Scoopes, That Contemporary Art Space, McWhitters, Metro Arts, Arch Lane. I shared houses with old friends from the Visual Communications program and others who worked around that share house centre, Hamilton and the Pink Palace. I went to the openings and shows that I could get to given public transport limitations, listened and looked at work.


In the early 1980s l had an artist studio located in Red Comb house, and a space in little Roma Street for a little while. I got the space at Red Comb through my sister Rebecca’s partner Peter Davis, it was where his band etc played. I think that they were doing a lot a practice building a superband for Leah Tarlo’s birthday party.


Mostly, I worked on a table in my bedroom in any place lived. The old big British Consul turned into flats in Hillside Cresent Hamilton. Owned by Mrs Gruen. She lived in the top flat and was tolerant and amused by us, Gerard Foley, forever the wise diplomatic often smoothed the way.


It was home to old some old architect students, and various art school people including: Gerard Foley, Rolf Christmas, Bronwyn and Andrew Massie, Deborah Cavallaro, Ross Thompson, Lisa Goodrich, John Hill, Tim O’Shea and …my memory fails me, many others. Gerard was heavily involved in supporting the Brisbane Institute of Arts into a building in Brunswick Street in the Valley. Tales of a peppercorn rent being all that was required by shady landlords who were not quiet so anti-art. I admired Gerard’s optimistic, quiet clear eye pragmatism. He also helped me paint the front veranda of my flat in the Palace when I moved upstairs as well as helping so very much to hang my show at That. He was always doing the same thing for so many people I knew around then. Terribly able and so kind.


I also had a studio at little Roma Street and painted onto one of the walls there directly, I painted my friend David Clark who danced in the ironing board dances, bursting with energy across the room. I always knew that one day it would be pushed down, like all little ‘real estate giants’ of Brisbane — being from Southport where buildings were meant to be pealed about like sunburnt skin peeling off a refuse, it didn’t seem anything unusual. Happening here in Canberra with more enthusiasm lately.


Southport was a place where you got sentimental about old signs… the Coppertone girl, the Pink Poodle Motel, the KFC at Loder’s Creek. It was a place that was constantly ‘sunburnt’ wearing away of old places, signs and papering over. A place where the falling away of the land gives you more of a hint of where you walked, played as a child. The echo of the avenues of trees, the sandbars and the mudflats no longer present. The buildings keep pealing away to make way for other buildings, a numbness where the land has been replaced by real estate. The promised project completed, and in a perpetual recall. The undulation of the landscape ghost places of youth.


At little Roma Street Studios I used to have visits from my friend Bronwyn Massie (studied printmaking at Seven Hills) after she finished her Saturday morning dance classes that Mark Ross used to hold downstairs. It was fun to chat, draw, paint and look out the windows before it became too dark to continue.


From 1985 to 1988 I lived at the Pink Palace. My sister Amanda and I moved into Kenneth Lyons’ ground floor flat when he moved onto Lochiel in Hamilton. I moved up to the second floor flat when Bronwyn Massie first moved to Melbourne (my sister having moved to Sydney). I visited Shane Kneipp’s flat. I just loved the smell of his wax kitchen, and wondered at his huge pile of newspapers and the inherent danger of where they were piled up. So enjoyed his kindness and chats, he was a funny serious young man.


I moved out to share a house with a vegetable garden that Brendan Smith had in Woolongbabba with John Nelson. I have photos of Gerard moving Tim O’Shea’s pot plants onto one of the sections of the pub carpark beside the Pink Palace. Tim created and used the space wonderfully, he was a wonderful collector, he had a wonderful eye for ‘things’.


In Woolongabba, Brendan and John worked, painted, we all made our own work. John devised and performed as a bride on roller skates with his friend Mandy Nolan — working as street performers at the Expo site. There had been quiet a debate as to who would be engaged with Expo or not, but it was the only gig in town and for some, the beginning of a professional practice that helped them develop a more serious focus. Expo meant building an audience (or in the case of Brisbane ‘training’ an audience) and paying the rent.


I moved to Brighton Road in West End and shared a flat with Julian Castan (played with the Lamingtons) who was studying Japanese until I moved to Canberra for design work in 1990. I have continued to show work in Brisbane when the opportunity appeared. I exhibited consistently with Doggett Street Studios while residing in Canberra.

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Various Private Collections