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Lola Cullen, Red and White MagnoliasTitle
Red and White Magnolias

Location
In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia

Media
Painting

Medium
Oil

Credit
Winner Calleen Award 1980

Accession number
CAL1980.1

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Lola Cullen has an extensive exhibition experience spanning more than 50 years but there remains little published about her and her work. We know that she lived in Dubbo at the time of the 1980 Calleen Prize, but later moved to Bateman’s Bay on the New South Wales South Coast where she was an active member of the South Coast Modern Art Group. In 2015 when she was in her eighties she held a solo exhibition at the Red Door Gallery in Sydney’s Summer Hill. The 1980 exhibition with 65 on show was again exemplified by landscapes, mostly done in oils and dominated by artists from the Central West of New South Wales. The geographic spread however was widening and as well as from Sydney and regions, artists from South Australia, Katoomba, Goulburn and Canberra were represented. The academic, artist and conservationist Garth Dixon was the judge.

Lola Cullen’s Red and White Magnolias bears a superficial resemblance to Thelma Greer’s 1977 winning work Still Life. The resemblance though quickly dissipates on close examination. Cullen’s piece looks to 17th- and 18th-century still life paintings and perhaps also to the open-door/window interiors of Grace Cossington Smith. Her composition is carefully structured. Within a set of horizontal and vertical lines she places a vase of flowers on a small circular table. Table, vase and flowers are almost the only non-linear elements apart from a serpentine scroll pattern on the wallpaper above the window. Space is carefully delineated through a series of rectangular prisms beginning with the spaces of the garden outside the window. The pastel palette is intimate and inviting and complemented by the insertion of the patterned carpet, the foliage of the exterior garden and of course the natural forms of the magnolias. This is a nice work that happily fits with Matisse’s maxim that a painting should be like a comfortable armchair, somewhere to relax and feel comfortable.