If you want to fill an art gallery with enthralled patrons, then stage an exhibition featuring all things Italian by Robyn Varpins and Julie Podstolski.
Earlywork in Freo is currently doing just that, and if Thursday night’s opening was any indicator, it’s already a smash hit.
Robyn and Julie, regular collaborators, have shared a selection of wonderful sculptures and pencil pieces paying homage to their mutual love affair with Italy.
An Italian Dream has the gallery adorned with pieces reminding us of the delights of Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, Verona and other iconic towns.
Julie’s intricate pencil drawings have a super-real appearance, yet also an enchanting surreal and spectral quality – Seurat with a touch of Monet, perhaps?
Her 23 works show off beautiful places and simple street scenes of animals and people. Many depict daybreak, dusk or late night in Julie’s soft, luminous style: times when the tourists are gone and tranquillity returns. Venice’s cats and seagulls replace the ubiquitous tourist throngs.
“I feel that Venice has one foot in the world and one foot in heaven – a spirit-city,” says Julie.
Robyn, who combines unglazed raku sculpture with oil paint, has beautifully captured the aesthetic style of centuries of Italian influence in art, seeming to span the epochs from the Etruscan through to the modern day.
Her pieces are always delightfully evocative and emotive, and few sculptors have her uncanny ability to convey subtle inner feeling and mood.
A diary entry by Julie written while in Florence a few years back explains the cultural overload with which Italy often fills those who visit.
“I simply can’t experience everything. It’s all too much – like an enormous banquet of food is laid out before me, but I’m only one person so cannot possible eat it all.
“I will try a little here and a little there, but when I am done, so much food will be left untouched. Such is life.”
The exhibition name, An Italian Dream, is taken from a chapter heading in Charles Dickens’ 1846 book Pictures from Italy. The great British writer fell head over heels for Venice.
“I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be Venice,” wrote Dickens.
Robyn also says Italy has often filled her thoughts since visiting.
“The theme of Italy is instantly inspiring and Venice is one of my favourite places,” she says. “I still have all the drawings and notes from when I stayed there in my twenties and became captivated by the many waterways.
“I was deeply affected by the antiquity of the buildings and sculptures everywhere. The romance of Julie’s landscapes has become my muse as I seek to design a response to the elusive spirit of Venice.
“I explore both symbolic and realistic expressions in clay in order to render intimate this dramatic place. It has been a joy to revel in my own Italian dream,” she adds.
We can all revel in our own Italian dream, be it nostalgic or anticipated, by popping into Earlywork over the next week. Robyn and Julie have brought the magic and spirit of place to life.
An Italian Dream runs until 18 April, 2021.
Shop 9, 330 South Terrace (cnr Wardie St)
South Fremantle WA 6162