I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

12 April 2013

Margaret Olley

(Exhibition, Tweed River Art Gallery, April 2013*)

She kept painting
in her cluttered rooms,
described as having
gentle light.

Those oranges — 
how bright they bloom, 
with what rich colour, 
their pitted, dimpled skin 
tactile; you know
its exact thickness
and how sweet the juice.

The cornflowers
and the marigolds
and the sunny calendulas
glow, living within
and transcending the canvas.

Her self-portraits
on the other hand
are dim, shaded,
although the expression arrests.

Luckily other artists
have painted her vivid self:
grand in her full-bosomed prime 
or her candid, unashamed age —
elegantly flamboyant 
in elaborate picture hat 
and billowing gown,
or liver-spotted and wide-eyed
under an old sun-hat.

We watch the video.
No easel; she allocates
a tiny spot of floor
to spread her canvas,
crouches there....
Her painting arm 
is swift and confident.

I look again at her 'yellow room',
her kettles, 
her exotic bottles, 
padded armchairs,
Persian rugs ...

Then I walk out into a gallery
full of works I'd normally find
far more interesting to me
than still life could possibly be.
This time, though, 
they are pale as dust
after her vibrancy.

*It's all about the light: works by Margaret Olley from public collections

This poem submitted for Poets United's Verse First: coloured


  1. I suspect she'd have greatly appreciated this poetic biography.

  2. This is a lovely tribute to the artist ~ She comes alive with vibrant colors with your words ~

    Inspiring work ~

  3. I always enjoy learning about new artists - thank you!

    1. An old artist when she died in 2011, aged 88. But I am gad she is a new discovery for you. She was an amazing woman!

  4. What an honor to the artist, beautiful.

    1. Thank you — but it is my honour and privilege to have seen some of the original works of this great artist up close. Impossible not to be inspired by them! Others who saw the exhibition say I've got every word right.

  5. The fifth stanza, where you describe her is outstanding! In this image of her http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/gallery-e6frg6n6-1226102144600?page=10 she looks a bit like Ingrid Bergman.

    Enjoyed this very much.

    1. So she does! Thanks for discovering this wonderful online gallery! I'll link to it too, above.

    2. You are welcome. I love the ones of he sketching out of doors. :)

  6. Graceful tribute to the life and surrounding of a woman who I am sure is a wonderful artist. Sometimes the process of creating art (if you're lucky enough to witness the studio) is more fascinating than the finished product. Peace, Amy

    1. In fact, her studio was the subject of her work, along with its contents. And we'll soon have its replica built as an extension of our art gallery here. She was a Living National Treasure, and will be treasured forevermore.

    2. PS In this case the finished products were so outstanding, they were even more fascinating than the glimpses of her process.

  7. I enjoyed learning about Margaret Olley from both your poem and from the links. I had not heard of her. I wonder if most Australians would be familiar with her work and also wonder if her works are owned by museums in other countries of the world. I admire someone like her with such a passion....

    1. She's a very well-known name in Australia! (Perhaps as much for the prize-winning portrats of her as for her own work.) I think she chose to keep all her paintings in Australia. Some are in private collections, but many are in our various galleries.

  8. Rosemary,

    You have painted a very vivid picture, of the artist at work!!! Fantastic intrduction and a sesne of almost being there:)


    1. Oh, I'm so glad I did that for you, Eileen!

  9. You created color along with this artist. Just beautiful. I am curious now to see her work.

    1. Thank you, Sara. Click on the 'Images' link under the poem.

  10. It is great to see life and all that is there through the eyes and imagination of someone else. The gallery of life. Very interesting and heart felt.