Continuing the series on Creative Passions, Christobel Munson speaks with Coorabell artist, Charly Wrencher

For inspiration for his paintings, artist Charly Wrencher tunes into nature. A keen surfer, Charly, his wife Jane, and their four children, live in a Queenslander set on a picturesque 68-acre Friday Hut Road property. The property also houses his extended family including Charly’s parents, his brother Luke, and Jane’s parents.

In the midst of this pastoral paradise is ‘The Hut’. ‘The Hut’ is an art studio (not necessarily the original ‘Friday Hut’ which inspired its name). The studio fronts onto the familiar green rolling hills of the Byron hinterland. Not surprisingly, Charly’s current work - leaning against the walls and on the easel - seem to be a reflection of both sea life and rural Byron.

Charly’s most recent Sydney exhibition was held for a month at the United Galleries, where he’s one of their most popular exhibiting artists. A collection of 20 new paintings entitled ‘Ocean’, the work – oil paint on Belgian linen or canvas - was triggered after close encounters with the elements on his morning surfs. “It’s a kind of merging of the ocean with the land. Coming back to the studio after an early morning surf, I’d start to see rolling waves and fish and began to do seascapes within the landscape. It’s a representation of my life at this moment, part of a natural evolution.”

The collection includes evocative pieces with names such as ‘Dolphins’, ‘Snapper’, ‘Bait’ and ‘Swooping Gannet’ – and sighting the lyrical work, you can almost hear the screech of the seagulls and the stinging of the sand blown along the beach. Even with the current dreaded Global Financial Crisis, eight of the 20 pieces (a year’s work) sold on opening night, so they obviously strike the right chord with city connoisseurs. He’s developed quite a following there, and the Galleries exhibit him annually. Last year, he had his first exhibition in Perth, and he also sells one to two paintings a month locally.

Born in London, Charly’s always had a natural artistic ability, drawing and painting for as long as he can remember. When he was11, the family moved to Australia. Moving “from grey London to technicolour Australia” had a positive impact on the very visual Charly, and there were family artistic influences, too. His father was a photographer; his uncle was an animator.

He trained at Sydney’s National Art School at a time when “conceptual art was avant garde. But I was anti-conceptual. My work is more about feeling and human expression, rather than ideas. But Art School was about making the art, not the intellectual side of it all.”

For Charly, a sense of satisfaction emerges “all the way through” the process of painting. “It’s all about the process,” he explains. “I’ve avoided pretension in art; I try to be honest with my work. I don’t like having to explain a painting too much. You either like it or you don’t.

“Each piece is a story within a story, and the pieces reflect my moods, my reaction to life. There’s joy, anger and bliss in them, every emotion. I quite like to leave areas unfinished that you can sit and ponder. I feel so flattered when someone actually buys my work, and somehow the right painting goes to the right person”.

Just the same, he admits it helps to develop a “thick skin”. “You get used to rejection. You just need to find confidence in your own work. If I’m rejected, I think they’re not looking for what I’m doing. I know I’m on a path and it’s a learning process.”

Rather than churning out a particular ‘bread and butter’ line of work purely for commercial gain, Charly prefers not to compromise. “I’d rather do a day’s labour than compromise”, he says. About 90 percent of his income is from his art; the rest comes from other sources. He admits it’s a precarious living. “Some years, it’s fantastic. This year’s gone well compared with last year!” 

The family moved to the Friday Hut Road property eight years ago. “Since I first visited in the early 1990s, this is where I wanted to be.” He’s happy that, for creative support, he has artist friends like Emma Walker, Rodney Black, Hillary Herrman and Michelle Dawson living nearby.

“I love living here. It’s inspirational; I feel so blessed. I’m inspired by this area; you drive round a corner and see things (to paint) everywhere. And I’ve met all these artists since moving here; there’s a real creative energy around – but we need to survive.

“I still feel making art accessible to people is really important. Around here, there are quality artists and you can buy really good art for not much money.”