Waterloo artist explores place amid displacement
Petite Waterloo-based artist Rosalind Flatman was once an “absolute Beatnik”. “I had green eye shadow, black-rimmed eyes, green nails, no lipstick, very long blonde hair in a ponytail, and I used to wear outrageous clothes. Black stockings and a very short mini skirt my brother didn’t approve of. The ’60s were cool.”
As a young art student at the National Art School in Sydney, Rosalind loved the Abstract Expressionist art of the 1960s, and had her own “very slapdash” style. “The teachers said to me, ‘Don’t ever lose that.’ But I sort of did. Now I’m coming back to it.”
Rosalind recalls the thrill she felt when renowned Australian artist John Passmore visited her drawing class. “He said to me: ‘If you can draw like that you will never be out of a job.’ And I thought great – but also, ‘I don’t want a job!’”
Rosalind regrets letting her teachers convince her to swap from the book illustration course to the commercial art course to ensure her studies would lead to employment. “It sounds terrible but I always hated work. I just wanted to be at home to paint. The day I left work I was so happy.”
The Camden, Brooklyn and Waterloo chapters of Rosalind’s life came later (2008-18) and her upcoming exhibition at the Orchard Gallery features works from that more solitary decade.
“It’s gone from one extreme to the other,” she says. “When I was married with four children – six of us plus animals living in Surry Hills – I would long for five minutes to myself. Then things happened – and now I spend 90 per cent of my time on my own.”
Rosalind has painted differently in each of the places she’s lived.
“Lately I’m getting so political,” she says. “And I never was. I mean in Camden I’d be painting my brother’s lovely garden. Living in Waterloo, I’m getting angry about the environment and the animals. The destruction.
“When they start knocking down the trees, I’m going to have to leave, and not come back to look at Waterloo. It will upset me too much.
“It’s unfortunate because they have such an opportunity to make something beautiful here but they’re obsessed with this high-density living.”
Camden, Brooklyn, Waterloo is an exhibition about place – a challenging theme for an artist living in social housing and who has no idea where the government will locate her next. What Rosalind does know is that her tiny row-house and garden are in the first area slated for demolition beginning in late 2019 and she awaits word about the next step.
Rosalind loves the Waterloo community and acknowledges it has given her some marvellous opportunities. This includes the Kung Fu classes she attends around the corner to keep fit, and the chance to exhibit her work at the Orchard Gallery.
Painting continues to be the still point amid the uncertainties of her life.
“I have an idea about the painting I want to paint and I have to whiz around to the shop and buy a board. It’s a compulsion. It’s ‘Is it going to be an evening meal, or is it going to be a board?’ The board always wins!
“Then I come back and start doing it, and it’s bliss. It’s better than eating.
“I go into another world and I forget what time it is. I forget what day it is. My cats have to come and ask me for their dinner because I haven’t realised that it’s time for their meal. I’m out of everything – in the painting – and nothing else matters. And my son has said to me, ‘That is when you become your true self.’”
Camden, Brooklyn, Waterloo, works by Rosalind Flatman, will be launched at the Orchard Gallery, 56a Raglan Street, Waterloo at 5pm on September 8. To see the exhibition at another time, phone 0415 491 937.