Prue Venables wins 2015 Clunes ceramic award

Olsen Irwin artist Prue Venables has won the 2015 Clunes ceramic award.

Prue-Venables-5Vessel and Spoon 2015

The award was highly competitive with forty-one artists competing for the $10,000 prize.The award is an acquisitive prize and the work will be acquired by the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Olsen Irwin would like to congratulate Prue on this huge achievement.

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Prue Venables – Top of Glenn Barkley's stockroom picks

Former Head Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Glenn Barkley was asked in an interview for Raven to share his top collecting picks.

Out of the eight eclectic artworks selected by Barkley, Olsen Irwin’s ceramic artist, Prue Venables work Black Group was listed as his top collectors pick.

Prue Venables works within the ceramics studio tradition and these works exemplify that. They are for contemplation, not use, but you could use them if you wanted to and that tension makes them great.’

Prue is an elected member of the International Academy of Ceramics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, UK. Her fine porcelain objects have been collected by many National and International private and institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Museum Auckland, National Gallery of Victoria and  Powerhouse Museum.

Black Group is available for sale at the Olsen Irwin main gallery located at 63 Jersey Road, Woollahra 2025.

12.5 x 19 cm & 19 x 12 x 8 cm






Artist Interview | Robert Malherbe

Robert Malherbe is a painter’s painter. His process is fast and instinctive, the finished product always a testament to technique and the qualities of paint itself as much as to the subject depicted. As the artist himself says ‘painting is just drawing with colour.’ Here Robert answers a few questions about the art he makes in the wake of the opening of his latest exhibition at Olsen Irwin ‘Gathered in Spring.’ In this show, Robert’s still life paintings combine fantastically with the ceramic work of Prue Venables.

Robert Malherbe and Prue Venables ‘Gathered in Spring’
3-20 December
Olsen Irwin Works on paper, Small paintings and sculpture gallery
40 Queen st, Woollahra NSW
Tuesday to Saturday 11-5


You’ve always been a very accomplished painter of landscape and nudes as your previous exhibitions here at Olsen Irwin show. Why have you chosen to focus on still life painting for this show?
It wasn’t a planned thing. I think these paintings came out of looking at Matisse and then thinking in terms of composition. How certain things or objects, in this case flowers, could create a type of rhythm and narrative. I always thought there was a secret narrative thumping away beneath the best still lives. Let’s not forget that flowers, because of their short lives, are deceptively joyful- and of course the stripes in these pictures are there purely as a kind of rhythm.

I’m interested in your artmaking process. Could you tell me how you go about starting a work?
I never begin a painting by drawing although I always end with drawing with paint over the top. I usually start with a big blob of paint which I hit somewhere on the canvas and work outwards.

And more specifically, what was your process in producing this suite of paintings? Did it differ in any way?
With these paintings I painted them exactly the same way I do all the others, very, very quickly.

Do you think speed and immediacy are an essential part of your practice?
I don’t want to think about it too much, if I did I would find the whole thing boring. It’s quite nice to stop and be surprised at what you’ve just made.

Rose after RD 2014 Oil on linen 50x40cm

Rose after RD, 2014, oil on board, 50 x 40cm


One set-up from Robert’s studio

What is your studio practice like? Where is your studio? Do you have a working routine?
These still lives would be set up and then I would leave the studio go grab a coffee on Stanley St and forget about flowers for a bit and on retuning to the studio I would get a mild shock at seeing them again. Usually from a different angle to what I had originally intended. That’s when I get excited and start painting. It’s a little game I play to stop the thing looking stale and preconceived.

Do you ever find it hard to produce an artwork? How do you generally overcome this difficulty?
Once you begin and most painters will tell you this, it’s difficult to stop. But life intervenes and we all have responsibilities, we all have to live in the “real” world so you take time out, act like a normal person, get bored and then you’re off painting again. Very indulgent I may add but that’s the choice we make and others can live the way they choose. A life spent painting, it’s not for every body.

Many of the works in this show employ a very interesting use of perspective. How have you decided to construct these paintings?
In terms of perspective, if the paintings have movement or life in them or a kind of awkwardness it’s a result of them being painted from life. That means that I’m standing up using two eyes and constantly making decisions regarding form, colour and tone while constantly on the move. Cezanne taught us this. That we humans see psychologically while the camera-because of it’s one point perspective-teaches us to see mathematically. I hope my paintings owe very little to the camera.

 How important is drawing to your practice?
I draw every day and painting is just drawing-with colour.

Coral Peonies 2014 Oil on board 50x45cm

Coral Peonies, 2014, oil on board, 50 x 45cm

Roses against a striped cloth 2014 Oil on linen 61x50cm

Roses against a striped cloth, 2014, oil on linen, 61 x 50cm

The black vase. 2014 oil on linen 91x71cm

The black vase, 2014, oil on linen, 91 x 71cm


Prue Venables | Manly Art Gallery

Prue Venables work is currently on show at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum’s exhibition The Course of Objects: The Fine Lines of Inquiry.

“This exhibition aims to examine recent ceramic practice in Australia which pursues particular lines of inquiry, or embodies pertinent ideas.  In the spirit of unravelling associations between objects or ideas, the curator and the artists consider the possible transient affinities and correspondences between selected works to evoke connections, references, repetitions, echoes, resemblances, distilled moments, or the realm of metaphor.” – Manly Art Gallery and Museum

The Course of Objects: The Fine Lines of Inquiry
2 May – 8 June 2014

Manly Art Gallery and Museum
West Esplanade
Manly NSW 2095


Prue Venables, White large oval bowl, 2012, Porcelain, hand thrown and altered, height 18cm x length 30.5cm x w 24cm

The Course of objects Installation Shot

Manly Art Gallery, The Course of Objects: The Fine Lines of Inquiry. Image courtesy of Vicki Grima, The Journal of Australian Ceramics


Prue Venables | Melbourne Now

Prue Venables work features in the exhibition ‘Melbourne Now‘ at National Gallery of Victoria running until the 23 March 2014. The exhibition celebrates the art, architecture, design and performance of Melbourne and has drawn record crowds, with 18 000 attending the opening weekend. The exhibition is a run away success, with the National Gallery of Victoria also acquiring some of Venables work for the collections.

“Born 1954, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom; lives and works in Melbourne. Prue Venables initially studied science, graduating with an honours degree in zoology from the University of Melbourne. She later discovered ceramics and studied for a Diploma of Studio Pottery at the Harrow College of Art, London. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at Rex Irwin Fine Art, Sydney; Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne; Galerie Besson, London; and Nancy Margolis Gallery, New York. Prue is an elected member of the International Academy of Ceramics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London.” – National Gallery of Victoria

Melbourne Now
22 Nov 2013 – 23 March 2013

NGV International
180 St Kilda Rd
Southbank Vic

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square Vic


Celedon vessel and white sieve, 2012