LOUISE NUNN

Article from The Advertiser

April 07, 2007 12:15am

Other artists often dropped by the house, and holidays were another opportunity for her father to paint. "He was always painting," Sydney-born Sophie says. "He never stopped, even when we were on holidays. He always found someone to look after us so he could paint. But it was fun - all his friends were artists and gallery people."

Dunlop's father is the well-known Austfigurative and still-life painter Brian Dunlop. Sophie followed in his footsteps and has established a career in her own right.

She says a move to Adelaide 4 1/2 years ago was partly an attempt to step out from under his shadow. "He doesn't have a connection here and I quite like the idea of getting away from that association," she says.

Dunlop, 35, is about to hold her first solo exhibition since embarking on her new life in South Australia. Presented by Hill Smith Gallery, it opens in the Yalumba wine room at Angaston today and coincides with the two-day Harvest Market picnic and wine event, on Tuesday and Wednesday, for the Barossa Vintage Festival.

It's a good match for Dunlop, who paints lustrous still-lifes with fruit and vegetables she buys at the Central Market or spots overhanging roadside fences. She has also been seduced by Adelaide's "beautiful autumn leaves".

Her piece de resistance, however, is a large figurative painting of two Cambodian sisters in traditional outfits she created from a series of sittings in Adelaide.

"It's the biggest thing I've done," she says. "Last year, my dad said to me 'It's time. I'm going to buy you three panels. It's time to paint a large-scale work with figures'. It was a challenge but it was something I had been wanting to do. I love painting sisters - probably because I am one - and I've painted lots of them."

Dunlop says she's happy with the painting but can't imagine who might buy it because "most people find it hard to live with paintings of people they don't know".

Dunlop grew up in the trendy inner-Sydney suburb of Paddington where her life revolved around busy Oxford St and Taylor Square.

It was the relentless hubbub, the bright lights and grunge, that prompted her move to Adelaide.

"Sydney is just no place to be an artist unless you've got lots of money," she says. "I found myself being shoved around studios and working in awful spaces and being constantly stuck in traffic. The pressure was too much."

Dunlop fell in love with Adelaide during a weekend getaway with her mother and sister about six years ago.

"We stayed in North Adelaide and I thought it was just beautiful, the buildings and the cafes and restaurants," she says. "I came for another visit on my own about a year later and after that I went back to Sydney, packed up my things and moved."

Now Dunlop paints in a light-filled upstairs studio near the Central Market and overlooking the relatively sedate Grote St.

As a teenager, Dunlop resisted the idea of becoming an artist but the desire was too great and she "took the plunge". She studied at the Sydney College of Fine Arts and was privately tutored by two of her father's students, respected husband-and-wife painters Francis Giacco and Jenny Sands.

"It was like an apprenticeship, and much more nurturing than art school," she says. "They taught me how to draw properly in the old-fashioned way, and they gave me a link to my dad without having to study with him, which would have been hard because we both needed our own space."

After 10 years, she started to sell some of her work through her father's Sydney art dealer, Eva Breuer, and she eventually worked up the courage to ask for a show. It went well and she has been holding sell-out shows with Breuer every two years since.

Dunlop says that while her work is in the same realm as her father's, differences are beginning to emerge.

"My work is a bit more feminine, and a little less realistic," she says.

Sophie Dunlop will show at the Yalumba Wine Room, Angaston, from today until April 22