Heavy Metal Landscapes - The Life and Work of an Artist-Farmer - screener

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Heavy Metal Landscapes - The Life and Work of an Artist-Farmer

by Marianne Latham

Year: 2013, 30 mins
Code: ML-Heavy

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In this half-hour-documentary, shot in full HD, the engaging, down to earth Annabel Nowlan relates the story of her journey from running an out-back farm to becoming one of Australia’s most celebrated artists.

Annabel Nowlan was one of five sisters who grew up on a large sheep farm in Central NSW, Australia, believing as girls, they would never get to run the farm. However, when their mother died and their father couldn't cope, the girls put to practice what they'd done all their lives. They looked after the sheep buying and selling at the Cootamundra sheep sales, organising shearers and classing the wool themselves.

Meanwhile, Annabel also followed her dream of becoming an artist. She now lives in Melbourne and her work, informed by her life on the land, is sought after by major galleries and art lovers around the country. She is passionate about this history of the land, ecology and Aboriginal culture.

Galleries now clamber to show her unique work, which is sold to eager collectors around the country.


The intrinsic and identifiable characteristic of Annabel Nowlan’s art practice stems from a long connection to land; the land of her family farm and of the Wiradjuri people, at Bimbi in south western NSW, Australia.

2002: Master Fine Arts – Victorian College of the Arts
1997: Honours Year Sydney College of the Arts
1995: Cite International des Arts, Studio AGNSW Paris France
1989: Triangle Workshop NY USA
1988/92: Bachelor of Arts. City Art Institute COFA UNSW Sydney
1985-88: Honours – National Art School, East Sydney

Annabel Nowlan grew up on a four thousand acre sheep farm at Bimbi in outback New South Wales with her four sisters.
For fifteen years, in between wool classing, managing the shearing sheds, taking truckloads of sheep to the stockyards and balancing the books, Annabel continued painting and began exhibiting. Not bucolic scenes or gutsy Tom Roberts style shearing scenes, but lyrical, philosophical reflections about living on the land.

At art school she’d been advised to ‘paint what you know’ so drew on her background as an Irish Catholic with convict ancestry, the Nowlan’s complicity with early neighbour, bushranger, Ben Hall, the loneliness of the farmer’s wife, the tragedy of the failed Soldier Settlement Schemes then later the impact of farming on the environment. They were not didactic, but beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious works that evoked a variety of interpretations.
Putting skills she learned as a farmer to good use, Annabel works in copper and aluminium, etching, rivetting, welding and corroding the metal. The materials are hard and tough to manipulate, yet the works are soft, tender, thought provoking with historical insights and a wry sense of humour.

Two years ago, Annabel and her sisters sold the farm at Bimbi and she moved to Brunswick in inner Melbourne. However, she still continues to create works inspired by the land and the history of the country. For her it’s a fascination that is endless.

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