A McLaren Vale art workshop among the vineyards followed by a tour of galleries and wineries is the perfect recipe for creativity in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.
Art in McLaren Vale
I’m standing in front of an easel, concentrating on the vine leaf in my hand. My eyes follow the leaf’s contour as I try to sketch its outline without looking at my drawing. “It’s called blind contouring,” says my art tutor.
Our aim this morning is to create an artistic work portraying the essence of the McLaren Vale wine region using a mixed medium of pastels, chalk and charcoal along with collage techniques.
So far I can’t begin to imagine how my blindly sketched outline, which looks more like a cat’s head than a leaf, will turn into a masterpiece of vine leaves and wine bottles.
“Don’t worry this is just the warm up,” she says encouragingly. She shows us how to layer our art using collage techniques.
We choose materials from her art box and begin ripping, cutting and gluing.
I rip some violet tissue into long ribbons which I glue onto my worksheet. They’re close enough to the colour of Shiraz, the region’s signature wine. The ribbon-like strips are my attempt to artistically represent wine being poured out of bottles.
She hands me a music score, from which I cut jagged bits, pasting the bits randomly onto my worksheet. Emboldened with newfound artistic expression, I pull out a pile of Chinese funeral money from her box. That also goes onto the sheet after being ripped to pieces first.
We blend the separate bits with pastels, brushing in dabs of colour; in my case emerald and burgundy.
The setting at Red Poles is peaceful and inspirational, with views of bush land, neat rows of vines, manicured lawns and trees. But the real beauty of the session is that it’s so much fun. And you don’t even have to be an artist to enjoy it.
Wine in McLaren Vale
After a three-course lunch in the gardens, we head off to explore the wineries.
Our first stop is Paxton Wines, a biodynamic winery with a cellar door in a huge stone barn. I sample pinot gris, chardonnay and shiraz as I chat to cellar door manager, Ben Paxton. Paxton’s father, David Paxton began growing grapes in 1979.
The Paxtons practice biodynamic farming which avoids synthetic fertilisers and pesticides that can damage the soil biology. Paxton Wines supports a raft of local artists who display their water colours and screen paintings on the walls of the cellar door.
We head to the beachside suburb of Aldinga where sustainable jewellery artist, Kim Thomson, has her display workshop. A year ago, Thomson was inspired to move to the region to open a jewellery workshop.
“The wineries are really generous in sponsoring artists,” says Thomson who makes jewellery with products that are kind to the environment. Her practice is concerned with how the chemicals used in jewellery production impacts the planet such as using vinegar instead of sulphuric acid and designing pieces people enjoy wearing because of the shape and not the material.
Her earrings and broaches are from recycled materials cut into nature shapes of hibiscus, pomegranate and poppies.
Another winery that promotes art is Magpie Springs. The winery used to be the working studio of prestigious Heysen Prize finalist Roe Gartelmann. Gartelmann travelled the country exhibiting her art but drew inspiration from the rolling hills, cliffs and vineyards of McLaren Vale.
The connection between art and wine first became obvious to me when I visited Magpie Springs a few years ago. Sitting at the bar swilling Chardonnay while admiring Gartelmann’s bold brush strokes, she showed me a stunning painting that was about to be shipped to an art connoisseur in Canada.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of South Australia Tourism Commission
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