Internationally-renowned artist Rick Everingham is drawn to painting patinas, the layer that forms on surfaces as a mark of passage. And in a case of life imitating art, his own patina canvasses a 20-year immersion with Italy as he returns to the Australian art scene.
“I love the way time ages things, I’ve always liked landscape, cityscapes and old buildings, and that’s one of the appeals of Italy of course, there’s so much patina everywhere,” Rick Everingham says.
Rick and his wife Desley (Des) have put down roots in the Hinterland artisan hub of Maleny, after two decades of travelling, painting and residing in the Italian villages of Soiana and San Gimignano, and their new place to call home draws parallels to their Tuscan lifestyle.
“Maleny is a close community, everybody has time to talk and in Italy everybody talks all the time, so it’s a bit like living in a little village,” smiles Rick.
It was during a reconnaissance tour through America and Europe’s museums and art galleries with his young family in 1977 that the first inklings of Rick’s affinity with Italy grew, before he returned in 1991 for an exhibition of purely Italian work.
“We stayed in the home of an elderly Italian artist for a month and she asked if I’d like to have an exhibition with her the following year, so we went back in ‘92 and that began annual visits.”
From that first exhibition with Grazia Lolli Redini at Palazzo Ciotta in San Gimignano, a 20-year immersion began, as Rick and Des lived in Tuscan villages for three months each year before returning to Australia for Rick to paint what would aptly go on to be The Italian Series.
“There are two magical points that happen for me as I’m painting. There’s a point where a painting changes from being something I’m working on, and it becomes an entity in itself. And there’s another point that always intrigues me, where one more mark on the painting, and it says it’s finished,” Rick muses.
Despite having “always painted”, Sydney born and raised Rick didn’t intend to become a full time artist, upon leaving school he entered advertising/commercial art and worked for three years in a Sydney studio under the eye of artist Graeme Inson.
“I started off painting in oils and I’m still painting in oils ... he taught me a particular technique which is tonal realism,” Rick says.
In 1966, Rick was called for the National Conscription Service during the Vietnam War, and he became an officer, before training as a pilot.
“I still painted all the time in the army, I used to do portraits of fellow pilots and their wives,” remembers Rick.
He was transferred to Amberley, Brisbane for helicopter pilot training with the Army Aviation Regiment, however during a training flight at Ipswich, Rick was involved in a serious crash.
“The conclusion of the official army investigation was misadventure. I fractured my spine and spent five months in hospital,” shares Rick, “you’ll notice I walk with a limp, I’ve got a bit of nerve damage to my leg from it.”
There’s a point where a painting changes from being something I’m working on, and it becomes an entity in itself.”
While recovering in hospital, Rick enjoyed regular visits from the girl he’d previously been on just three dates with – his now-wife Des. The couple married in 1969, a year after Rick was discharged from the army and returned to commercial art in Brisbane, before being offered the chance of a one-man exhibition in 1970.
Since then he has had an impressive career spanning 45 years; Rick has featured in mixed and one-man exhibitions in Australia and around the world, established galleries in Brisbane and filmed television segments.
His paintings have scooped awards such as the American Bicentennial Prize (QLD) and Stanthorpe Art Prize (QLD), finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, and feature in private and corporate collections in Australia, America, England, France, Japan, New Guinea, New Zealand, Spain, Greece and Italy; former Federal Arts Minister Senator George Brandis is a big fan.
“(The travel) has influenced my work because I’ve had a huge number of subjects. We had two little boys (now adult sons Andrew and Nicholas), a lot of my early paintings were of activities with the kids and their friends, as well as houses and landscapes,” Rick says.
Rick and Des moved their official residency back from Italy to Brisbane in 2010, coinciding with Rick’s 100th one-man exhibition. Then in 2014, the now-grandparents moved to Maleny.
“It’s lovely and comfortable and has a bit of soul to it,” Rick smiles. The property is the old Thynne property house owned by sisters who also owned the land Mary Cairncross Park is on, with space to accommodate Rick’s other artistic passions of bronze sculptures and carving stone, and newly-opened private studio/gallery.
Rick is currently showing pieces at local art studios, including Art on Cairncross, and a Sydney gallery has asked him for an exhibition on the Amalfi Coast, which will see him return to Italy in late spring.
“I said when we moved back from Italy, The Italian Series was going to be phased out … but in hindsight I haven’t finished it, I love the connection in Italy.”