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Anyone who has spent time wandering around a garden with a small child knows the marvels and revelations that can be found in the roughness of a stone, the crunching of leaves and attentive assembling of piles of sticks. Visiting Alison Coates in her barn-like Paddington studio, more treasure-trove than workspace, is to spend time in the company of someone who thankfully has not forgotten what it is like to find a story of wonder in the detritus of nature. Coates has been well known in Sydney for a number of years as its most sought after flower arranger, so widely celebrated that she might properly have been called a floral artist.

Having been discouraged from art school into more professional pursuits, the thoughtful and dramatic arranging of botanical objects became her passion, one she turned into a series of thriving business ventures, namely Alison Coates Florist and more recently Jute. Her transition to exhibiting artist has therefore been more an expansion of materials than a change in vocation. In the work we see Coates now producing, there are the clear traces of someone who has spent a lifetime handling organic objects, studying their makeup and in turn being guided by their tensions and fragilities. Her passion is the environment and its brittleness.

It's no surprise then to hear she has also worked as a jillaroo and that she spent years on the Scottish moors. Coates' choice of materials is entirely visceral. "I'm drawn to certain things" is her simple explanation, "a lot of the materials ... come out of the shed, skips, things on the side of the road. Sometimes I sit with them for hours, sometimes they happen for me straight away". She draws much of her visual inspiration from the Monaro district and, more locally, from the Royal National Park and Wattamolla Beach, where she spends countless hours combing through its shoals and estuaries, soaking up images and sensations.

"I'm incredibly effected by the landscape there, particularly with the light: light hitting things and the translucency of certain objects. Much of the work in this exhibition has to do with luminosity." In the stunning work Moonlight we see how she has transformed some abandoned wire coil and corrugated roof sheeting into an object of suggestive and delicate beauty. Coates has the ability not only to see value in what humans and nature discard, she has the artistic vision to craft and mould them together into a wedding of poetry and light.
Paul Flynn - July 2008

To download and view a PDF of Alison Coates' biography click here.


Vogue Living | Nov/Dec 2008

Inside Out Magazine | Nov 2008

Wentworth Courier | Oct 2008
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