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For Bernard Ollis, 2008 held many travels and discoveries. In January, Bernard was a guest of the Australian Ambassador to Egypt, Dr Bob Bowker, and his wife Jenny. Making the most of this amazing opportunity, Bernard explored the mysteries and riches of Egypt - the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Aswan. He even sailed the Nile.

In the northern autumn, Bernard travelled to Rome and Florence for the first time in 30 years. Wandering the two cities on foot and seeing everything with fresh eyes, he soaked up the cultural treasures that he had last experienced as an art student.

Always an intuitive and forgiving observer of humanity, Bernard delighted in the boisterous street life of the Italians as they shopped for fresh produce in the markets or chatted with friends in sunny outdoor cafes. In both Rome and Florence, Bernard stayed in rooftop apartments. From there he could remain connected with the flow of life as he captured his sense of excitement in a parade of fabulously coloured artworks in which he searched out the essential truths of places and people.

For all his work in Egypt and Italy, Bernard turned to the medium of oil pastels on hand-made Fabriano paper.

Bernard revels in the possibilities of oil pastels. He owns thousands of the bright little sticks in an endless array of tones, tints and shades. Made of little more than pure pigment, the finest quality oil pastels are intense and opaque. Colours can be smudged together or kept separate with the use of fixative. Bernard uses both techniques, and it is hard to know whether to call his oil pastels paintings or drawings, as they have qualities of both.

In the artworks he produced during his two trips, you can feel Bernard's sense of adventure.

In his expressive, colloquial style of depiction, Bernard takes us with him on his journey of personal discovery. We don't just see the views of the town square from his rooftop flat in Florence. We are there, too, with the smell of garlic rising up to our nostrils from the restaurant below. Tilted, lilting perspectives toss us into the living centre of Bernard's pictures, and we sense the purity of his appreciation of the light, the atmosphere, the people and the architecture.

Elizabeth Fortescue

For further information, please email ng@ngart.com.au

To download the exhibition invitation and Feast for the Senses' Dinner on Tuesday 25 August or Wednesday 2 September 2009, simply click here.

To read Bernard Ollis' Catalogue Essay written by John McDonald please click here.

To download and view a PDF of Bernard Ollis's biography click here

Bernard Ollis & Wendy Sharpe share their lives & studio space. This film explores what it's like for two artist to work separate but together.

Incognito | April 2008

Media Coverage of Ollis' Exhibition:
Daily Telegraph | August 2009

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