es on Okavango.’ Lisa Wilkes-Hunter.About the Artist. Her work and inspiration.
Wilkes-Hunter was, it seemed, destined from a small child to express herself through her art. Born into a talented family, her maternal grandfather, the prolific author, Richard Wilkes-Hunter, was supportive of her ambitions and introduced her to his circle of talented friends and associates. Wilkes-Hunter took art lessons with well know artist Barry Chamberlain, who was so struck with her talent he often entered her work into art competitions. An award winning entry, on one such occasion, titled Siamese Cat caused some
consternation when the judges discovered that the artist was no more than eight years old.
Wilkes -Hunter grew up on Sydney’s Northern beaches. She married young and had two daughters. For a number of years her art took a backseat to raising her children, which she eventually had to do alone when she was widowed, aged 39.
After receiving a Diploma of Fine Art at Seaforth Technical College, majoring in photography, Wilkes-
Hunter’s experimentation on the journey to develop a unique, identifiable, form of expression was
eclectic and unrestrained. Producing props for the Sydney Rock Eisteddfod, and showing entrepreneurial
flair when she designed, and tailor made board games for the hospitality and gaming industries.
For reasons that were not apparent as a younger woman, she always had a strong pull to the exotic
animals and stories emanating from Africa. It was in her adult life that she discovered the connection. Africa was
the birthplace of her paternal grandmother. Throughout her life Wilkes-Hunter has been a human
Bower Bird. Eggshells held a particular fascination as she collected things from nature that had been
discarded as spent. Using imagination, and creative energy, she gave them new life and purpose.
Wilkes-Hunter travelled to Africa. Her adventures took her off the well trodden tourist track, across Botswana and Zimbabwe and traversing the channels of the Okavango Delta in the Merkoro, canoe like vessels handcrafted by the locals and requiring skilful handling. Camping in the open without any
creature comforts, or even guns to protect them from the ever present danger of poachers, she experienced many close encounters with wild animals that roamed freely around the Delta.
The trip to Africa, and the stirrings she felt moving through the ancient landscape where she has an ancestral connection, provided the genesis for Eyes on Okavango, Wilkes-Hunter’s first major solo exhibition.
Eyes on Okavango, a series of works on canvas and evocative installations, began with a Mandala which groups together the sources of Wilkes-Hunter’s inspiration and motivation. Her children are depicted as Butterflies, facing the sun. “When one faces the sun all shadows are cast behind.” A quote, that struck a chord with Hunter, which she repeated to her girls as they were growing up and finding their way in the world.
Like the Mandala, this exhibition is an autobiographical montage of Wilkes-Hunter’s journey as a woman
and an artist. It gathers in one place, with skilful technique, a love of family, a reverence of nature,
animals and Africa. Woven into the landscapes almost as a backdrop, and yet drawing the eyes deep behind
the subject, are the aging pages of Wilkes-Hunter’s late grandfathers work ‘Castle in Spain’ where he uses
Wilkes-Hunter’s personality and appearance as the foundation for his heroine ‘Lisa.’ Here Wilkes-Hunter
archives her grandfather’s work with her own as a tribute to the man who provided the support, and
encouragement, to pursue her dream of one day becoming an exhibiting artist.