Skip to Content Skip to Navigation
Gemma Rose Brook, ‘Pills and coffee in the morning’ (detail), 2022, oil on marine ply, 20 x 25cm. Image courtesy the artist. 

Personal Care

Gemma Rose Brook
8 February 2023 – 21 June 2023

View the exhibition catalogue

Gemma Rose Brook is an emerging artist who paints her environments from life, connecting and documenting her experiences. This series, called Personal Care, is based on the artist’s experience of caring for oneself and others through sickness, disability, and mental health. 

Each painting resonates with these ideas, informed through observations of self-care and documentation to explore the deep changes felt in oneself and our environment when faced with various challenges to wellness. Their intimacy evokes curiosity and nostalgia, reflecting the artist’s innate sense of feeling and care for the domestic, personal, and natural worlds around her. 

Essay by Gabi Lane 

Ghostly gums amidst twisted scrub, red earth under bright skies, Hills Hoist clotheslines, and a sun-bathed sitting room; artist Gemma Rose Brook paints places brimming with familiarity.  

As an artist who paints from life, Gemma seeks to create an emotional dialogue between herself, the environment, and the work. Beginning with the slow process of hand-making and preparing her boards, care and sensitivity are at the forefront of her practice.  

Having drawn and painted from a young age on family holidays spent hiking and camping, Gemma is driven by a desire to paint the natural world as she experiences it in the moment. Her en plein air approach allows her to channel the emotional agency of her surroundings, painting not only what she sees but also what she feels.  

While en plein air painting originated in Europe during the Impressionist movement, Gemma has more in common with Australian post-impressionism and modernist artists like Grace Cossington-Smith, Jane Sutherland, Clarice Beckett and Dorrit Black. Like these artists, Gemma’s practice is dynamic, responsive, and informed directly by what is around her.  

Gemma is also more interested in an engagement with nature that is more in line with Indigenous conceptions of connection with Country; being of the land rather than in it. Working closely with Indigenous artists has strengthened her approach of connecting deeply with her environment. 

Painting from life, she works quickly to capture the sensory dimensions of a particular landscape in a moment of time; the light, colour, and mood as it flits and changes. Working alla prima, her loose and gestural brushstrokes convey this sense of urgency. The speed of her brushwork and richness of her colours create a dazzling effect in which her foregrounds seems to vibrate as colours bounce off one another. 

The complex overlapping of brushstrokes, chosen to conjure the textures of native gums, red sand and dense bush, create a sense of depth that speaks to her technical skill. Her sgraffito provides a gestural energy and creates a surface suffused with texture. These scratchings are also a loving nod to the drawings she would scratch into the back of receipts while riding the bus to and from school in her youth. 

Memory plays an important part in her practice and is most apparent in her artwork titles. Written in the style of a single stream-of-consciousness, her titles, which are often sentences themselves, share with the viewer the thoughts and memories of the artist whilst painting.   

In a time when there is a collective urge to return to the natural world, wrought by pandemic-induced isolations, Gemma’s paintings are placed firmly within the zeitgeist. Her emotively charged paintings sing with light and life. They are joyous, hopeful and exactly what we all need.  

~ Gabi Lane, curator and arts writer 


Artist Biography 

Gemma Rose Brook graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Adelaide Central School of Art in 2019. In her first year of professional practice, she was awarded a 12-month Artist Residency at Carclew House and the Carclew Fellowship where she was mentored by Sydney based painter Tom Carment.

In 2020, Gemma was a finalist in the Heysen Prize for Landscape and won first place in the Royal Society of the Arts Youthscape Prize. Her work has been exhibited in group exhibitions in South Australia and New South Wales since 2013. Gemma is currently painting and teaching from her studio in Verdun in the Adelaide Hills.