Early career (1962–1975)
White held her first solo exhibition in Broken Hill in April 1962, aged 20. She exhibited over 60 works in a variety of media: oils, watercolours, lithographs, etchings, drawings. All works catalogued for sale were sold (review). Following the exhibition White settled in Sydney, where she rented a room and worked full-time as a shop assistant at Grace Brothers department store in Broadway. She still found time to draw and paint on weekends. Her large portrait Perce (talking to pet budgie on his hand) was painted at this time and exhibited in the 1962 Waratah Festival Art Competition in Hyde Park; this portrait was later vandalized. A decade later a remaining fragment was discovered by chance, covering part of a fireplace. She adapted her landscape style to the softer atmosphere and colours of the east coast.
In 1962 White married; the couple rented a room in squalid lodgings in Paddington, moving later to rent the top floor of a terrace house in Paddington, where she painted Paddington Street by night. Crammed for space, the mattress had to be stacked upright against the wall to make room for painting large works. Her husband’s involvement in Scientology kept them poor. In order the survive, White took on shift work, selling newspapers at Wynyard railway station in Sydney's hub, and later worked as a sales assistant in a city bargain store.
The first of three children, Michaela, was born in 1964, followed by Paul in 1965, then Stephen in 1968. Rearing children did not prevent White from creating – rather her children, the joy of her life, provided inspiration and subject matter. They continue to do so, with the addition of grandchildren. The family moved to Glebe in 1967, where to make ends meet, White took on jobs such as dressmaking, sewing theatre curtains, and making paper flowers that she sold in the street from the pram. Many of White’s paintings and drawings continued to be systematically destroyed throughout the decade 1962–71. The writer and collector Joan Kinmont encouraged her during this difficult time, purchasing a number of her paintings such as Inland wilderness and caring for others: Still Life and Paddington Street by night.
White began painting in acrylics in the mid-1960s: Uncle Ted stirring tea. Compared to oils, she prefers the lighter tones of this water-based medium, which allows the application of numerous washes to achieve an ethereal effect: Silent river, Lane Cove. Influenced by Turner and ancient Chinese artists, White’s landscape style changed from spontaneous plein air painting to contemplative compositions, created indoors from imagination with reference to sketches made at the scene: Outcrop.
White was able to exhibit again when she became a single parent in 1971. Her genre style underwent a change to compositions painted from imagination: Awaiting, Cul-de-sac. To support the family, she took on a job waitressing in the evening. Not having a studio, she painted in her bedroom to produce work for a solo exhibition at the 1972 Adelaide Festival of Arts, where she showed oils, acrylics, and watercolours. Although the exhibition of landscapes was a sell-out, it barely covered the costs of framing and transport.
In 1972 White met her present husband, and in 1973 the family settled in Annandale. For the first time she had space for a studio beneath the split-level house, where she still works today. Her landscape Nootambulla Gorge, painted from sketches made on a camping trip to Mutawintji, was selected for the 1974 Wynne Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW. Taking up lithography again in 1972, White produced prints at the Willoughby Workshop Arts Centre. She began to establish a lithographic workshop in her studio. Initially she was unable to afford a printing press so she improvised by modifying a vintage clothes-wringer, using a sheet of plywood for a bed to carry the lithographic plates. The crude device had limitations – only a few lithographs could be produced in a print run and thick layers of ink were required to make an impression: Byzantine birthday, Pedestrian crossing.
Read more...» Childhood and student years (1941–1961)
» Early career (1962–1975)
» Mid-career (1976–1986)
» Mature years (1987–present)