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Lottie Consalvo and her new work on stage at Heide Museum of Modern Art

Newcastle artist Lottie Consalvo gives the art world a huge hug Candid: Newcastle artist Lottie Consalvo in a Hamilton studio working on pieces for her show at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Victoria. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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TweetFacebookI’m so overcome with this work, but also with Lottie emerging as a sculptor.

James Drinkwater, husband and artistRead moreJames Drinkwater’s journey

Titled “Final Remembering”, Consalvo’s show included paintings, videos and sculptures that were precursors to “The Hug”. So she sees that Newcastle exhibition as an important link to her Heide show, which will be called “In The Remembering”.

JUST like a memory, artworks can sometimes come apart.

“The Hug” was toppling off its base, so Consalvo called herfather to help quickly build a new base before the sculpture is sent off to Victoria.

“Generally, whenever I have a disaster in the studio, generally with sculpture, I call my Dad,” Consalvo says. “I think I’ll be doing it forever.

“He’s so busy with his own show coming up, but I was, ‘Please! I need you!’.”

Dino Consalvo grew up in Newcastle. He lived and worked in Melbourne for about 30 years before returning to his hometown, where he has been painting the faces and places of a changing coastal city.

Some of Lottie’s earliest memories are of wandering out to her father’s large studio in country Victoria. The paintings that surrounded her as a child had a major influence on her, as did Dino’s advice and guidance. While she wanted to be an artist, her Dad advised her to first do a business degree.

“It was good advice,” she says. “I think I probably shouldn’t have done a business degree, I should have just travelled. But it bought me time.”

Consalvo finished the degree, even though she spent a lot of lectures sketching instead of taking notes. The lecturer would be talking about “how to make a business that would make millions” but she thought, “That is so uninspiring”.

“It really showed me the kind of person I am,” she says. “I thought, ‘Oh, hang on! Is this how other people think?! Okay’.”

For a time after graduating in Melbourne, Lottie Consalvo was doing little painting. She was making jewellery and working in an office when she met Drinkwater at a concert. He had also drifted away from painting and was playing in a rock band.

After the concert, they showed each other their artworks. Both encouraged theother to return to painting. They found themselvesthrougheach other. If ever there’s a couple who define the term “soulmates”, it’s Consalvo and Drinkwater.

“I always think of that sliding doors moment, if we hadn’t met each other,” she muses. “I could imagine the life I would be living. Maybe I’d have my own business. I think I would have met artists, and I would have gone, ‘I could have been you, but I didn’t’.

“I think because we took the risks together, it didn’t seem like a risk. We never had a back-up plan. And it wasn’t scary, because we did it together.”

The painting pair quickly became a couple. They lived and worked in Germany for three years, sharing a cramped apartment that they had turned into a studio, before returning to and moving to Newcastle.Drinkwater is a Novocastrian, and Consalvo had visited her grandmother in Newcastle each year. But it wasn’t their past they were returning to; Consalvo saw Newcastle as key to their future as artists. The cost of living was cheaper than in Melbourne or Sydney, and being out of major art centres was good for their own work.

“I think it’s afforded me time and space to think, and to be able to spend time focussing on making good work rather than thinking, ‘I better go to that opening, I better meet that person, I better tick those boxes’.

“Time is very important for us right now, we have a young family, so you’ve got to grab it and use it really, really well. So I like living here.”

Just as they have done since meeting, Consalvo and Drinkwater support each other at home and in the studio. Both say there is no creative competition between them.

“When something great happens for her, that’s great to me,” says Drinkwater, adding he is so proud of what she’s creating for the Heide show.

“I’m so overcome with this work, but also with Lottie emerging as a sculptor. These are some of the most stunning forms I’ve seen.”

The importance of family continues to shape Lottie Consalvo’s life and art. Both she and Drinkwater share the jobs at home, as they raise five-year-old Vincenzoand one-year-old Hester.

“You just don’t really stop. I sometimes look atour couch and think, ‘It would be nice to sit on you’,” she laughs.

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way. To have family around, that’s really important. I think it’s actually helpful for your work to have to step back, to keep reassessing, rather than being six days a week in the studio, tenhours a day.”

Family and love will also craftan exhibition planned for Newcastle next year. Consalvo and herfather will be holding their first combined show.

“So looking forward to it,” Lottie enthuses. “I keep thinking about how our works will look side by side. I’d never really imagined that.

“That will be one of the most important things I do in my life. To have a show next to Dad.”

But for now, Lottie Consalvo is embracing her Heide exhibition, which opens on Saturday, and the thought that her work will be seen in such an important place in n art history.

“I’ll feel like I’m a part of that history as an artist,” she says. “We all are in , we’re all just adding to what has come before.”

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