Victorian artist Jim van Geet has a long-term vision – to slowly grow an art business that educates people on their own level and at their own pace. Visitors who stop along the Great Alpine Road touring route to explore the area tend to ask questions soon after entering his gallery.
‘Painting is essentially about light and composition,’ says Jim. ‘The more you look at a painting, the more you discover how the better artists are mighty observers – they study how light falls on their subject and go to great pains to translate this onto canvas or board, often enhancing the image as they go.’
Jim’s Myrtleford Gallery represents 24 different artists. His own work hangs alongside oils, acrylics, watercolours and photographs by Astrid Bruning, Stephen Jesic, Di King, Bonny Hut, Craig Davey, Jin Won and Beryl Gay and more. The variations in creative styles, mood and visual messages are immense, and that’s just the way Jim likes it. While internationally recognised artists such as Stephen Jesic with his ultra-photorealistic nature-based paintings showcase the finite detail and beauty in forest birds and animals, other works, including the many portraits on display, offer a glimpse into the lives and souls of many individuals.
There is a lot to take in: fine Australian landscapes, fantasy works that hint at mythical folk lore and fairytales, abstractionist colour and shape, and brilliant photorealism that captivates the eye.
Jim paints with oils both on canvas and board. His work is a study of light and subject, a card he plays well, working with fine brush detail where required, and broader stroke movements that bring to life the events that he paints. His 2018 entry into the Townsville’s Glencore Percival Portrait Painting Prize: B’Angst, Portrait of a Recovering Depressive, 2014, oil on linen, has been shortlisted and will be featured in this year’s publication. The Percival is a $40,000 acquisitive prize and features some of the country’s best works; Jim is rather chuffed to be included in the exhibition again.
B’Angst, Portrait of a Recovering Depressive is a rare sombre work from Jim, showing the confusion and lonely desperation that engulfs the mind of Melbourne literary icon Barry Dickins. The words from Barry’s book Unparalleled Sorrow: Finding My Way Back From Depression feature in the background of the painting – words of disdain explaining how he’d lost the care of his mother to serepax and valium addiction. Barry had visited Jim in Myrtleford, not long after his lengthy stint in a psychiatric clinic where he lived alongside patients with schizophrenia. He endured electroconvulsive therapy that had riddled his memory with holes. Jim explains how Barry was searching for ways to re-enter life, and how being personally a part of helping this process was at times incredibly frustrating and challenging. Jim somehow persuaded Barry to finally find some freedom among the Alpine Valleys, opening his mind to the concept of learning to let go. This was perhaps challenged daily by the scars in his thoughts. Barry is painted with nurturing arms embracing the air. It’s an intense painting that shows a deep yearning for love and happiness. Ultimately it is a fantastic work that displays many human qualities: understanding, forgiveness and determination.
The Myrtleford Gallery is in Standish Street, just off the Great Alpine Road in Myrtleford, North East Victoria. It’s a handy location, positioned mid-point along the tourist trail between Wangaratta and Bright. The gallery is situated close to a host of eateries and specialty stores. Jim is on hand most days to guide visitors through the works which are for sale at modest prices.