TOP: Jim van Geet, The Jury Whisperer (Charles Waterstreet), 2015
90 x 150cm, oil on linen
Victorian artist Jim van Geet gathers background and visual evidence on his portrait subjects before tackling brush and canvas. He says of Australian barrister, author, theatre and film producer Charles Waterstreet, that he ‘met with him, over several days in his Sydney chambers’ to gather inspiration and research for the painting.
‘During this time, a procession of clients were coming though the office, some of perhaps dubious moral character,’ he says. ‘They eyed me with suspicion. Charles told his clients to relax: “he’s cool, he’s an artist!”’ Jim laughs. Before beginning the painting Jim spent a lot of time talking, sketching, making notes and taking photos of Waterstreet.
‘At least half of the process from start to finish is gathering such content.’
The Jury Whisperer is conceptually based on the bird at his side, helping him with each case, perhaps acting as the messenger, having spied on the jury.
‘It plays on the humorous side of Charles’ character – he has a playful imagination. He’s good with juries, it’s one of his main court skills. He just knows how to sway a jury; it’s quite a craft.’
While Charles’ world might offer intrigue, Jim’s touchstone is his muse, former Argentinian model Gabriela Ruiz: ‘I’ve painted her eight times.’ Now living on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Gabriela is now an accomplished prose and poetry writer who converses in numerous languages. Each painting is designed to highlight a particular aspect of her personality. In Whispering Tales of the Feral Liaison, 2017, Gabriela is at one with nature – the animals and the outdoors; ‘Certainly this is a strong part of who she is,’ says Jim.
Gitana is the Spanish word for Gypsy, a part of her cultural background. Dreams of Gitana, 2017, expresses Gabriela’s mystique and beauty. It’s an exotic work in nature presenting her softly wrapped in a luminous bright lime and yellow shawl.
‘Gaby has lived in Australia for the past four years. She loved her homeland; however the difficult political climate, crime and corruption made life uncomfortable in Argentina.’