A new exhibition examining the influence and legacy of the acclaimed painter Margaret Olley has opened in Sydney and features the work of a local artist.
Among the four living artists invited to exhibit because of their connection to the late painter is Criss Canning, who lives in Ascot.
The renowned painter of still lifes and flowers was introduced to Ms Olley through the intercession of the cultural critic Leo Schofield.
Mr Schofield visited Ms Canning’s and her husband David Glenn’s Lambley Nursery in the 1990s. Struck by the work he saw in her studio, he suggested he should meet the Sydney painter, who famously lived in gloriously disorganised chaos in a Paddington terrace.
“He looked around my studio, and he just said, ‘Do you know Margaret Olley?’”, Ms Canning said.
She said of course she knew of her and her work, but had never met her.
“He said, ‘We must do something about that,’ and invited us up to Bronte, where he lived in NSW, to a lunch with Margaret.
“We actually hardly spoke a word to each other on the day, and then I got this phone call in our hotel room the next day saying, ‘Oh darling, I didn’t realise WHO you were!’’.
Margaret Olley was a collector of Ms Cannings work, and the two formed a lasting friendship. When the Art Gallery of Ballarat held a retrospective of Criss Canning’s paintings in 2007, Margaret Olley, despite her age and increasing fragility, travelled to the city and held court at the opening.
“There was such a buzz at the opening, because they didn’t say who was coming,” Ms Canning said.
“It was like the Red Sea parting as she came in with her walking frame.”
Ms Canning said her husband later bred a ‘an extraordinary dark inky blue agapanthus’ which was named Margaret Olley with the artist’s permission.
Criss Canning shares the exhibition with Ben Quilty, Cressida Campbell, and Nicholas Harding as representatives of artists who formed a deep connection with Margaret Olley, who died in 2011 aged 88.