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Jennifer FyfeVAS


Artistic objectives

To bring traditional oil painting to a contemporary audience. 

To bring depth and meaning to traditional art and reflect current social issues.

To question and explore philosophical concepts through art such as belonging, connection and conscience.

To make art that is inclusive and accessible.



Signatory Member Victorian Artists Society

Elected 2019 Member Twenty Melbourne Painters Society Established 1918

Portrait painting demonstrations for Victorian Artists’ Society 

Co-convenor of Victorian Artists Society portrait and life painting group 



2015 Victorian Artists Society Artist of the year   

2019 Victorian Artists Society Artist of the year   

2019 Finalist in the Rick Amor Self Portrait Prize and the AME Bale Oils Prize    

2019 Winner of the People’s Choice Award Rick Amor Self Portrait prize 




2019 - 2023 Annual Group Exhibition Twenty Melbourne Painters Society

2016 Solo Exhibition ‘Moments Captured’ Cato Gallery East Melbourne 

Group Exhibitions: 

2018 ‘Here and Now’ Steps Gallery Carlton 

2020 ‘From this Moment’ Frater and Hammond Galleries East Melbourne

2020 Poster collection shown Frater and Hammond Galleries East Melbourne




Works held in public and private collections in Australia, United Kingdom and USA



Current Projects

New poster designs combining advertising imagery and traditional oil painting


50-work timepiece project exploring themes of guilt and social conscience within the context of social media. Essay on Alla Prima and historical social conscience.

50-work glass project exploring the theme of the human condition - living and death interspersed with larger still life paintings on linen.


 2000        Formal tonal oil painting tuition

1987-1989        Formal life drawing tuition

1994                    RMIT Interior Decoration

1989                       Monash University Arts










biographical snapshots as artistic creation




When Jennifer Fyfe first introduced me to her work, she explained that she was busy with a project recording life stories and collecting old discarded books which she used as backdrops or props on which she painted portraits. The early version of these composite portraits – consisting of a biographical sketch accompanied by a painting, gave me the impression that the underlying principle of JF’s artistic method was randomness and fragmentariness. I was all the more convinced by my own analysis as I looked around at the contemporary world and its discourses, which stood out with their heterogeneity and lack of a unifying moral or cultural value system. The much vaunted ‘difference’ as a contemporary popular notion of social equality is a concept without content: to be ‘different’ means not to be ‘the same’, which is in any case a tautology.

Recently, JF sent me her entire completed project to view and see if I still wanted to accompany it with my original text. I realised that I did not. What has crystallised in the course of JF’s project over the past two years – coinciding with our lockdowns – is a completely different aesthetic principle of JF’s compositions. The clue to this principle is revealed almost as if ‘by the way’ in one of JF’s questions to an interviewee (Nick’s Story, Cezanne’s Composition): ‘This book explores a method of composing and building a painting.’

I realised as I was scrolling through the PDF of JF’s dèscript that this is what her book does: it pursues structures which underlie creativity, understood as a personal choice which leads not only to the production of art – JF’s art – but to the production of a life as a work of art. No matter what career or vocation or life’s activity is narrated, every life emerges as a creative act, as a work of art. Every word uttered becomes integrated into the aesthetic process, which binds several elements into an aesthetic whole: the interview text, the interspersed interview questions, the title of an old book and the painted portrait of the narrating subject. The composition – which is an old-fashioned word for ‘structure' used by the Russian Formalist critics starting in 1914 – of dèscript is studied, it is deliberate, it is anything but random. dèscript is the work of an artist, not just an artistic person. For as another one of JF’s interviewees points out,

‘... Artistic and being an artist are two different sides of a coin. Being artistic is raw creativity; it’s beautiful and honest ...The decades it takes to develop your own visual language giving depth and richness to your work is being an artist.’ (Fern’s Story, Henry Rousseau)

The gestation of JF’s project over a number of years is what makes it into a work of art. It displays a new visual language which uses reverse ekphrasis: instead of painting a visual picture in words, it incorporates words into a painted portrait of the subjects. The words of JF’s interviewees, together with JF’s discreet but pointed questions, ‘paint’ a life story, a biography, which is different to all others. These ‘painted’ stories are there for posterity, to be preserved as a form of cultural history. JF’s interviewees also cover a large spectrum of professions and ethnic backgrounds – one could say, JF’s biographical pallet is even more varied than her colour pallet, which stays within the bold primary colours of a Cézannesque Modernism. Contrary to my first impression, this variation does not constitute randomness, but ‘difference’ in the metaphysical (not sociological) sense of the term, although one could also read her community of subjects as a cross-section of multicultural Australia.

Despite connecting the disconnected – an old book title, a new portrait, a narrated biographical sketch – JF does not touch on the Surrealist aesthetics of a Magritte who said that all objects are combinable with other objects. Her artistic creations contain a different – new – message. This is the message about creative freedom, which is alive and to be claimed in all walks of life and in all professional and unprofessional activities, not just in the activity of the artist. Of course, the underlying assumption of this freedom is the guarantee of a free society – and all of JF’s interviewees without exception pay tribute to Australia as such a guarantor of their creative freedom.

Dr Slobodanka Millicent Vladiv-Glover
Adjunct Associate Professor (Research)
School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics Monash University (Clayton Campus)

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