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Exhibition proposal


/ d  ɛˈ s  k  r  ɪ  p  t  / 


 lit. of the book

: n. a celebration of books and stories 

  through alla prima    


\ˌä l əˈp r ē m ə, ˌa l-\


: n. Italian:

 at the first –

 first attempt

 wet paint on wet

 completed in one session

collins atlas ben copy.jpg
chinese tales.jpeg
vogue miriam.jpeg



descript celebrates connection through vintage texts and paint.


works are created from live subjects within a 

2½ - 3½ hour session – a technique called alla prima.


paintings are paired with the biographical experiences of a living person.


descript is a social reflection, enticing its audience to share in a visual and emotional experience.


Jennifer Fyfe

Spanning 5 years






Community portraits 


Community stories –

Migrant,  scientist, 

Funeral director,  DJ, plumber, activist,  paramedic, life model….


Exploring connection 















Wall mounting - 50 artworks painted and edited by Jennifer Fyfe.


Target audience - aged 15 and above. 


Interest - Fine Arts/Literature/Sociology/ general community audience. 


Wall space required - estimated 60metres.

Each complete artwork - 80cmwide x 50cmhigh

Each frame including book - approximately 3kg - 4kg weight

Hanging - 

Paintings - traditional manner on wall with 2 metal ‘D’ rings on back 

Frames consistent - 50x   40cmwide x 50cmhigh 

Protrusion 11cm. 

Painted white

Artworks fitted to Perspex ‘shelf’


Printed cards - traditional manner on wall with acrylic rings on back

A3 Cards Consistent – 50x   30cmwide x 40cmhigh

Hung beside paintings 

Digitally printed in ink 

Embossed with braille.  


Accessibility – Painted works removable from shelf by staff for vision-impaired or height-restricted visitors. 


Artist performance - portrait demonstration if required.

Potential collaboration with story/poetry reading, music/dramatic performance during painting demonstration to enhance visual and aural experience.  

Current Working With Children Check Volunteer 2562379A-01


Educational - Contextual information about Australian Alla Prima provided.


Timing - unrestricted

thematically complimentary to a writers festival /event



Printing – complete, ready for final edit and production

Snap Printing approx quote:

Spiral-bound black and white loan catalogues $8.40ea

Spiral-bound B and W large print loan catalogues $17ea

Option for condensed braille text to be translated into other languages 


Option of traditional soft-cover full-colour catalogues for sale


bianca picasso.jpeg


Fyfe paints in oils, in front of her subject, in a time frame of 3.5 hours.  Fyfe paints on unconventional substrates as an exploration of texture and colour and, more profoundly, as a response to obsolescence in our aspirational society.  She creates representational artworks. Through painterly images, Fyfe seeks to convey a message, a story, an emotion and elicit a feeling of connection in her audience.


These artworks have been created over 5 years.  They are a collection of vintage objects passed on, or found in hard waste, op shops, and second-hand book shops.  The first books were rescued from a rainy day on a nature strip and, by imagining the souls who had thumbed pages and engaged with these stories on their own human journey, the descript project was born.  

Recently, Fyfe has been reaching back into her family history and her connection to the Limestone Plains around Canberra, home of her maternal Ngunnawal ancestor.  Fyfe feels that she is a combination of cultures.  A mixture which, indeed reflective of contemporary Australia, is also present in her artwork.  Fyfe allows her lineal ties to inspire a curiosity and sensitivity to country and, on occasion, influence her selection of books and portraits.

Research of the ‘Alla Prima’ technique employed in the artworks, has revealed to Fyfe the importance of this painting procedure in Australian Art history and its effectiveness in telling a current story.  Vital to her own portrait work, Alla Prima provides an in-the-moment experience which holds in its embrace the atmosphere, the cultural environment, the artist and the sitter, and produces an historical record of an event in time.  Through her research, Fyfe has come to believe that this spontaneous painting process can also be a window into the emotion associated with a moment in time, for example, the wet-on-wet work of Joy Hester and John Perceval fashioned during the upheaval of wartime and post-war Australia.  Fyfe’s works in forthcoming painting projects further investigate this contention.


Fyfe is inspired by the loose work of our Australian plein air painters from the 19th and 20th century such as Carrick, Roberts and Phillips Fox as well as the line work and emotionally charged images of Toulouse Lautrec.  Occasionally she will allow her work to be directly influenced by the book on which it is painted.  For example, in ‘Cézanne’s Composition’ (p32), Fyfe mimics Cézanne’s technique of using cool colours to make shapes recede and in ‘The Italian Drawings’ (p30), Fyfe uses a burnt sienna colour to affect the pen and ink of Renaissance sketches.  In some instances, Fyfe references the artist via both painting and also the story.  For example, in ‘Toulouse Lautrec’ (p56), Fyfe uses cool turquoise on the human form as an homage to the bar lighting from Lautrec’s interiors and draws comparisons between Megan’s story and Lautrec’s own relationships.


The found objects are chosen for their interesting content and for their appearance.  Fyfe is continually challenged by the paint’s behaviour on the surface and the often vibrant colour of the substrate but, most of all, by her time limit.  Decisions are made ‘spur of the moment’ and paint tones are subject to muddying when working at speed. It is necessary to use less medium and stiffer brushes to compensate. Fyfe employs loose line work in some areas to give an impression of form without detail.  


In February 2020, Fyfe was introduced to an exhibition visitor who used a wheelchair.  He pointed out that his view of the paintings was distorted because of his restricted height.  Viewing further from the wall improved this but made detail impossible to see.  This chance meeting has influenced Fyfe’s work immeasurably. The descript works are presented in ‘frames’ on the wall as a traditional painting but they are also able to be removed from their shelf which acknowledges their origin and enables engagement by height and vision-impaired visitors.  

Painting and drawing the figure from life has always been the backbone of Fyfe’s art practise.  By 2013, and painting figures on a weekly basis, she felt that the work she was producing lacked substance and meaning.  Hence an undertaking to reimagine the Renaissance audience’s art experience of viewing a lifelike rendering of a subject, whilst at the same time, interpreting a painting’s hidden motifs and meanings.  The descript works run parallel with traditional oil painting ‘rules’- constructed from dark to light, respecting scale and biological structure, developing tonal variation. Here Fyfe’s intention is for these representational images to relate on a recognisably, organic level. To resemble a living thing and enable, from the very first glance, a basic superficial connection with the viewer. However, in the manner a 15th and 16th century audience could interpret meaning through symbols - a skull suggesting finality, lilies for purity and dogs for fidelity etc. - the descript works can also be ‘read’ by their audience. Simultaneously the books communicate their recycled origins as a symbol of our environmental burden and, through print, their thought-provoking social stories. An invitation to a contemporary audience to connect not only visually but also emotionally with the art.  



alla prima - an historical record of Australia

francis chiara.jpeg
uncle jack.jpeg
diana monster.jpeg
gustav herbie.jpeg
western sukvir.jpeg
nick cezanne.jpeg
william wonders.jpeg
toulouse megan.jpeg
david kindle.jpeg
rod splendid.JPG

examples of painting and accompanying story

artist information

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