Toowoomba artist Diana Battle has been a gentle, quiet achiever among artists in the Garden City over the past 30 years.
Working in her favourite categories of local streetscapes, landscapes, florals and beach scenes, Diana Battle has won numerous awards for her paintings. These include the Toowoomba Art Society’s Fred Gardiner Award on three occasions and being People’s Choice at the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers art competition.
Last year was particularly memorable, for besides winning the Fred Gardiner Award, she was a finalist in the Lethbridge 10,000 Art Award in Brisbane. She was also accepted as an entrant in the Archibald Portrait Prize with a painting of her brother David McCarthy, who has received an OAM for his services to photography.
This year, Diana has had a solo exhibition of her recent works at the Toowoomba Repertory Theatre’s Foyer Gallery entitled Sideboard Selection. The title of this exhibition provides a clue as to the understated way in which Diana goes about her business.
It all began for her as a child when she was given paints to play with while being babysat at her father’s photographic studio in Brisbane.
“It all just went from there,” she says. “My father encouraged me to ‘see’ and not to simply presume what I thought was the obvious. That is an exciting way to view the world and was very helpful advice when I started collecting my reference images. I spent a year overseas in 1977 which gave me the opportunity to visit and revisit the wonderful galleries in London, France and Italy,” she said.
“In recent years, I have added galleries in Spain, St Petersburg and New York to the list and this has contributed greatly to my ongoing art education. I have further developed my style by painting often, which I feel an artist must do.”
As a result her standing in the art community Diana has been continually gathering momentum since she and her husband Michael settled in Toowoomba in 1984. Yet, quite remarkably, Diana, who has four children and nine grandchildren, has been able to further enhance her painting skills working in what can be best described as makeshift facilities.
“I’ve painted wherever I could find a space,” she says. ”When we came to Toowoomba we had a cute, little ironing room and I’d sit on a stool and paint on the ironing board. This worked very well because I found the ironing board to be the perfect height and it certainly proved to be a lot more fun than actually ironing.”
Now, as the Foyer Gallery exhibition suggests, Diana has graduated to using a sideboard as an easel and the family dining room table to lay her paint, brushes and other necessities. “I have a section about a metre wide behind a lounge suite and the dining room table,” she says. “The sideboard is at the end of that so I can walk back and forwards as I’m painting and it all works very well. Although the paint does tend to get on things that it shouldn’t I must admit, but never mind.”
Sideboard Selection will show at the Repertory Theatre Gallery, 94 Margaret Street from September 19 to 24 coinciding with the One Act Play Festival at Repertory and The Carnival of Flowers.
Words by Graeme Kelly | Images by Diana Battle