After nearly two decades in administration at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Cindy Giles decided to turn the clock back and become a student.

It was less than four years ago, in her mid-fifties, that Cindy Giles began painting “for fun”. Fascinated with the style she has since developed, Cindy felt she wanted to learn more about her craft, so in February she began USQ’s three-year Bachelor of Creative Arts program. She says the catalyst for enrolling came from watching mature age students studying visual arts during her eight years as the university’s senior academic program support officer. “My role, in part, was to support students coming into visual arts and I became jealous of the way they would be enjoying themselves while they were learning,” Cindy says.

“Towards the end of last year, I retired from my position at USQ to become a full-time student with the objective of learning more about my craft. I have come to love my painting but I don’t really understand why I do what I do and that’s what I want to learn about. To enrol, I went through the interview process like all other students.” By then Cindy’s works had been exhibited on numerous occasions. The first of those exhibitions was in 2014 when her paintings were jointly shown at the Repertory Theatre and Tosari Galleries in Toowoomba, and at the Maryborough Art Gallery. “I originally wanted to paint landscapes but I found I couldn’t draw or comprehend light and shade,” Cindy says. “That’s when I decided to paint how I see a landscape, rather than how a technician might approach it. Over time, my artwork has progressed yet retains the exploration of colour and form inspired by the landscapes I experience.”

As she was developing her technique, Cindy researched other artists including Dutchman Ton Schulten, who mainly paints landscapes using bright blocks of colour. “I found Ton’s works fascinating and from there I developed my own style,” she says. “I feel my artwork has become a creation of geometric forms that references Cubism. However, with my choice of palette, Pop Art is a reference point. I like to call what I do … Cubo-Pop Art.” A typical example of this is her 2015 work, Rainbow River, where Cindy takes her cue from the candy coloured hues of Pop Art and the simplified geometry of Cubism which, in turn, presents a playful approach to the traditional genre of landscape painting.

Along the way she has been fortunate to have David Akenson, a lecturer (visual arts theory) at USQ, as a mentor. “David looks at what I produce and says that’s kitsch or it’s this or it’s that or he might say, I love that,” she says. “Then he will describe to me what I should or shouldn’t be doing.” With David’s support, Cindy’s painting career has blossomed. This resulted in her being chosen as a finalist in the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery Biennial Emerging Arts Award and Queensland Regional Art Awards in 2016. And, from July to December last year, her paintings were exhibited at the St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Brisbane.

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