Experimental artist finds inspiration in surf and desert

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By Ian Williams 

As a young woman, gifted artist Cindy Durant wanted to escape the traffic jams and overcrowding of southern California. She most definitely succeeded.

Cindy packed her surfboard and headed to Australia where she eventually discovered the remote and wild far south-west coast of South Australia, her home for the past 21 years.

She lives near Cactus Beach at Penong in a home with no mains power or water.

It’s a unique environment and has provided inspiration for some of Cindy’s most exquisite and eclectic art pieces – creations that earned her the 2016 Breaking Ground prize awarded by Country Arts SA.

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Cindy Durant at home in Penong near Cactus Beach

Cindy won a $10,000 cash prize and mentoring worth $5,000 plus an opportunity to develop a body of work to stage a five-week exhibition during the South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA). The exhibition, Layers, will be launched in the Adelaide Festival Centre Artspace Gallery on July 7.

Months of experimenting has gone into creating the exhibition which features wall hangings and sculptures painstakingly crafted from powdered and sheet glass.

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Navajo Blanket Wira Vessel

“I feel a bit of a hermit because I’ve been so involved in my art in preparation for the exhibition that I often don’t go down my driveway for weeks on end,” says Cindy.

“Some of the work has been created from photos I’ve taken and a small collection of historical photos of the area which I’ve screen-printed on glass. The rest of the pieces feature more textural imagery.”

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Photo Grant Hancock.

Cindy describes herself as a ‘maker’ who loves experimenting with different materials, particularly glass but also metals and vitreous enamels, and dreaming up unique creations through trial and error.

She worked as a carpenter and chef in Victoria when she first arrived in Australia and it was while living on the Mornington Peninsula that she discovered her interest in glass.

She also met husband Bruce, an arborist, and it was through their passion for camping and surfing that they arrived at Penong in 1995 with their young son Dylan. The town is perched between the Great Australian Bight and Nullarbor Plain, a Latin name that ironically for Bruce means place with no trees.

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Enamel Brooches – Remnants

“Bruce is Mr Fixit and he’s a builder now who does work in the community,” says Cindy.

He also built their home and Cindy’s studio, and installed the three largest of her seven kilns which she uses to develop her own methods for firing her work. The property is powered by solar and wind and she has bottled gas for some of the kilns.

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Cindy’s natural talent has helped her secure various training opportunities along the way to help her explore new techniques.

She won a full scholarship to Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, USA – it took her 15 flights to get there – and has been learning different ideas for screen printing from Joshua Searson at the Adelaide College of Arts as part of her Breaking Ground award.

Cindy is hoping the exhibition will allow her to focus more on creating large custom wall hangings – and to keep on experimenting.

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