Taking inspiration from her time as a gem and opal merchant, then years of traversing this vast country with her livestock exporter-husband, Sunshine Coast artist Ida Montague produces vibrant pieces of iconic Australian subject matter.
Through clear lines, attention to detail and a fascinating mix of robust colour, the stark aesthetic of her paintings are filled with bold contrast, and her playful use of flat planes of colour and negative space reveal a unique illusion of form.
Ida recently opened her exhibit, ‘The Nature of Things’, in Roma, showcasing the simple beauties she has witnessed in a life full of robust experiences.
A crowd of more than 60 people turned out for the evening, awed by Ida’s work and fascinated by the story she tells through her art.
“I came out to Australia and worked for a Danish company called Georg Jensen Silver in Sydney, so I learnt a lot working with them and then later on I studied gemology and that led me to work for an opal retail company,” she said.
“I made contact with a group of miners from Lightning Ridge and became their representative in Brisbane. I started a sales office for them and mainly went to Tokyo and Hong Kong selling their stones.
“A lot of my inspiration about colour comes from that time.”
Marrying John Montague in 1982, Ida said she saw a beautiful array of landscapes in the years she spent travelling and working at her husband’s side.
“We travelled a lot by small aircraft and so I saw a lot of landscape in the northern part of Queensland and Western Australia, and visited plenty of saleyards and stations buying cattle,” she said.
“We would sort of blaze in and blaze out again, it was so fast, but it was really the colours I saw on land and from the sky – the colour of the landscape, the redness or the blackness of the dirt depending on the where we were.”
Ida said it was a romantic experience for a foreigner like her.
“I experienced it with a foreigner’s eyes,” she said.
“If you were born and bred in Australia, I doubt you would have sensed it as vividly as I did.”
Since the passing of her husband in 2002, Ida Montague has dedicated her time to her art.
Whether it be horses, cattle, trees or drovers, Ida said her favourite thing to paint is whatever she’s working on at the time.
“When I was painting cattle, that was my favourite, and then I had a short period of painting a lot of horses, which I could only do from photos of course, because they move too fast and the cattle did too,” she said.
“And probably for the past two years I’ve been totally captivated by trees.”
Most of the artwork in her current exhibit, ‘The Nature of Trees’, is acrylic, but Ida said she also really enjoyed working with charcoal. “I've done a lot of Brahman cattle like that in very large pieces; I like to swap and change, it sort of just refocuses you.”.
As for what’s next, Ida said it might be time to change medium. “I think I might try watercolour, mainly because I haven't done very much of that and I think that could be a challenge.”