An Artist’s Cosy Seaside Home
Images by Kate Shanasy
We return to the Mornington Peninsula this week to meet artist Natalie Bessell at her sunny home in Saint Andrews Beach. Natalie’s work uses paint, paper, wood, and clay to explore our relationship with the natural world, with this in mind, it’s no surprise that she was attracted to the laid back, beachy lifestyle in Melbourne’s southeast. We chatted to Natalie about her progression as an artist and the evolution of her work as well as her love of icy winter dips and spending time in nature.
“I have lived in this Saint Andrews Beach house for a little over two years, when I discovered it originally as an Airbnb guest, I walked in and started crying because I hadn’t felt that comfortable in a space since I left my beautiful canyon home in California, it is like I knew it was my new home. I reached out to the owner after my holiday and asked if I could move in as a tenant, she said yes. It turns out that [the owner] Susanne was an art teacher and loved my work. She lives in a small cottage behind the main house and since day one we have regular chats about philosophy and the like over gin and tonics. I value her and this special space that she has worked so hard on”
“Like the rest of the house, my bedroom is full of textures and natural materials. The walls are a white-washed ply and bamboo, there is an Art Deco style vanity facing the bed which is framed by two matching whicker nightstands and green suede lamps. There is a large painting of mine that works well in the space, it is from my series “My Grandmother is a Sunflower” which was all about honouring and acknowledging the presence of our ancestors in our physical and emotional body. It is a comforting piece to have above my bed.”
Like the rest of the house, my bedroom is full of textures and natural materials.
“There are two other special pieces of my work in the house, one is a piece called “Thank you for the beets” and the other is called “Thank you Bull”. Bridget, my housemate and dear friend, bought the former and Susanne, the creator of this home, bought the latter. It is a really special feeling when people you admire purchase work from you, it means a great deal to me.”
“I took to drawing as soon as l could hold a pencil. I have never stopped. I remember the pleasure I got from seeing white paper, all of the potential. The potential to make something out of nothing, it really did feel like magic, it still does on good days.”
“In my late teens and early 20’s, I spent a lot of time questioning certain norms, what we accept as a people and what we put ourselves through. The 'work yourself to the ground" mentality, the need for more, the expectations we put on ourselves and others. It can be enough to make someone who is sensitive want to disappear. The plant and animal kingdom feels like a place that I want to be fully alive in. I use my art to depict this drama, I show people staying still with nature. I show hands praising the sun, praising the plants, praising the hen and her eggs. I romanticise farmers and their dogs. Women and their mystery, and on and on, perhaps in hopes that I am part of a movement, a movement towards harmony, in learning, as a people, how to receive rather than demand.”
In my late teens and early 20’s, I spent a lot of time questioning certain norms, what we accept as a people and what we put ourselves through.
“As a youth, I focused on the technical, on realism, still life’s, reflections on glass, accurate colour, proportions, perspective, etc. After years of doing this, I realised that I was ready to make some art. I like to think that I am making art now, that I am telling a story that is important to me and that has meaning to others. “
“I love seeing people. They inspire me. I want to hear about what they have done and what they are doing. I learn so much from those around me, life philosophies, health regimes, farming practices, flavour combinations, fermentation, Picasso exhibits, architecture, interior design, where to eat the best Chinese. It is kind of amazing how different we all are. I love to learn from this differentness, it helps me continue to understand this world we are living in.”
“I live five minutes from the beach, I take cold water dips in the rock pools all year round. I surf, I hike, I shop at local farm-stands on the daily. The Mornington Peninsula is such an amazing place for a creator, I am constantly inspired by the people, the land, and the ocean.”
“[For the rest of the year] I have a few art projects in California coming up, it will be nice to spend some time in California, it has been too long. In Melbourne, I am part of a group show for Fenton & Fenton coming up in August that I am excited to be a part of. Really, I am just excited about an open Australia and an open world. It feels like we are in some sort of post-pandemic revival and I am ready for it.”