About the Artist
Jennifer Gowen was born in a small fishing port in South Devon, England and, as a child, emigrated to Australia with her parents & older brother. She has been involved in the art world for more than 45 years.
Whilst working for the Illawarra Daily Mercury in Wollongong, she developed an interest in fine arts and was chosen to co-ordinate the Wollongong City/Illawarra Daily Mercury Fusion Art Festival judged by leading Australian contemporary artist, Tom Gleghorn.
After living and working overseas (in London & Rome) for three years, she returned from Europe, married and settled in the Manning area of NSW establishing and operating her own art gallery, Possum Brush Gallery, for 13 years, exhibiting the work of leading Australian artists. The work was drawn from artists living predominantly in Newcastle & the Hunter region, Sydney and Wollongong. Joint exhibitions were held each month showcasing the work of leading painters, printmakers, photographers, potters, textile and glass artists.
In conjunction with running a gallery, Jennifer taught Creative Weaving for two years with Adult Education in Taree. Possum Brush Gallery closed after 30 years of operation; the longest running commercial art gallery on the mid north coast of NSW.
Jennifer is now a Sydney-based artist after moving to the city from the country some 35 years ago. She became interested in paper making, and art created from handmade paper and subsequently became both the Secretary and the Publicity Officer for the Papermakers Association of New South Wales.
Some years later, while working as a gallery assistant for Hogarth Aboriginal Art Galleries with galleries in Paddington, The Rocks and the Sydney Opera House, she commenced Fine Arts studies; initially part time, at Southern Sydney Art School at Kogarah and later, full time studies at both Southern Sydney Art School and The Sydney Gallery School at Meadowbank. She has been a volunteer at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea for over 15 years and is also a member of a local art society.
During 2010-2011, in a voluntary capacity, Jennifer worked as Assistant Co-ordinator/Co-curator of a unique and exciting collaborative arts project between Afghanistan and Australia, Catharsis: Tragedy & Restoration.
This field trip was to become a life-changing experience for Jennifer and has led to a passionate interest in war-torn Afghanistan, its art and its people.
Jennifer, and the Project Co-ordinator, travelled to Afghanistan in March, 2011, to co-curate a group exhibition of 50 works by established and mid-career Australian artists at the Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan in Kabul. Some of the artworks taken to Afghanistan were by artists, Idris Murphy, Lucy Culliton, Elisabeth Cummings, Graham Blondel, Angus Nivison, Pat Harry, Ian Grant, Ann Thomson, Euan McLeod, Reg Mombassa, and Jon Cattapan, to name just a few.
Whilst in Kabul, Jennifer & the Project Co-ordinator also taught art techniques to female students at the contemporary art centre.
Prominent Australian contemporary artist, George Gittoes, wrote in August 2012, after Jennifer's return from Afghanistan:
"It is rare and wonderful to see works as beautiful and sensitive as Jennifer's achieved in response to her time working in Afghanistan. Her paintings focus predominantly on the daily lives of Afghans as they live their lives in a fragile, war-weary, but always hopeful country. Many of Jennifer's works depict Afghan women and the distinctive blue burqas they wear. Like Jennifer, the issue of Afghan women and their burqas is also one of my deepest concerns."
"I wish Jennifer good luck with her work, and thank her, on behalf of the artists of Afghanistan, for her work to enrich the cultural community here."
"I would be very happy if you could view and consider her unique body of work. I feel she has a genuine visual story to tell of her Afghan experience in an ancient and beautiful country and one that I feel would be of great interest to the viewing public."
George Gittoes, AM, Jalalabad, Afghanistan
In the time Jennifer spent in Afghanistan, she and the Co-ordinator also worked on art-related projects with Afghan orphans at an Australian-funded orphanage on the outskirts of Kabul. The work they were involved in at the orphanage not only taught the orphans (and widows) new skills to take into their post-orphanage lives, but also enabled them to express their emotions creatively.
The six-week self-funded field trip also encompassed two weeks spent in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where they were invited to stage the Australian contemporary art exhibition at the University of Wollongong, Dubai campus. The artworks were then brought back to Sydney for a final exhibition/auction of the works -- a fundraiser for the orphanage in Afghanistan.
Since her return from Afghanistan, Jennifer has been invited on more than 20 occasions, both in Australia & in the U.S.A. to speak of her "Art & Afghanistan" experience, including International Women's Day 2014, at regional art galleries, PROBUS/Rotary/Lions Clubs, various other organisations, councils and for SAWA-NSW (Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan).
Jennifer’s strong interest in, and love of the arts continues as a practising and dedicated artist working in her own studio in Caringbah, southern Sydney.