How painting helped Anna Placidi heal
Our connection to nature begins at a young age. A thirst, or curiosity combined with the simple pleasure of free time; watching a snail slither across a path, a butterfly landing on a flower, or the way the sun glistens on a blade of grass.
These moments, although completely incidental at the time, forge our young minds with a connection to something greater than ourselves.
Ballarat artist Anna Placidi remembers all of these moments, her childhood enriched by a life spent outdoors. Growing up on sheep stations near Dubbo, Anna gained an appreciation for her environment, something that would stay with her forever and, ultimately, lead her to fulfil her dreams in the world of art.
Having always been creative, Anna remembers her mother’s support fondly, encouraging her from a young age to paint and explore, to follow her passion and go to art school. And Anna did study art, and continued to paint throughout her youth and into her adulthood.
But, after moving to Melbourne, Anna reflects on the 1990s as a time when art was more technology-based, a medium she found far less appealing than the siren song of nature. So she continued to paint but casually, in raw materials as she always had, completing mainly landscapes and further cementing her love for still life and the natural world.
Anna moved to Ballarat after meeting her husband, Raimondo, and the two began building their life together. A life that would go on to include two beautiful children, Federica and Marcello, who are now young adults themselves, and Anna describes her life as "blessed", despite what was to follow.
At age 43, Anna was diagnosed with breast cancer (around seven years ago). She talks openly of this challenging time, a positivity and strength in her that seems to have never wavered.
Anna speaks of her cancer as a turning point. “I remember waking from a major surgery,” she explains, “I opened my eyes and I just knew I had to give my art one last go”. It’s a moment she says that she can’t forget, a moment of clarity that she hadn’t felt for her art before.
“Painting helped me heal,” says Anna. Her focus on landscapes soon evolved and deliberately narrowed into painting flowers. “I am in awe of flowers, I feel like a child again,” she expounds, clearly now able to do what many of us struggle to – stop and smell the roses. Literally.
Life was different after cancer. Anna articulates a determination to “not sweat the small stuff”, while simultaneously seeing and appreciating the little things, a quality developed in her work of painting flowers, evident in every fine detail in her artwork. It had become more important than ever for Anna to chase her dreams of being an artist, to fulfil that yearning she had always had.
Anna credits social media (specifically Instagram) for helping her showcase her work and connect with other creatives. Vintage 216, a neighbourhood vintage store in Ballarat, was one of the first places to display Anna’s work. Now it can be found in A.K. Bellinger Gallery in northern New South Wales plus Fenton & Fenton in Melbourne. Anna also recently held a solo art exhibition at A.K. Bellinger, showcasing 15 of her paintings which all sold out.
Anna speaks of her art style as non-prolific. She is slow in her approach and can take a week or more to complete one of her larger scale pieces. Always making time for her daily walks, Anna takes the time to admire flowers along the way and only “sometimes” picks one to take home with her (something, she says with a laugh, has got her into some trouble before!).
Anna prefers to forage for flowers herself, not that a prepared bouquet isn’t beautiful in its own right, but there’s “just something,” Anna explains, about the rawness of picking a flower from its natural environment, something that seems to be an important part of the process for Anna. And something that takes her back to her childhood on the sheep stations, and her joy of exploring nature with her childhood dog by her side.
Having been inspired by a myriad of other artists over the years, from Fairfield Porter to Henri Fantin-Latour and Sir Cedric Morris, working from a beautiful corner in her family’s home, Anna speaks about her process; “I do sometimes listen to music, but I also like to listen to ghost stories on podcasts and YouTube,” she laughs. Flowers and ghosts may be an unusual combination, but maybe the proof is in the pudding (or painting)!
Anna’s passion for art is palpable, her story speaks of determination, hope and healing. Inspirational and hopeful, Anna hopes that she can inspire others to chase their dreams, but if we can take just one thing from Anna and her story, let it be to stop and notice the little things, the things that fascinated us as children, the things we look at, but do not see. To explore and appreciate nature, and sometimes, just for a moment, stop and smell the roses.
Words by Bianca Flint, pictures by Tara Moore Photography
As printed in Uncover Summer 2019