No one can describe Toora artist Anne Roussac-Hoyne as someone who quietly rests on their laurels. Anne’s profile within the South Gippsland community has prominently risen over the last five years through her direction of ambitious hospitality and arts-based projects within the region.
Her development portfolio includes past and present landmarks, such as the YEPGallery and Cow Cow Café in Foster, Fish Creek Hotel ArtSpaces, and the recently opened Rare Earth Studio Gallery in Toora. The boldness and energy behind these projects is evident in Anne’s personality upon first acquaintance, alongside a genuine curiosity in the fellow artists and gallery patrons that she encounters along her journey.
“I describe myself as an accidental artist."
Originally a language teacher by trade, Anne’s identity as a visual artist emerged from her nascent experience as a self-described ‘maker’ of crafted objects and sculptural forms.
“I describe myself as an accidental artist. Although I had studied art at high school and painted because of the assessment requirements, it wasn’t until about five years ago that I first applied a paintbrush to a canvas after discovering the existence of the earth pigment medium.
“I had encountered an African process (Mali) called Bògòlanfini through participating in a workshop in Meeniyan; this involves the colouring of textiles using pigments sourced from river mud.
“My early earth pigment works using fabric as the base material did not achieve what I wanted, as I had intended to hang the resulting works on a wall for display. This resulted in the fabric stretching out, and the artwork losing colour and definition. Painting directly onto a conventional stretched canvas solved this problem – and I was still technically applying the pigment to a textile.”
Anne combined her newfound discovery of a creative medium that was intimately bound to the places and spaces of origin with her own twenty-year-long history as a resident of the local region.
“I managed to create a collection of works that was based entirely on earth pigments and held a solo exhibition at one of the local wineries. I was caught somewhat off-guard by the extremely encouraging response to that exhibition. I managed to sell seventeen of the paintings, and I received positive feedback from several artists that I personally admired and followed.
“For me it was a natural next step to offer this medium to artists whom I viewed at the time as ‘proper painters’ and witness the kinds of work that would emerge from their technique and experience.”
Thus began Anne’s foray into her roles as event manager, art curator and gallery director. She successfully invited thirty local artists to participate in a project that featured the exclusive use of earth pigment media. A search for a suitable venue to host the resulting group exhibition eventually resulted in the Fish Creek Hotel ArtSpaces initiative. This became the start of an emerging local art movement that was centred around the use of regionally sourced pigments.
Anne’s boldness, alongside a distinctive talent for developing working relationships with others, led to her opening YEPGallery in Foster in 2017. This gallery successfully represented many local artists and was well regarded within the community. Regrettably, in 2019, the gallery shut its doors due to various unforeseen circumstances. This misfortune seemed to galvanise Anne’s determination to seize the initiative and develop something new for residents and visitors alike within the region. “At the time, I could never find a local café that was open on the weekend — so I went ahead and opened one myself.” Her capacity to find an opportunity, alongside an astounding ability to follow through with personal initiative, eventually resulted in the development and opening of the Cow Cow Café in Foster. “I dedicated all my remaining energy to create a café experience that I felt was sorely missing within the town.”
Anne believes that a regional town has provided more opportunities for her journey as a career artist than if she were based in the metropolitan area. “There are enormous opportunities to be yourself and have a presence in the art world when you are in a small place. You can have an exhibition in a gallery and find a receptive audience because everything is more accessible. I now also have the time to finally do my art.”
She also offers insights into the tastes and experiences of regional art audiences as a curator and gallery director.
“When I explain to an audience that a landscape has been painted using pigments from the actual landscape, they sometimes tell me that they feel a shiver down their spine.
“To me, how an artwork makes me feel is more important than whether it looks realistic — such as in a traditional landscape painting.”
This continues to shape how she approaches her own personal work. She draws direct inspiration from the pigment materials themselves, allowing them to shape the forms that manifest in her painting rather than attempting to tame them into a predetermined visual representation. Working with earth pigments has also opened new horizons for fellow artists by pushing them out of their comfort zones of established practice. “One of the feature artists in the current gallery was renowned for their traditional landscape paintings. They reinvented their creative practice since adapting to earth pigments, and proceeded with a new direction which has resonated with a fresh audience.”
The creative atmosphere that Anne fostered in the old YEPGallery made a return in late 2020 with the opening of Rare Earth Studio Gallery in Toora. This gallery is adjacent to yet another of her projects in development: a restoration of the old Toora Bakery. “I believe that Toora, and South Gippsland as a region, is on the cusp of transforming into a landmark tourist destination — as well as a focal point for the region’s art community. The chance to acquire and develop this property just fell into my lap, so I decided to take it.”
Her concept for the new business — provisionally named Red Pig Historic Bakery — is to bring its historic wood-fired Scotch oven back to life and offer a stylish modern bar and café experience adjacent to the existing art gallery.
“It will be a place that offers an interesting modern atmosphere, surrounded by interesting artworks, artifacts, furniture and good simple food. I feel like it will be a contribution to the local area.”
She concluded by reflecting upon how she believes the surrounding communities can share in her optimism for healthy growth within Toora and the surrounding region. “I’m appreciative of the collaboration that’s occurred between myself, South Gippsland Shire Council, and other supportive individuals within the local business network. Amongst our communities, there should be no such thing as competition. It shouldn’t be ‘Toora versus Foster’, or ‘Foster versus Fish Creek’. The more we can do together to make this whole area attractive for people to come to, the better.”