Senior visual artists and husband and wife duo Richard and Yoshiko Gunning are current Artists in Residence at the Fremantle Arts Centre. Housed in Studio 6, an airy, light-filled space bigger than most studio apartments, Richard and Yoshiko have been steadily working towards a new exhibition, Luminous Pursuit, which opens at Nyisztor Studio on 30 October. 

Combining Richard’s skill in painting interior and domestic scenes with Yoshiko’s delicate installations combining floristry and sculpture, the exhibition provides a voyeuristic glimpse into the couple’s life at home. 

It’s partly inspired by the magnificent light flooding through their home after they knocked down some interior walls – replacing them with screens that reflected soft, multi-coloured rays across their living room, and drawing on Yoshiko’s Japanese heritage. 

Ahead of the opening, we chatted to them about the process of creating work together, their residency at FAC and the development of Luminous Pursuit

Yoshiko, you are known for creating pastel self portraits and interior works, but more recently you are integrating your training as a florist within your practice. How are you approaching this for Luminous Pursuit

I recently studied floristry and I work in that industry. My aim is to combine my visual art and floristry together – it seems like a natural progression for me. I’m working with resin and some other materials to create some sculptural forms with preserved plant materials in them to create works which play with composition, light and space. 

Richard, one of the more striking pieces of the exhibition is a 1.8 x 2.4 metre room divider or screen featuring a domestic scene you painted. What exactly are we looking at here? 

Yes that’s right, the painting on the screen is based on the interior of where we live. It’s a domestic scene painted across the panels of the screen and in it you can see our apartment, with Yoshiko doing her hair in the bedroom and our son making a meal in the kitchen. You can see that I’ve painted a piece of clothing in the top left corner – playing with perception and illusion, also drawing on the fact that room dividers often are used in this manner, for people to get dressed. 

Richard Gunning in his studio at Fremantle Arts Centre

What gave the idea to start working with screens?

It’s partly drawn from a work I created about 25 years ago on a screen. I felt that this medium would marry well with the works Yoshiko is creating for the exhibition. A screen is somehow a little less intrusive than a painting. The space at Nyistor gallery is generous as well, so it lends itself to a larger work.

Richard, what attracts you to painting these domestic scenes which explore light and space? 

I’m drawn to interiors simply because they are the space that we occupy. I anticipate doing landscapes as well and I have done landscapes, but part of the appeal of interiors is that you can control them a little easier. The same is the case with still life. So it’s kind of a progression on that. I work from life, as opposed to photographs. I never find photographs particularly appealing to work from as they are too static and don’t capture the full breadth of light and colour. 

I understand this is the first time you have presented an exhibition together? What was it like working together?

Yoshiko: Yes, this is the first time. We’ve always created works separately and, even if we are working in the same space together, we try not to influence each other too much. But we thought it was about time we made something together, especially seeing we have this big space to work in together. 

How does having a studio at Fremantle Arts Centre benefit your art practice? 

Richard: One of the best things about having a studio here is that it’s not an outcome-based program, so you really have the freedom to experiment and develop your practice however you choose.

And the exhibitions program is fantastic, from the more contemporary exhibitions to the historical works in the Collection, it’s wonderful to have exposure to that while you are working, and that’s not always the case with studios.

Luminous Pursuit is at Nyisztor Studio from 30 October – 14 November