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Meet: Criss Canning, still life painter

The painter’s garden

Criss Canning is one of Australia’s foremost painters of still life. Her meticulous and harmonious compositions impart a sense of serenity, while the colour palate is rich and sensuous.


Most of her paintings feature plants from the garden at Burnside and Sandra asked her about the link between the garden and her art.


David Glenn and Criss Canning. Photo - Lambley's Nursery


How does your work intersect with the garden?

My work is totally integrated with what happens in our garden. I have that visual stimulus every day, surrounded as I am by flowers, textures, shapes and colours. Most of the flowers I paint, David has grown here at Burnside.His oriental poppies are such a favourite, they have become a signature of my work. David grows them especially for me and seeks out new varieties, and colours for me to work with.


How do you choose your subjects?

It usually starts with an ache inside me for a particular colour. Then I walk around the garden to see what's happening, what's flowering and if something fits my mood, that's what I choose.Each colour harmony evokes an emotional response in me, so I swing like a pendulum from subtle and subdued colour harmonies to strong and gutsy. It feels to me as though not only colour but different plant material evokes a change in my response.When working with Australian native plants, for instance, there is more of a sense of stillness for me. Where the flower is something like oriental poppies it seems all about movement, excitement and sensuality.


Criss' work. Photo - Criss Canning


Where do you work?

My studio is here in the house at Burnside.It is a lovely space, and was originally the main sitting room of the house when it was built in 1856. It has a large bay window, south-facing, which provides me with beautiful light. The room has a sense of intimacy, which suits my painting.


How important is the garden for inspiration?

My work has grown and developed more beautifully knowing David. Now I have a greater understanding of the flowers I paint. I look more closely and notice much more of the detail of the markings. It has added a layer to my creative side. We constantly discuss the garden: additions or changes we want to implement. David in turn is the person I trust most to give an opinion of my paintings when they are in progress, when total honesty is paramount.

So I guess you could say we are a really good partnership, each enhancing the other.  

Text: Sandra Ross

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross