Eighty-seven-year-old artist Valda Cuming has had an account on Instagram since last year. Set up with the help of her grandson, Will Cuming, she now regularly posts photos of her artworks – sketches, paintings, sculpture – plus other daily activities. Short and unadorned but charming descriptions accompany each one.
“This is a sketch I did of a house in Robe that we stayed in last Christmas. In the afternoon I went back to try and do a painting and the owners of the house came and looked and I ran off. I only ended up getting the drawing done but I really wanted to do a painting, because the shed was so gorgeous, and the tree was right in the middle of the shed.”
“These birds are called Eastern Rosellas,” Valda writes of a colourful watercolour she painted last year. “And they come and visit my garden. And that’s a pottery feed bowl I made that they are perched on. They come by often, as well as the magpies. I feed them premium mince meat.”
Valda studied fine arts and metal work at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and has exhibited in solo and group shows for 25 years. Now, nearing 90 years old, she teaches watercolour classes at the Beaumaris Art Studios. She is a multimedia artist who relishes embracing new ways to create art, especially new technologies.
“It’s like a new colour in her palette, a new way of making things that weren’t around before,” says Will.
She uses an iPad to draw, Instagram to connect with people, and is in the process of developing a video game with her illustrations.
“It’s exciting to her, not scary,” Will says, adding that she was making art on the early Apple Macintosh computers of the 1980s.
You might not know the name Will Cuming, but chances are you’ve heard of LANKS – his stage name. He’s a composer, producer and singer-songwriter who’s one of the country’s most exciting new talents, with a signature sound that combines soaring falsetto, electronic hums and layered instrumentation.
Will and Valda have collaborated on an exhibition, Valda: A personal journey: a lifetime of art and travel. It will showcase more than 200 of Valda’s pieces at her Bayside home, a 1960s residence designed by acclaimed Australian architects McGlashan Everist.
“Our stories have become so intertwined it just felt natural to collaborate,” Will says.
“She’s always been a big advocate of my art and creating,” he says. She often goes to LANKS gigs and sketches the scene – drawings she then puts on social media.
The exhibition and special concert is not their only collaboration, either. Valda’s artwork is on LANKS album covers and T-shirts, as well as his website (these will be displayed as part of the exhibition). She’s also been working on an interactive video game with another grandson, specifically for the show.
As well as her digital and multimedia works, Valda’s watercolours, sculpture, ceramics, wood works and jewellery will be on show.
To attend the exhibition on March 26 you’ll need to enter a ballot, which closes today, March 10. Will is also playing a special show at Valda’s house on Saturday March 18 (that ballot is now closed), bringing a LANKS show to her, rather than the other way around.
“She taught us a lot about daily practice and being really in love with what you do,” Will says.
Her 40 years of artistic output is testament to that credo.
“It wouldn’t be showing the work off properly if we didn’t do it at her home,” Will adds. “This way you can have a cup of tea and chat to Grandma about her art.”