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Art Gallery WA Media Release
Frederick Garling, View across the coastal plain

helen grey-smith

Centenary celebration of remarkable textile designer

Opens 10 December 2016 | FREE

Helen Grey-Smith enjoyed a long career in Western Australia as a textile designer, painter and maker of collages. The next WA Focus exhibition, celebrates her mid-century textile work – 100 years on from the birth of this remarkable WA artist.

On display are textiles  including full-length curtains, Grey-Smith's design for a Perth scarf detailing iconic landmarks,  and fabric samples – as  well as later works. Presented alongside a number of design objects from  WA artists of the same period, the exhibition provides an insight  into domestic interiors of the era and an overview of Helen Grey-Smith's practice.

From her early childhood in Southern India, to undertaking study at the London School of Interior Design, life in Darlington and Pemberton, to her travels through Sri Lanka, Bali, Cambodia and India, Grey-Smith was heavily influenced by the physical world around her.

For more than 40 years, Helen Grey-Smith worked as a visual artist in Western Australia, where she settled with her husband and prominent fellow artist Guy Grey-Smith. She became preoccupied with the distance and scope of the unpeopled Australian landscape, and her subject matter reflects her deep love of WA’s landscape and flora, and her fascination with the Asian culture of our region.

The Grey-Smiths supported their artistic endeavours through the sale of their work as domestic and commercial product. During the 1960s, on an annual basis at Newspaper House Gallery, Helen Grey-Smith  would present and sell new textile designs for furnishing and dress fabrics, alongside her husband's ceramics.

From this exposure Grey-Smith received a number of high level commissions, the first of which was to create 1000m of fabric for curtains for Council House in 1962. This commission resulted in an interstate request to produce curtains for the new Reserve Bank building in Canberra.

Due to injury incurred through the repetitive nature of this type of work, Grey-Smith retired from screen-printing and textile work and took up watercolour painting and collage production. Indian lagoon 1986 is an example of her watercolour work, on display in WA Focus.

In conversation | FREE
2-3pm, Sunday 11 December

Join AGWA Curator Melissa Harpley and Gwen Phillips, author of a new book on Helen Grey-Smith, by UWA Publishing. In celebration of the new WA Focus: Helen Grey- Smith display they will discuss the life and work of this remarkable mid-century artist.

Gwen will be signing her new publication, which will be available to purchase at the AGWA Shop. If you purchase a copy on the day (Sun 11 Dec) you will receive 10% discount off the RRP of $55.

Further information

For more information, interviews and imagery please contact Tanya Sticca on 9492 6692 or email

Annual Sponsors

Principal Partner

Wesfarmers logo

303 MullenLowe, Singapore Airlines, Audi, Smartbots, Alex Hotel, Juniper Estate, Gage Roads Brewing Co.

Helen Grey-Smith Set of curtains designed for "Meerilinga" c1962 (detail). Silkscreen print on cotton, backing and lining. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Gift of Meerilinga Young Children's Foundation Inc., Perth, 1990. Helen Grey-Smith Textile sample (Perth scarf) 1955-1965. Silkscreen print on cotton and linen. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 1997.

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