12 April 2023

Prolific artist captures Goulburn’s heritage and tradies in a hurry

| John Thistleton
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two people with artwork

In Home for Tea, Ian Henderson portrays two tradies running home after work past the Bushells Tea sign in Grafton Street. He says one of his motivations was to capture the sign before it faded away. Photo: John Thistleton.

Accomplished artist Ian Henderson did not take long to capture Goulburn’s fading heritage and fast-running tradies when he first arrived in town.

Having paintings in galleries throughout the world, the British-born artist and his wife Elaine arrived in Goulburn to live in January 2019. From their home in Grafton Street they began early morning walks to the Greengrocer cafe, so it was inevitable the city’s outstanding heritage buildings caught Ian’s eye.

The fading Bushells sign on the corner of Cove and Grafton streets was one of his first pieces and as is his style, he began adding elements that leapt to mind about Goulburn.

“There are a couple of tradies there, going like clappers. They have had a hard day’s work and are going to spend their evening in Goulburn,” Ian said, holding up the end result, entitled Home for Tea. (The girl in the foreground has no particular role, other than providing him with a figure for the space.)

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A former shop on the corner of Sloane and Bradley streets with a sign saying ‘‘Free home delivery’’ became the subject of another painting, which features a horse-drawn delivery cart before the advent of cars and trucks and more recent trials of making up for COVID-19 in Goulburn.

“The interesting part for me, I mean, this guy is so depressed, so sad really, and the woman is saying, ‘Oh God, do I have to wear this mask?’,” he said. (See photo below).

“And the horses, what are they all about?” he asked, rhetorically. “These leaping ponies are trying to get away, maybe, or it is up to people to work out for themselves. They are an anachronism in the painting but at the same time they indicate some of the characteristics. It would be an entirely depressing painting if you took the horses out. The horses are getting out of it, you see.”


Free Home Delivery includes horses breaking away from a grim Goulburn streetscape during COVID-19, under a leaden sky depicting the threat of global warming. Photo: John Thistleton.

He says throughout his art career, people have bought his paintings because they empathise with the subject matter and follow what he is doing.

Aside from painting Goulburn’s alluring streetscapes, Ian is keen to get involved with Gallery on Track, a collective of artists who have converted railway barracks into a studio and workshops.

Holding a doctorate in creative arts from the University of Wollongong, Ian is keen to teach different aspects of art at the gallery.

“For example, the use of collage as part of painting activity, or what I euphemistically call advanced painting,” he said. “It is more to do with the thought processes about painting rather than the activity.”

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At Gallery on Track he has found a sense of community, a sense of caring and a refreshing lack of egos.

“These people, in my mind, have less ego about what they are doing, they are part of Gallery on Track,” he said. “They have their tasks, try and sell their work, run workshops and try to improve themselves. What more do you want? Brilliant.”

Born in the UK, Ian graduated from art studies, worked professionally as an artist and began applying for artist-in-residence opportunities, which took him to Brock University in Ontario, Canada. After that stint, he returned to Leeds College of Art and then came to Australia in 1972 with his family.


Beachless Beauty shows the top end of Auburn Street, Goulburn, and a shop that has since moved to Bourke Street. Ghosts of people past who might have been shopping there came to Ian’s mind as he felt Goulburn had slipped behind a little. Photo: John Thistleton.

Along the way to these and other appointments that followed, he developed an itch to experience just about everything art has to offer a fine artist, and he and Elaine have been on the move ever since. Among many places in Australia and abroad, they have lived in Port Arthur, Brisbane, Newcastle, Canberra, Cooma and Braidwood.

Now in their 80s, their need for transport and medical services has brought them to Goulburn. They’re regulars on the train to Sydney and Canberra, and have moved from Grafton to Auburn Street, into a home that has enabled Ian to establish his latest iteration of Celtic Skye Studio, which he had operated in Braidwood. The studio adds another layer to Goulburn’s diverse cultural landscape.

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