PAINTINGS by two artistic mates have been presented to South Gippsland Hospital SGH in Foster as a permanent celebration of their decades-long friendship and to provide pleasure to those passing through the Hospital foyer.
Internationally-renowned botanical illustrator Celia Rosser, and free-spirited environmentalist, artist, poet and teacher, the late Junitta Vallak, first connected with one other during their university days, and they stayed in touch through the years.
Both were delighted that their individual lives’ paths came to intersect anew when it was discovered that they both had come to live in South Gippsland, indeed, in the same district of Corner Inlet.
Celia had established a gallery of her banksia flower works at Fish Creek with her son Andrew Rosser, while Junitta had planted an Australian native forest and created a peaceful retreat in the hills overlooking Wilsons Promontory.
And so, the cups of tea began again, along with long talks about art and nature, and going out for counter lunches together, and drawing, and laughing, and enjoying each other’s like-minded company.
After Junitta passed away in 2019, her son Brendan Vallak began to think that he would like to offer a lasting memorial to his mother, and the rapport she had had with Celia, to the Hospital that had cared for her so kindly during the latter period of her life.
Brendan decided he would give the Hospital one of Junitta’s own paintings, a watercolour and pastel work entitled River Gum Lake Fyans, and he would also acquire a print of Celia’s to donate with it.
Celia has devoted her whole career to recording every form of banksia in astonishingly accurate detail and while Junitta loved all wildflowers, banksias were her favourite, too, with Banksia coccinea at the very top of the list.
Brendan naturally chose Celia’s depiction of the Scarlet Banksia, to give the plant its common name, and Celia wrote “Dedicated to my dear friend Junitta” at the bottom of the print before Andrew enclosed it in a frame made of banksia wood and glass.
SGH Chief Executive Officer Paul Greenhalgh welcomed Brendan, and Celia and Andrew to the Hospital on Monday, September 4, 2023, so that they could see the two paintings in their places of pride in the foyer.
He expressed SGH’s thanks for the gift of the two artworks, saying that the Hospital community was “really chuffed and grateful for such a generous and thoughtful donation.”
The river gum and the banksia have been hung facing each other on two nib walls and are located close enough for Brendan to believe that the “conversation continues between the two friends”.