A tribute to the life of Geoffrey Nant, 1958-2017

Geoff's World: from private sketches to giant carnival creatures, Geoff Nant was a truly creative being. Photo: supplied.

Geoff's World: from private sketches to giant carnival creatures, Geoff Nant was a truly creative being. Photo: supplied.

Good human, lover of life, father of three, artist, musician, art teacher, Aikido Shodan.

That is how Geoffrey Nant’s long time partner and creative associate, Peggy van Zalm describes him.

Geoff passed recently from a heart condition after a brief unexpected illness and complications with treatments.

Peggy, along with family, organised a  farewell memorial for Geoff for Saturday July 29.

Following the service Christopher Steele, fellow artist and teaching colleague at Gloucester High School, opened Geoff’s “An Artful Life” Tribute Exhibition, which showed all week at Queen Street Hall in Wingham and ended on Friday, August 4 .

Peggy van Zalm with some of Geoffrey Nant's paintings from the recent tribute exhibition.

Peggy van Zalm with some of Geoffrey Nant's paintings from the recent tribute exhibition.

On display in the main hall was an impressive selection of Geoff’s paintings dated from 1990 -2016.

Viewers could walk through to the back room to look through dozens of boxes of slides of Geoff’s paintings and photographs from the 1970s onwards. Also on display were many of Geoff’s drawing notebooks from the past eight years, including drawings in pen and wash, pencil, ink and charcoal studies and images.

The walls of the back room were affixed with photographs and prints depicting colourful scenes from festivals coming alive with Geoff’s bizarre and enthralling street theatre puppets and stunning masks from the mid 1980s, featuring street musicians donning giant papier mache heads and larger-than-life characters on stilts.

More photos showed various murals Geoff painted from a time in the early 90s when he was employed at The Warehouse in Penrith as a youth health and community arts worker, and photos of crazy tribal drum and dance troupes parading through the inner city streets of Sydney, the Blue Mountains and The Rocks.

Geoff in his studio.

Geoff in his studio.

In the mid to late 90s Geoff, along with his crew, designed and constructed giant steel framed lanterns for Chinese New Years 1995. This was the Year of the Golden Pig and there were photos of the finished pig being transported on the back of a semi-trailer with an ‘oversize’ sign on its rear end.

Additionally that year the team, under Geoff’s management, constructed a 16-foot phoenix-siren figure with a working weather vane which floated on a raft upon Darling Harbour, and later another giant for the Year of the Ox in 1997.

Photographs of wire welding in progress showed a massive frilled necked lizard for Bathurst Festival. Leather, ceramic and plaster casts of masks and busts were also on display and large kites for Bondi’s Festival of the Winds .

“I really wanted everyone to get an insight into the breadth and depth of Geoff’s creativity, as perhaps many people in this region during the 13 years that we have been in the Manning Valley might only know Geoff as Peggy van Zalm Tree-O’s percussionist, drummer and sound engineer, or even as the ribbon stick man at festivals and community events, or as the mild art teacher at Gloucester and Taree High School over the years,” Peggy said.

Geoff's three children at the Tribute Exhibition in Wingham.

Geoff's three children at the Tribute Exhibition in Wingham.

Yet few know that Geoff had a rich and respected professional background in the visual arts scene from the time he graduated from Newcastle University with a fine arts diploma in 1981.

Geoff worked with top events organiser Johnny Allen on Mattara Festival in Newcastle for a number of years and had numerous one-man and joint exhibitions of his uniquely flavoured paintings over the years in various galleries in Sydney.

He had self coined the phrase “Ancient Language of the Soul” for his intuitive, sub-conscious figurative symbolism.

Geoff’s drawings and paintings had a strong style influenced by the likes of Dali, Escher, Picasso and Whitely as well as moods taken from his love of carnival and celebration arts.

Geoff will be missed for his warmth, gentle presence, his great enthusiasm and good humour.

Peggy would like any old time and would be fans of Geoff’s work to know that she has started a webpage on Facebook for Geoff, and though quite a few of his paintings and drawings sold in the recent exhibition, the webpage will display for posterity and for making his drawings and prints available to all interested in digital media.

For those interested in viewing Geoffrey Nant’s art visit the Geoffrey Nant Language of the Soul Facebook page or you can contact Peggy for more information 0447 728 257.

Peggy van Zalm and Jenny Causer in front of photos of Geoffrey Nant's large scale puppets, street theatre characters and community murals

Peggy van Zalm and Jenny Causer in front of photos of Geoffrey Nant's large scale puppets, street theatre characters and community murals

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