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The Spirit of SA art exhibition features people, places and state icons to support children with cancer | Pro Club Bd

Among the more beautiful lyrics in Don McLean’s song about Vincent van Gogh are those that refer to “grimaces contorted in pain” being “calmed under the artist’s loving hand”.

Something of that tender spirit is reflected in Mark Lobert’s studio in Port Adelaide, where an impressive act of artistic altruism has taken shape in recent months.

“Hopefully we made SA proud because we’re very proud of this collection,” said Lobert when describing the project.

Painting is a tedious business, but these portraits and landscapes are about relieving pain – particularly the pain of very sick children.

Together, the 42 canvases make up the Spirit of SA exhibition, featuring prominent South Australian faces, places and icons.

A painting of the horse-drawn tram from Granite Island to Victor Harbor.
The horse-drawn Granite Island Tram is popular with tourists visiting Victor Harbor.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

From Monday they will be on display at Westpac House in Adelaide and auctioned online to raise at least $100,000 for the Childhood Cancer Association (CCA) to help children fight the disease.

Topics include rock legend Jimmy Barnes, actress Theresa Palmer, The Hills Hoist, Kangaroo Island’s Remarkable Rocks, chef Maggie Beer and pop singer Guy Sebastian.

There’s also ABC’s Collinswood building, AFLW star Chelsea Randall and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

A portrait of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
British-born former Prime Minister Julia Gillard moved to Adelaide at a young age.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

“As a woman in politics and in general, she’s an amazing person,” Lobert said of Gillard.

“The Barnesy painting is linked to the Largs Pier Hotel.

A portrait of Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes featuring the Largs Pier Hotel.
Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes with the Largs Pier Hotel.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

“This picture would have to be one of my favorites.”

The project developed in collaboration – fellow artist Phil Hodgson worked closely with Lobert and it’s a testament to their dedication to the cause that both have volunteered their time.

Each brought different and complementary skills.

Hodgson’s talents include the ability to capture the features of a human face, while Lobert has focused on non-human subjects as well as color schemes and other touches.

42 paintings in 30 weeks

In person, Lobert can look a little like a canvas himself – his arms are impressively inked, and his paint-stained shirt resembles a palette for mixing paints.

His studio is the artist’s cave.

Adelaide artist Mark Lobert stands in front of paintings.
Lobert’s shirt, like the floor of his studio, is appropriately stained with paint.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Daniel Keane)

It is crammed with brushes, paint pots, blank canvases and unfinished works, and its floor is so densely covered with splashes of pigment that it resembles an example of Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionism.

But the paintings themselves hint at other, appropriately eclectic, influences.

A pack of Farmers Union Iced Coffee, a pack of FruChocs and a selection of frog cakes are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s soup cans, while the blues and yellows of an image of the Adelaide skyline are reminiscent of van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

A painting of a pack of FruChos.
An Andy Warhol-esque painting of a pack of FruChocs.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

“I kind of love color, I’m always trying to chase color — I need to have color around me,” Lobert said.

Despite this passion, he admits that producing 42 voluminous works in about 30 weeks was a challenge.

A painting of the Remarkable Rocks of Kangaroo Island.
The Remarkable Rocks of Kangaroo Island were among Hodgson and Lobert’s motifs.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

But as he admitted, “I’m not going to lie – it’s been very stressful,” he spoke with the smile of someone who knows the finish line is in sight.

“You took your time,” he said.

“Originally we were going to start at about 14 – then it went to 20 and 25 went to 30, then it blossomed to 38 and shot out to 42.”

A painting of a clothesline by Hills Hoist.
The Hills Hoist linen line was made in South Australia.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

“The Fight of His Life”

The driving force behind the project was Media Identity and CCA Ambassador Mark Soderstrom.

Media identity and former SANFL footballer Mark Soderstrom.
By auctioning off the paintings, Soderstrom hopes to raise $100,000.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Daniel Keane)

“I thought we have to be grateful for where we live, what can we do to raise $70,000 to $100,000?” he said.

“What if we try to show the best part of South Australia and then auction it off for Childhood Cancer?

“They need about $1.3 million a year to function and offer their services. So if we could make a dent that would be bloody brilliant.”

A painting of tuna.
Topics selected included Port Lincoln’s tuna industry.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

Soderstrom admits he’s not an “artist” himself — but he’s struck by the power of art to not only raise funds, but to create pause.

Through CCA, he formed a friendship with Lobert.

Her work has brought her into contact with some harrowing stories.

A portrait of AFLW star Chelsea Randall.
Three-time AFLW Premiership player and two-time Premiership co-captain Chelsea Randall.(Supplied: Phil Hodgson and Mark Lobert)

Soderstrom recalled the case of Jaxon, “an incredibly brave little boy” who underwent palliative care at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“He was in the fight of his life and his parents called him Iron Man because he was so strong,” Soderstrom said.

Soderstrom asked Lobert to paint a picture of the superhero for Jaxon to walk over his hospital bed.

“Every time he woke up, all he could see with the time left was Iron Man.”

Relief for children like Jaxon is at the heart of the Spirit of SA.

“Our father died of cancer,” said Lobert.

“Well, whenever I hear about it [fundraiser] This has to do with cancer, it will always be a yes.

“I love being able to give.”

Adelaide artists Leandra McKay and Mark Lobert at Lobert's studio in Port Adelaide.
Assistant Leandra McKay and artist Mark Lobert in Lobert’s studio where he was working on a painting of the CCA mascot Elliot.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Daniel Keane)

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