Escape to Italy in Fremantle

Artists Robyn Varpins and Julie Podstolski and Robyn’s Winged Lion

While a trip now may only be in our dreams, its imagery is all around us

by Jane Grljusich
Herald Promotions

The Italy of our dreams – travel, history, culture, exploration, stunning land and streetscapes, people, curiosity, passion, romance, and beautiful meals, consumed slowly, and with considered pleasure.

The Earlywork Gallery exhibition, An Italian Dream, celebrates Republica Italiana at a time when many of us have personal happy memories of experiences there, but cannot return.  

The title of the exhibition references Charles Dickens’ chapter on Venice in his 1846 travelogue Pictures of Italy.  

“I thought this would be a good title months before COVID-19 became a reality.  Once it stopped us all in our tracks those words, “An Italian Dream”, suddenly gained a new poignancy,” artist Julie Podstolski told the Herald. 

Julie had been booked to return to Italy in March 2020 but cancelled 72 hours before her flight was due to leave Perth.

“It is a dream – a daydream. Our exhibition does not show the gritty reality of what Italians are suffering during the pandemic. Of my 24 drawings, 12 were created during 2019 and early 2020 before COVID (with my third Italian trip sandwiched in between drawings).  The remaining 12 were created after March 2020.  And so this collection of work took on new meaning for me during its construction. At first when COVID happened I was in shock, and then I accepted the situation and have kept on drawing ever since,” she said. 

Julie’s pencil work showcasing the beauty of Italy including Venice, Rome, Florence, Verona and Milan, ranges from photorealism to dreamy impressionism. 

Julie told the Herald most of her subject matter is inspired by overseas trips. 

“When I am away on trips, I keep a daily journal, extensively writing down my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I constantly refer back to my journal when I am working on the drawings. It is not merely a photograph I am referencing when I recreate a place. I am delving back into how I felt. Was I happy or depressed, full of energy or utterly exhausted? It all matters. And some wonderfully poignant pieces can be the result of photographs I took when I was at the end of my tether,” she said. 

She taps into her memory to recreate an atmosphere.  

“I want to reproduce the quality of light and the visual poetry of the place. Sometimes I am struck by something humorous, or conversely I might be touched by sadness. So – emotion is very importtant to me.”

Julie’s incredible work has inspired sculptor Robyn Varpins who will also exhibit for An Italian Dream.

She began her body of work nine months ago when it seemed possible that an exhibition could be held in these uncertain times.  

“The romance of Julie’s landscapes has become my muse as I seek to design a response to the elusive spirit of Venice,” Robyn told the Herald. 

“I explore both symbolic and realistic expressions in clay in order to render intimate this dramatic place. It has been a joy to revel in my own Italian dream.”

Robyn had spent time in Italy some years ago and used her drawings and notes made at the time to guide and inspire her clay sculptures for our exhibition.

An Italian Dream is Julie and Robyn’s fourth collaboration since 2007.

Julie says that even though things are what they are, and we cannot travel to Italy right now, the show it is not a requiem, but a feast and a celebration. 

“In 2021, Italy seems very far away. I remember my trips with nostalgia and wonder if and when I will be able to return,” she said. 

An Italian Dream opens Thursday 8 April and runs until 18 April
Earlywork Gallery, Shop 9, 330 South Terrace, South Fremantle.
Open daily, 10am until 4pm. All the art is for sale.
Visit for more information. 

Artist Profile: Julie Podstolski

Art has been my companion since I was a small child. I went to art school at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch before moving to Australia with my husband, Matthew in 1980. Painting was constant. It was impossible to paint with a newborn in the house and pencils were the go. My steadfast tools are Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 Lightfast coloured pencils. 

Julie’s drawing Silent Night, is on show at An Italian Dream  and won the award for Outstanding Achievement in  in the 28th Annual Colored Pencil Society of America International Exhibition. Julie’s other works are also widely celebrated with her Japan trip drawing Oh! You Pretty Things awarded first prize in the USA’s esteemed COLORED PENCIL Magazine 2020 Art Competition


Artist Profile: Robyn Varpins

Robyn has been an artist all her life. Her focus is clay sculpture and oil painting. She teaches clay sculpture at Fremantle Arts Centre, using a strong raku clay that can be slabbed or coiled. Some of her pieces are stylised and symbolic, while others are realistic, yet with rawness that makes them very intimate. 

She colours the surface of the clay with underglaze or oil paints. Robyn studied Fine Art (sculpture major) at Curtin University. As well as being a freelance art consultant and teacher, she has completed more than 90 private art commissions, more than 10 public art commissions and won 20 Art Awards. She has exhibited in 12 major shows and more than 50 group shows in a career
spanning 40 years.

Promote your business. Contact Jane on 0417 814 128, or email

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