Five Artists | Seven Days: Mt Zero Exhibition

© Stephen Oxenbury
© Ben Ferris/Great Observers

Arts meets science 

In 2019, painters Tim Allen and David Collins (courtesy of Defiance Gallery), Peter Stevens and Mary Tonkin (courtesy of Australian Galleries) and sculptor Alison Coates (courtesy of Defiance Gallery) spent a week with AWC scientists exploring the landscape of Mt Zero. You can read their profiles below. 

A vast property, Mt Zero covers 60,000 hectares of spectacular wilderness adjacent to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in north Queensland. The property protects a rich diversity of wildlife – more than 80 mammal species, 280 bird species and over 110 species of reptiles and amphibians. Few national parks in Australia (outside of north Queensland) can boast such diversity.  

The result of the trip, initiated and supported by AWC Director, Lea Ferris and her partner, Bill Ferris, is a collection of exceptional work celebrating the beauty of the Mt Zero landscape and combining the perspective of artist and scientist. These works, and more, will be for sale at Defiance Gallery, with the first $45,000 raised from each sale generously donated to AWC.   

This exhibition is the fourth in the series, following successful exhibitions of work from AWC’s Mornington, Pungalina-Seven Emu and Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuaries, which have collectively raised more than $600,000 for AWC’s effective conservation. 

Funds raised through this year’s exhibition will help save endangered wildlife such as the Northern Bettong – listed in Australia’s top 20 endangered mammals. With fewer than 1,100 individuals remaining, the Mt Zero Northern Bettong reintroduction project is vitally important for the future of the species.


Mark Tonkin 4 General Image © Ben Ferris/Great Observers
Landscape painter Mary Tonkin captures the beauty of the Australian bush at spectacular Mt Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary.


Event details 

The exhibition was officially opened on February 14 , and will run until Wednesday March 24. 

A highlight of the exhibition will be a discussion between the artists and AWC scientists on Saturday March 6. Facilitated by journalist Richard Morecroft, this interesting event will explore the nexus between art and science.

Completing this unique exhibition will be the premiere of the film Great Observers by Ben Ferris, documenting the trip and featuring interviews with the artists, on Saturday 20 March. 

Key information: 

  • Location: Defiance Gallery, 12 Mary Place, Paddington, NSW 
  • Entry/bookings: Bookings are not required and entry is free 
  • Exhibition dates: 17 February to 24 March* 
  • Gallery opening hours: 11am – 5pm, Wednesday to Saturday*  
  • Art Meets Science discussion: 4pm – 6pm, Saturday 6 March* 
  • Great Observers film: 4pm – 6pm, Saturday 20 March* 

*Subject to Government guidelines regarding Covid-19 health and safety protocols. 

Please bring your friends and invite others who may be interested. These exhibitions are significant in bringing together art and science in support of our efforts to protect Australia’s threatened wildlife and remote wild places.

The funds raised will help restore the endangered Northern Bettong back to Mt Zero, and be used to deliver practical land management (feral animal control and fire management), informed by world-class science, to protect the threatened wildlife and habitats of north Queensland.

Defiance Gallery will be managing the exhibition in accordance with Government Health Guidelines regarding Covid-19 safety protocols. Please note that requirements to maintain social distancing and limitations on capacity may cause delays upon entry. Please bring a mask to wear in the gallery.  

Please direct any enquires regarding the artwork and private viewings to Defiance Gallery on 02 9557 8483, or via email: or 

AWC is grateful for the generous support of Lea and Bill Ferris, the artists, as well as Lauren Harvey and Campbell Robertson-Swann from Defiance Gallery and Australian Galleries.


 47a4487 © Stephen Oxenbury
Subject to Government Covid-19 protocols, the exhibition is now open at Defiance Gallery, 12 Mary Place, Paddington, NSW, and will run until March 24. Opening hours are 11am – 5pm, Wednesday to Saturday. Bookings are not required and entry is free.


Five Artists | Seven DaysMeet the artists

Tim Allen 1 © Ben Ferris/Great Observers

Tim Allen is a landscape painter who creates from his studio in the Blue Mountains, NSW.  

He has a BA (Visual Arts) and an MFA (Research) from COFA (UNSW) and his painting career spans more than 20 years. He has been awarded several prestigious Australian art prizes such as the $25,000 Paddington Art Prize in 2017 and the Kedumba Drawing Award in 2016.

In addition to this, Tim has been a finalist on more than 25 occasions in leading art awards such as the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing (2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010), Paddington Art Prize (2017, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2006), NSW Parliament Plein Air Prize (2014, 2013), Wynne Prize AGNSW (2007), Dobell Prize AGNSW (2012, 2009, 2006) and the Kedumba Drawing Award (2016, 2013, 2009, 1999).  

Tim′s work has been featured in Artist Profile magazine (2014), the podcast “Talking with Painters” (episode 44) and the Thames and Hudson book “A Painted Landscape” (2018). In 2014 and 2015 Tim participated in artist residencies in China and Hong Kong, invited by the Nock Art Foundation.

Tim is represented by Defiance Gallery in Sydney.

Find out more:

Alison Coates 1 © Ben Ferris/Great Observers

Alison Coates responds to the latent potential of natural and manmade material cast off into the world.  The environment continues to be a deep source of inspiration for Coates.  Her sculptures are crafted from the land and the natural world, branches, wire, wings and plant fibres – anything that is cognizant of her surrounding country.

Coates is a pioneer and leading artist in her field, a sculpture with botanical artistry.  Celebrated for her sustainable sculptures and installations utilising natural and industrial materials recycled from the environment.  Her works can be found in private and public collections across the country.

Alison Coates has been well known in Sydney for a number of years as a floral artist. Coates is a pioneer and leading artist in her field, a sculptor with botanical artistry. Celebrated for her sustainable sculptures and installations utilising natural and industrial materials recycled from the environment. Her transition into exhibiting artist has been more of an expansion of materials than a change in vocation. In her works we see traces of someone who has spent a lifetime handling organic objects and being guided by their tensions and fragilities. Her passion is the environment and its brittleness. Her choice of materials is visceral, being drawn to the materials and inspired by the landscape and the light.

Born in Brisbane, Alison worked on sheep and cattle stations, as a nurse and with a conservation group in Scotland. She then established and ran Alison Coates flowers, Sydney from 1987 – 1999, as well as lecturing her own course in floral sculpture from 1997 – 1999. She studied sculpture at the Tom Bass sculpture school.

Her work has been exhibited at Maitland Regional Gallery, Carriageworks Sydney, Raglan Gallery Cooma and Nishi Gallery Canberra. In 2020 she worked collaboratively with Saskia Havekes for Kaldor Public Art’s Prject 36: do it (Australia) in the Serpentine Galleries, London. Coates has participated in the Kelton Plains Artist Residency in 2016 and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Mount Zero Residency 2019. Her work is in various private collections around Australia. Throughout her career her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries including Shapiro’s and has been featured in publications including; Vogue Living, Inside/Out, Perfect Imperfect.

Alison is represented by Defiance Gallery in Sydney.

Find out more:

David Collins 2 © Ben Ferris/Great Observers

David Collins is a landscape artist who works on the Hawkesbury River, NSW. Collins has lived on the island with his partner and fellow artist, Ana Pollak, since 1987.

Rowing on the river and painting or drawing from its shores have been the major influences on his work over this time. His work references what he observes on a daily basis in the ever-changing waterway.

‘Regular crossing of the river, from the island to the mainland, exposes one to its varied moods and colours. The play of light on the water surface, the ebb and flow of tides and currents, the calligraphic lines of bridges, hulls and rigging. These are among the experiences that continue to fascinate and influence my work.’

Since 1990, David has held 18 solo exhibitions of paintings and drawings and participated in many group exhibitions. He has worked in various locations both within Australia and overseas including, The Kimberley, The Pilbara, Central Australia and France, with residencies in China, Queensland and New Zealand.

In 2011, David was awarded the painting prize in the Hornsby Art Prize and in 2013 received a high commendation in the Wynne Prize for landscape painting from the Art Gallery of NSW.

David is represented by Defiance Gallery in Sydney.

Find out more:

Peter Stevens 2 © Ben Ferris/Great Observers

Peter Stevens completed a post graduate degree in printmaking after graduating from Sydney College of the Arts in printmaking and painting. Stevens works steadily across a range of media, ever evolving his practice in various techniques, materials, scale and experiments with colour. His lifelong fascination with the beauty and diversity of the Australian environment and the multifarious life forms that inhabit it provides endless inspiration for his unique works.

Peter’s recent achievements include the Salon des Refuses 2019, 2017, 2016, 2105, Finalist in the Mosman Art Prize 2018, Finalist in the Paddington Art Prize 2018, 2017 (Honorable Mention) and 2015. Peter has worked consistently over the past 30 years and has exhibited a significant body of work. His underlying core subject is the Australian bush, focusing on observations of the detail within it. His work is widely collected in Australia.

Peter is represented by Australian Galleries

Find out more:

Mary Tonkin 3 © Ben Ferris/Great Observers

Landscape painter Mary Tonkin completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in 1995 and a Master of Fine Arts in 2002 at Monash University, where she has also lectured.

Tonkin has held solo exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney since 1999. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery and internationally in New York.

A survey exhibition titled ‘Home’ was held at Burrinja Gallery in the Dandenong’s in 2012. Tonkin was awarded the National Gallery of Victoria Trustee award in 1994 and 1995 and Dobell drawing prize in 2002. She was the recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshield foundation grant in 1998 and Australian post-graduate fellowship award in 2000.

Tonkin’s work is held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, VIC and several regional and tertiary institutions.

Mary Tonkin has a unique ability of capturing the essence of the bushland that surrounds her. To stand before one of Tonkin’s majestic, large scale paintings is to be immersed in the gum thicketed forest; at once captivated by the grandeur of huge, ancient tree trunks and drawn in to the sensitive, lyrical gestures of delicate leaves and grasses.

Tonkin’s works are painted en plein air, a critical part of her process to capture the vitality of the Australian bush. She takes often quite large canvasses with her into dense bush, painting and mixing paint on site. For Tonkin, entering the bush is an activity that allows her the space to engage with deeper concerns. Her works are a direct response to the bush with a level of closeness and engagement with a particular area at a time.

Mary is represented by Australian Galleries

Find out more:

© Stephen Oxenbury

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