Iris Frame
Iris Frame had one great artistic aim: to give “Joy” to her “Fans”.
Iris wrote about her aim many times in her letters that the Riddoch Arts & Cultural Centre has collected into its Iris Frame archive.


Iris was born on 26 June 1915 at Renmark. Her family, the Lattins and the Parsons, had been early pioneers in the Mount Gambier district. When Iris was five she and her parents travelled down to the South East on a cart pulled by a horse named Dana. Iris first lived at Tarpeena, until her mother died,  and then Penola.

Iris was an artist who not only painted, but she composed songs and wrote lyrics. Her earliest work was embroidery, none of which has survived (there are a few photographs of this work in the archive). She wrote mythological stories about the Blue Lake and the surrounding countryside which appear on her paintings. For a book written by Sandra Warner, titled Australian Naïve Art (1994), she wrote: “My little Wild Aussie Families are World Wide Greatest attractions. The Penola Wild Aussies are (called) Little Wood Charlies. They have their own song, Penola Wood Charlies Waltz. Another Wild Aussie Family are the Sharra Sharra Wirra Wirra Lees who turn the lake blue. They dance in the moonlight to the Mount Gambier Waltz.”

Iris’s painting are of a world that she experienced and felt compelled to express and share. She had a wonderful eye for detail and her style was simple, straightforward and colourful. She celebrated the everyday life of people and animals, and her images tell stories from the past and from her (then) present. Her image-stories include ‘swaggies’ on the road, hunting for food, the search for home, religious faith, the Royals, and the landscape.

The Riddoch Arts & Cultural Centre has 59 of Iris’s paintings in its collection. The Art Gallery of South Australia (Adelaide) has one painting, ‘Boxing Kangaroos’ in its collection. And her work is in numerous private collections in Australia and overseas.

Iris’s work has been shown at the Riddoch Art Gallery, Greenaway Art Gallery (Adelaide), Naracoorte Art Gallery, Jam Factory (Adelaide), and the Benalla Art Gallery. In 1993 Rimas Riauba, who was a significant supporter of Iris and her work, wrote an essay for Artlink (Volume 12, Number 4, pages 47-49) in which he described some of the hardships Iris encountered in regard to her artwork: “Mrs Frame’s first gallery ‘Latin Brae Galleries Adission 20c’ was on her mother’s property on the main road through Tarpeena. “I put a few paintings on the fence – cars started to pull up and I thought well if you like that, I’ll put a few more and covered my mother’s house.” They were mainly of Australian flora and fauna, and of the pioneering days. The sermonizing and the mythological paintings were to come later after her profound religious experience. It was around this time that Mrs Frame and her mother began to become the subjects of derision. Children in the community were instructed not to walk on her side of the road, complaints were lodged with the Council. Undaunted Mrs Frame began to exhibit in local South East Art Association exhibitions, where her works were deliberately placed out of view of all but the most determined members of the public. Fortunately, the ABC program, This Day Tonight, documented her Tarpeena property. Soon afterwards it was burned down deliberately, allegedly by a Tarpeena local, and hundreds of her paintings were destroyed. No charges were ever laid.”

Iris died on 29 November 2003 at Penola.

The wonderful exuberant story-telling of Iris Frame’s paintings and her dedication to her practice are to be celebrated.

*PLEASE NOTE: The Riddoch’s collection of Iris Frame works is not on permanent display. Pieces may be curated into exhibitions from time to time – please check the list of current and upcoming exhibitions for further details.

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We acknowledge the Boandik Peoples as the traditional custodians of the land we meet on today. We respect their spiritual relationship with the land and recognise the deep feelings of attachment our First Nations Peoples have with the land.

Image: Belinda Bonney, Reconciliation of the Nation: we all walk together as one (detail)