Whistleblower Exhibition
Galerie Beauvoir, Paris, 2016
Gallery 503, Sydney, 2016

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Opening Night introduction
by Virginia Nightingale, September 17, 2016

I would like to begin by congratulating Ursula on the conceptual and artistic success of this work. As good art should, it stretches beyond the decorative to engage the political, in this case by reflecting how the courageous decisions of The Whistleblower to stand outside the mainstream can reverberate into the future and provide the means to evaluate our own present.

The whistleblower whose life at the centre of this exhibition is Fritz Kolbe, a World War 2 spy for the allied forces. The exhibition as a whole is haunted by faces from the past and by the life and the values of Fritz, an apparently ‘ordinary’ public servant who used his ‘ordinary-ness’ to defy one of the most inhumane regimes known to mankind; whose desire to see an end to the Nazi regime and to WW2 outweighed his knowledge of the personal repercussions, during and after the war, for his actions in forwarding secret documents to the US. Fritz’s story is recorded in the book by Lucas Delattre (2004) A Spy at the Heart of the Third Reich.

Ursula’s work in this exhibition is infused with the emotions of the whistleblower – fear, confusion, uncertainty, but most importantly, courage.

Her use of motifs such as the face and the mask evoke the emotional drama involved when one’s principles demand recourse to subterfuge – the fear of the surveillant State; the confusion about who to trust, the uncertainty that follows each step, the courage needed to continue in the face of overwhelming odds. Ursula has chosen the colours of death and destruction, blood reds and browns, blacks and greys, to intensify the emotional experience of the work.

In addition to the creation of beautiful and haunting works, this exhibition offers a window into a forgotten moment:

A reflection on our present – where the inhumane treatment of others (Australia’s current asylum seeker policies), the prevalence of war (in Africa and the Middle East), and fear of terrorism are used to justify erosion of civil liberties and privacy, and to cover up illegal activities.

A statement about the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions, of refusing to accept the hate speech and ignorance that some politicians are bringing to the government of our country, of standing firm in our belief in a civil and secular society.

Please enjoy this important exhibition, and once again congratulations to Ursula for the success of this work, both here and overseas!

Virginia Nightingale
Sociologist, Associate Professor



Extract from 2015 Proposal for Whistleblower Exhibition Paris

There is often a time in an artist’s career when thematic concerns and modes of expression come together in a perfect project.

Ursula Kolbe, whom I have known as an artist for more than 15 years, and have represented in two commercial art galleries in Sydney, has had parallel careers as both author and artist.

In a recent solo exhibition (Unravelling Story, Charles Hewitt Gallery) these two streams were concretely presented in a series of paintings, almost non-figurative, but with a free flowing textual component that was both allusive and expressive – words incorporated in the painterly handling so deftly as to convey sense both literally and pictorially. Veiled figures, half hidden, half revealed, suggested mysteries, questions, concerns not fully dealt with, awaiting revelation. Her essential concern at the time of this exhibition was the need to address the degradation of the environment and, especially in the case of one painting, “We are the Air We Breathe” (David Suzuki), to draw (literally) attention to his words (again literally). We have then a literate and concerned artist able to express herself in a coherent visual medium.

Her recent reconnection to her relationship with Fritz Kolbe, the German who was the most important clandestine source of information for America during World War II, has provided a powerful personal motivation to further explore her commitment to exposing and expressing that which is hidden and should not be.

Her projected exhibition is a singularly important milestone in her career. It is an equally relevant one for anyone concerned with democracy, individual courage and a commitment to the role art can play in revelation, whether personal, political or aesthetic.

Larry Macdonald
Art Consultant 2015


Unravelling Story
Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney, 2012


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Exhibition, Unravelling Story

Exhibition, Unravelling Story, Charles Hewitt Gallery

Unravelling Story
Kiriaki Orfanos, Writer, 2012
It is tempting to begin an essay about Ursula Kolbe’s work biblically, with the sentence ‘In the beginning was the word.’ But it would be a mistake. Because the spiritual in her work is not expressed in words. The numinous is articulated by the imagery and the floating consistencies of her colours. Words are an important part of her oeuvre, certainly, but they are used to signpost, to flag, to suggest – as much to her as to the viewer. READ MORE


When I Remember You, Beloved Tango
Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney, 2009

Artist’s statement
When I remember you, beloved tango” – the title of this exhibition – is a line from a tango lyric by Argentine poet Enrique Santos Discepelo who once said, “Tango is a sad thought that can be danced”. I’ve been dancing tango for years, but it was only when for medical reasons I could no longer dance, that I began to find a way to represent feelings about tango in my artwork. I started by transforming used tango shoes into sculptures and assemblages. These slowly evolved into a series “Mi Noche Triste” (My Sad Night – the title of a significant tango song). The paintings then followed, enmeshed with written words appearing as fragments of tango songs or a dancer’s bittersweet memories. My interest is not in representing actual appearances, but memories of emotional experiences.
Ursula Kolbe 2009

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When I Remember You, Beloved Tango
Kiriaki Orfanos, Writer, 2009
Tango is a tantalizing experience, revealing what you want but cannot have; that Tango moment, which approaches and recedes. Ephemeral, like the mist; untouchable, indefinable and ultimately, except for a fleeting instance, unreachable, it’s a shared meditation redolent of sombreness and joy. These are the emotional undercurrents of its disquieting eroticism. READ MORE

Online Review
Gabrielle Jones, Artist
This lovely, poetic exhibition remembers, yearns for, delights in the dance of the title, which is now forbidden to the artist who has lost a toe to melanoma. Whilst some paintings pull you in with their colours and reward you with their embedded text and their titles (for example, Song of a City I’ve Known in a Dream and Dancing with Eyes Closed I-VIII), it is the surprising sculpture which I enjoyed the most.

Shoes in states of decapitation (toes or heels only) take flight (El Tango Diablo) or dance or plummet on beautifully painted or wire bound pedestals made by the artist, which serve to explain the emotion or thoughts of the artist at the time she was making them. I loved El Tango – the juxtaposition of the large, game fish style four pronged hook placed gently above two black toes of dancing shoes, which lifting in movement said it all to me. Hurry – only on for a few more days in the upstairs gallery.


Between Word and Image
Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney, 2008

Charles Hewitt Gallery

Charles Hewitt Gallery

Artist’s statement
A cloak of moods around your shoulders /
you wander through the evening air, /
while thoughts, heavy like boulders, /
are wedged within you, unaware /
of the relief of words …
Ilse Zuidema

These opening lines from a poem by my late mother inspired me to begin a series of paintings about ‘the poet in the world’. The series plays with the idea of a poet (invisible) silently holding conversations with herself within a landscape of light and shadow, a blurred space between self and other.

About four years ago I found myself incorporating words in paintings. Since then, the actual process of imbedding text within painting (whether a ‘stream of consciousness’ or lines from poems) has become integral to my work. Integral but also disruptive. Even when almost obliterated, letter forms seem to retain a talismanic power that excites me.
Ursula Kolbe, 2008

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Between Word and Image
Ingrid Hoffmann, Arts writer, July 2008
The images composed by Ursula Kolbe are closely connected to the pleasures of script. Between Word and Image is Kolbe’s second exhibition at the Charles Hewitt Gallery and her entrancement with words – enmeshed as they are in the midst of painterly atmospheres – is visible more intensely here and indeed consolidates her signature style. Kolbe’s delicate palette and technique of stripping back layers of paint, then encrusting the surface with drifts of rhythmic script, fuse words and image into a whole. READ MORE


Invisible Cities
Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney, 2006

Artist’s statement
The City…does not tell its past, but contains it like the line on a hand.’’ Italo Calvino

Old buildings, strange nooks and worn twisting streets have an intriguing beauty-but a beauty and patina that I don’t wish to recreate. Instead, crumbling fading facades inspire me to explore ways to evoke not real cities but imagined ones-cities of the mind. And so I find myself using fragments of handwritten ‘stream of consciousness’ notes to create textures that evoke the layers of a hidden city where the past telescopes into the present’
Ursula Kolbe 2006 

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Invisible Cities
Annette Falconer
Travel and architecture have inspired the Sydney based artist Ursula Kolbe’s textured and layered work. Kolbe’s paintings are like contemporary calligraphy panels, where layers of abstracted writing and brush-strokes interweave. Kolbe paints what is not literal. Full of depth and rich alchemical colours, her work captures intangible light, emotion and atmosphere. With titles like; Bleached Histories, City of Light, and Of Lost and Vanished Places, Kolbe’s paintings are sensory, conjuring up fragmentary views of solitary walks down alleyways and dimly lit streets. Kolbe invites the viewer into an archeology of dreams.


Concerning Landscape 2000-2005
Oils on Canvas

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Watercolour Collages 1990-1999

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Lisbon Memory I-VI

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Threads I-VII

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Song Cycle

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