Dutch born artist Patricia van Lubeck is making a name for herself, in Maitland, the Hunter, and beyond.

In a corner of a large gallery space sits a slim woman minding her own business. She is an artist, she was born in the Netherlands, she has travelled the world but has somehow found a niche for herself, her partner, her dog, her cats, and the ghost of a 1969 Lincoln Continental, in High Street Maitland. The gallery walls shout with dramatic canvases of extraordinary landscapes. Patricia van Lubeck has a style all her own and it is creeping out the door and onto blank urban walls.

The building I enter has a wide shop front and a chequered history. In 2017 Frank Winnips and Patricia van Lubeck bought what was once a department store in what was once a thriving part of Maitland; but it wasn’t thriving here any more. There was Hadleys bicycle shop nearby, and Maitland Motorcycles. There’s the old Maitland Mercury building across the road, with its architectural air of history, and other buildings from the late 1800s leading up to the Council offices and the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. In a rapidly growing city it could be described as a precinct with promise. Patricia and Frank are doing their best to breathe revitalisation into this space.

Art Studio Amsterdam has a handsomely refurbished street presence thanks to Frank’s engineering background and sheer determination to pursue attention to detail and work to high aesthetic standards. Inside the gallery, walls are painted a dark blue-grey, all the pictures are presented in aluminium frames Frank has designed himself, and the lighting that makes the artworks’ colours sing is his achievement too.

Beyond the gallery space I am led into a chamber wide enough and deep enough for a tennis court, or, of course, the main hall of a department store. Here Frank’s most remarkable capability is revealed to me: he is a wizard at finding bargains second-hand. By some serendipitous stroke he found equipment to suit a small theatre at an online auction and was the winning bidder. He then established his occasional cinema with a cohort of couches all rescued from ignominy at miniscule cost and smartened up to prime-seating standard. There’s a stage and the venue is available for special events. Such is the nature of Frank and Patricia: to seize upon opportunity and contribute to the community.

Indeed the community is coming to them on a regular basis. Granted this space for assembly, there are now regular gatherings of artists, writers, musicians. These two people came to town knowing no-one, and find they have unwittingly created a hub for artistic sociability.

But we are only at the ground floor. There is a well-preserved red cedar staircase that leads to the upper level which looks down through a wide light-well to the floor below, guarded by an impressive wrought iron balustrade. All this is naturally lit from a long rectangle of more than forty atrium windows high above. From this upper level there is access to the ‘apartment’ which is home to Patricia and Frank – above the gallery and with windows onto the street. The special treat here is that it has a staircase to a loft area with dormer windows looking out over High Street towards the Hunter River.

All of this is a work in progress, an investment in a long engagement for them both with Maitland society, culture and architecture. At the centre of this is Patricia and her art – and its capacity to find relevance anywhere in the developed world. Her art lives in a world of its own, depicting scenes from a fantasy land where stylised trees might play the role of people living lives of conformity, or express human individualism in diverse ways. Each work is fine in its detail, striking in its imagination, meticulous in its execution. Hanging on a wall they cannot fail to catalyse a discussion.

Read more in the Summer issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story and photography by Ken Rubeli