by Daniel Summers, HOMES & LIVING – The Art Edition
Spring 2006


Waldemar Kolbusz is known for his dynamic expressionistic art – little wonder then that he should take the same liberal and informal approach to renovating his home. Behind the century-old leadlight windows of Mt Lawley’s traditional red brick and terracotta-tiled homes, an evolutionary process is underway. One of Perth’s earliest suburbs, the leafy streets and grand old homes are becoming the gentrified pads of Perth’s inner city professionals and latte junkies.

But Waldemar Kolbusz is no Johnny-come-lately – he grew-up in the suburb and has seen the evolution take place. Returning four years ago to create a home and work studio in his hometown, Waldemar welcomed the dynamic shifts in Mt Lawley’s character. But then, evolution is his watchword. It’s there in his career, his art and his home.
The priorities for the renovation were the kitchen and building the studio. “And obviously good walls for hanging artwork – and light,” he said. “I make a point of hanging all of my stuff here before it goes to galleries, that actually helps me to make sure it’s finished and resolved if there are any bits that need to be fixed.”

Not all of the art is his own. The house is littered with works by artists he admires – Lisa Wolfgramm, Rachel Coad, Rhys Lee and Christine Aerfeldt. Indeed as you enter the home you are confronted first by a magnificent original stained-glass entry statement, secondly by a very large dog called Lily, and thirdly by a vivid blue and turquoise painting by Wolfgramm. The juxtaposition of old and the new is a theme throughout the home.

Waldemar said some of the furniture was his when he was a child and other pieces were scoured from antique and décor stores. “Most of the interesting stuff is from over east,” he said. “Whenever I am over there for exhibitions I have a look, furniture hunting and gathering is a hobby, almost a passion.”

He said there was no specific approach to renovating or decorating and a designer wasn’t needed. “I did it myself, the house changes all the time with new things, or re-upholstered things, new art, et cetera, so it is more of a constant experiment,” he said.

He takes the same approach to his art and his career. “I’ve always been interested in painting but I didn’t really expect to get a living out of it so I went and did accounting,” he said. “It wasn’t until after I did that for a few years and traveled for a while that I thought I would give it a go. “I took a year off and did an exhibition and it slowly worked from there. A follow up exhibition in Sydney which sold-out was a turning point. “I don’t regret doing accounting, at least I know I never want to be there again.

He started by painting landscapes, but found the process too formal. “When you paint landscapes you have an expectation about the end result, and once I understood the skills needed to get me there I started getting bored with painting like that” he said. “But these can really go in any direction and I thrive on the surprise of the finished piece. “It’s mostly spontaneous, mistakes and accidents happen and then need resolving without overwork or too much compromise – it becomes an intuitive process. “I’m more interesting in allowing the painting to evolve itself. I never know what they are going to look like when I start them. “It’s quite a similar process with the house.”