Wendy Paramor was the only woman painter and sculptor to flourish in the hard edge colour field abstractionist Central Street. She died young, of cancer, at a time when this art was out of fashion. More recently her oeuvre has been reassessed and she is now recognised as a significant artist of her time.
Wendy Paramor was the only woman artist to flourish in the very male atmosphere of Sydney’s Central Street Gallery in the late 1960s, yet she did not personally benefit from the reassessment of women artists in the mid-1970s. By the time the world became a friendlier place for artists who were also single mothers, she had died too soon. She was born in Melbourne, but when she was five her family moved to Sydney’s north shore,and she attended school at SCEGGS Redlands and then Wenona. When she left school at the age of 15 her father insisted that she take a secretarial course, but the following year she enrolled in art school. As was common in the 1950s she enrolled at both East Sydney Technical College, and the smaller atelier classes of the Julian Ashton Art School. In 1960 she joined the exodus of young Australians seeking adventure in Europe. For most of her time there she was based in the south of France, but also received a grant from the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, so was based in Portugal. She was able to exhibit in Lisbon, Coimbra and Oporto. Before she returned to Australia she travelled to New York, where she also exhibited. She returned to Australia in 1963. The work she had seen in Europe, and especially the USA, profoundly influenced the direction of her art, and she easily gravitated to the radical USA influenced artists who formed the nucleus of the Central Street collective in 1966. The year before she had held her first solo exhibitions at both Watters Gallery in Sydney and the Bognar Gallery in Los Angeles. Although she was exhibiting in Central Street, Wendy Paramor was physically removed from the stark white gallery walls and the narrow city lanes. In 1966 she removed herself to West Hoxton, in the south west of Sydney, in a house designed for her by Philip Cox. It was here, in 1967, that she brought her newborn son Luke home. She made the decision not to marry his father, the artist Vernon Treweeke. In 1968 three of her sculptures were included in The Field, the groundbreaking exhibition of Australian abstract art at the National Gallery of Victoria. Her work was selected for major exhibitions including International Young Contemporaries in Tokyo in 1969, the Marland House Sculpture competition and the innovative Mildura Sculpture Triennials of 1970 and 1973. This was the time just before new wave feminism once again made women artists visible, and she received neither critical acclaim not commercial sales. In 1973, the year Luke turned six, she was diagnosed with a cerebral tumor. In the last two years of her life she returned to semi-figurative work and landscapes. She died on 28 November 1975 at the Wolper Jewish Hospital in Woollahra. In 2000 Alan Oldfield, who had been a close friend, curated a major exhibition of her sculpture for the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, a western Sydney arts organisation that was not even imagined when she was living in its neighbourhood.