Art History Cameos: Colin Russell Gardiner

Artist (1937 – 2015) ,  Adelaide Hills.

Text: Liz Hansman, Thomas Murrell
Images: Thomas Murrell, see text

Colin Russell Gardiner was a mostly self-taught artist who lived in the Adelaide Hills. He is known for his abstract landscape paintings and impressionistic art pieces.

Wikipedia notes: “Stirling has traditionally had a strong community of artists. One of the most notable was abstract artist, Colin Russell Gardiner who was a former electrician and held many exhibitions in the 1970s and 1980s”.

Colin was also a gardener in the town of Stirling during his life there, and a member of the Stirling Football Club.

Colin was born in 1937 and painted from about age 8, then later attended the South Australian School of Art aged 17. However he soon left to become an electrician.

Spacescape 1970, Adelaide Airport

His love of art stayed with him and in 1977 he was working as a full time painter, learning in the studio of the well established Polish artist Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski.  It seems he had already assisted Stan with a huge 30m x 3m mural project , “Spacescape 1970”, originally installed at the Adelaide airport in 1970, but now housed elsewhere.

Gardiner painted more than 600 works and exhibited them in Adelaide from 1972. He died on 12th October 2015 in Stirling. His funeral service was conducted from Mt Barker on 20th October 2015.

Some auction houses like Elder Fine Art, Rushton Fine Arts and Lawsons, have sold Gardiner’s work over years from 1970 to the present day.  Earlier prices were in the A$300 range, but current prices may differ.

At present there are 4 works listed in the Australian Art Sales Digest:

“Evening Landscape”.    44 x  60 cm.    )
“New Horizons”.              89 x 120 cm.    )  all oil on board, signed lower right
“City Place 1971”.          60 x  72 cm.    )
“Floral- Piece”.              39. x.  50 cm.    )  oil on board, signed lower left

Morning Light

The 2 coloured works illustrated in this article are:

1) Colin Russell Gardiner, “Morning Light”,  (1989) from the collection at Fairview Historic House, Perth.-  oil.
2) Colin Russell Gardiner, “White Australia has a Black History” (1987) from the La Trobe Collection.  Poster, screen printed on white paper.

This work was produced as part of an Artist-In-Residence programme and included in the exhibition “Right Here Right Now-Australia 1988”
held during the Fifteenth Biennial Adelaide Festival of Arts.

Gardiner is mentioned by Max Germaine, in his  Volumes 1 and 2 “Artists and Galleries of Australia”, Craftsman Press, Sydney, 1990 – p 239.

Over many years Gardiner formed a firm friendship with art collector and notable industrial engineer Mr William (Bill) John Calvert Murrell (1930 – 2020). They both lived in Stirling.  Mr Murrell  opened Gardiner’s Exhibition in 1973 and has  some of Gardiner’s finest work in his collection. These works are now held in the “Fairview Art Collection” at the Historic home, “Fairview” in Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia, owned by Bill Murrell’s nephew, art collector and company director Thomas Andrew Calvert Murrell (1962).”

Colin Russell Gardiner (left) with Mr William (Bill) John Calvert Murrell at the opening of his exhibition in Stirling in 1973.

Thomas Murrell recorded this podcast with Bill Murrell, a few weeks before he died, about his art collecting.

The Murrell family , and the Mount Lofty Districts Historical Society are very keen to discover more about  Colin Russell Gardiner.

If you have any more information about Colin Russell Gardiner, his life,  his paintings, and especially any photographs of him, we would be most
interested to hear from you.

Contact us at or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.