Press Room Details

Weaving passions into professions
Rod Holdaway

15 March 2012
Shirley Godlewski

Australian Catholic University Alumni e-news bulletin


An award-winning artist, Rod has studied painting, sculpture, printing, photography, drawing, philosophy and linear perspective in Italian Renaissance art.

He has exhibited in several solo and group exhibitions, including three years consecutively in the prestigious Dobell Prize for Drawing. His work is also represented in corporate and private collections in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Ireland.

Reflecting on his choice to venture into visual arts, Rod recalls it was a simple act of rebellion of family tradition.

"Education is in my blood," said Rod. "My father was a leading educator, extremely intellectual, as well as a strong philosopher. He also always encouraged my interest in the arts."

Always looking for ways to enter the art world professionally, his self-described ‘wild and woolly' resume included jobs as a waiter, dish hand, hotel receptionist and car park attendant.

"Those jobs were not glamorous, but they allowed me the time to invest in my artistic career development."

Rod's first experience of ACU was not as a student, but as a part-time technical assistant in the Visual Arts department at the Strathfield Mount Saint Mary campus. Developing a mentor relationship with John Fisher, an art lecturer at the time, Rod was encouraged to share with students his artistic knowledge and skills.

"It was a fantastic experience. It was a different way of getting into teaching, and the experience made it clear to me that I had a natural talent as a teacher."

In addition to his technical assistant role, Rod also volunteered his time as an art teacher at the Benedict Community School in Auburn. As an alternative school for junior secondary students, the school ran a program that catered for the needs of marginalised students with disciplinary issues.

"At Benedict we did performances, painted murals, put on plays. As teachers we were saying to these children that your story is important, your voice is important, even if you failed at school."

With extensive teaching experience, Rod realised he was on a path leading him back to his family's traditional career in education. Deciding to enrol in a Bachelor of Education at ACU, Rod continued to teach at the Benedict Community School, crediting the staff there as his major support network.

"At Benedict I received the ultimate teacher training and developed an interest in children's special education.

"A core problem for children who had learning disabilities was that they had not been diagnosed. The teaching program at Benedict allowed teachers like me to foster practical methods that worked."

As a result of this experience Rod also completed a Certificate of Learning Difficulties at the University of New South Wales.

Following university Rod began teaching at Moriah College, a Jewish school where he recalls his natural teaching skill and tertiary study knowledge beginning to gel.

Rod referred to his next roles at Holy Spirit St Clair as the most challenging period of his career in education. Initially the Special Education teacher, Rod was promoted to Learning Support Coordinator, and then Literacy Coordinator.

In his fourth year at the school Rod was part of the team who focussed on the school's literacy development and coordination.

"It was an extremely intense responsibility, and during this time, I no longer had the time to paint."

Making the decision to reinvest energy into his art career, Rod refocused his self-discipline to dedicate the same intellectual stamina and perspectives from his education background to his paintings.

"I have a driving philosophy in regards to my art that it is not about making things look like how other people would expect to see them."

"For me, I like to portray multiple artistic frames of perception overlayed through time, through emotional states and based on the subjectivity of one's personal language."

Currently represented by Stella Downer Fine Art Gallery in Sydney, Rod's most recent exhibition Familiar Terrain featured a collection of urban street landscapes of his local neighbourhood of Newtown.

"I record and construct imaginative form from what I see around me. As I see it, the built environment is a perfect analogue for the human psyche; our aspirations, ambitions, ideals, our personalities, passions, egos, hubris, humility, quirks, fears and obsessions."

Rod continues to juggle both his successful artistic career with his role as a specialised learning consultant.


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