Fruitful Pursuits

Combining a love for art and an extensive musical career has led Mark Coughlan to creating his own community in Shenton Park.

On leafy Onslow Road, you’ll find The Orangery Gallery, a restored arts space in an old deli which dates back to 1901. Out the back, there’s a lovely, shaded space which can be hired for events. The resident studio grand Steinway also turns the gallery into a music event space for 50. A career pianist, gallery owner Mark Coughlan plays regularly, as well as hosting other musicians. He loves the confluence of art and music and strives to create a space where both are heard and seen. “I love doing concerts or just playing when there’s an exhibition up,” says Coughlan. “People who love music come to the concert and they get to look at beautiful paintings while listening to music. It might also expose them to some new or different art. It’s a perfect way to draw together my passions.” While Coughlan’s personal passion is for figurative painting, his gallery exhibitions have also included sculpture and other mediums. English romantic painter William Turner has been his life-long favourite artist and Coughlan remains fascinated by his “amazingly compelling” work. Exhibitions at The Orangery over the last year have included work from sculptor Robert Hitchcock, painters David Ledger, Layli Rakhsha, Michael Doherty and Ryan David Ahern and performances by pianists Anna Sleptsova and Tommy Seah, violinist Akiko Miyazawa and some young musicians.

Coughlan – often confused for the WA footballer of the same name who played for Richmond in the early 2000s – lives behind The Orangery. He’s been a Shenton Park resident for around 25 years and loves the area for its location and proximity to Kings Park for walks, the city for work and the arts, plus the ease of getting to the beach. “I have a couple of big dogs and we spend time walking and playing in the nearby parks. That aspect of life is beautiful here. I’m also grateful for the village feel and high street vibe of suburbs like this.” Away from the gallery, Mark continues his successful career as a pianist and conductor, including conducting the popular St George’s College Christmas in the Quad performance, two New Year’s Eve Vienna Pops shows for Rotary at the Concert Hall and the biannual performances of the WA Doctors Orchestra. Since 2006, he has been artistic director of the Government House Foundation, which programs music for the acoustically beautiful Government House ballroom and gardens. Whether it’s jazz, classical or a barbershop quartet, the program supports young artists for performance experience. “It’s important to nurture young talent,” says Mark. “We program both local musicians and visiting players from over east or overseas.” Mark has performed all over the world and in Perth has held numerous senior positions in the arts, including a former CEO of the WA Symphony Orchestra and a former head of music at UWA. As another way to give back he mentors students from WAAPA, is Chair of OpusWA, an organisation supporting young professional singers and orchestral musicians, performs shows with other musicians and is a co-artistic director of Lost and Found Opera.

He is also Musical Director of En Coda, a unique sound healing orchestra that combines ancient musical instruments with the symphony orchestra to create an intense and therapeutic concert experience. The orchestra recently performed to great acclaim in the Art Gallery of NSW. You’ll often see his dogs Molly, named after Coughlan’s aunt who inspired him to become a pianist, and Davis (in honour of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis) lounging in the gallery, often in the front window and always happy to greet visitors. “I love that Subiaco encourages its artists – of all sorts – and finds the time and energy in nurturing and supporting hard-working artists in the city. I love being part of my community and that neighbours pop in to the gallery, have a look, have a glass of wine and a chat. “We’re not just chatting over the fence; the gallery offers a meeting place – both locals and artists.”

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