Antoinette Starkiewicz

Attended Elwood High 1962-1967

“I arrived in Australia in 1960 from Poland and spent two years at St Kilda Park Primary School before I came to Elwood High in 1962. I did not speak English at all when I first arrived in Australia and it was really teachers like Anne Turner at Elwood High who taught me how to love the English language.

I found the girls’ uniform old-fashioned and unattractive. I got into trouble for not wearing the school hat and gloves on the way home from school and I remember the Head Mistress would line us girls up to measure the length of our dresses.

One day I soaked my school hat under the shower and fashioned it into a cowboy hat shape; this did not go down well with the teachers and I was sent home.

I feared and disliked sport, including swimming lessons. I managed to escape these lessons for three months by hiding in the library and reading books. This was heaven.

There were many students at Elwood High from Eastern Europe, like myself, and our parents all had high expectations of us. School was much more interesting for me when I got into Form 4 and could drop Maths and Science and concentrate on Art, History and English Literature, which I loved.

My Form 6 art teacher Mr Jones was very encouraging and I remember well that he wrote to me and sent his congratulations when the matric results came out.”

Antoinette went on to study in the very first intake of Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Victoria in the Roy Grounds building. At that time she was living in an apartment at Labassa, a Caulfield Victorian era mansion, divided into flats in the 1920s. She used the cellar at Labassa as her studio.

Her first animated film Secret of Madam X (1970), an experimental film funded by the Australian Film Development Corporation, was conceived while she lived at Labassa. She described her time at Labassa as a “taste of the idea that artists can live together in one building harmoniously, there was a feeling of belonging, surrounded by creative people”.

With a passion for animation, Antoinette moved to London to study the subject at the London Film School. Between 1974 and 1976 she produced and directed a number of animated films including Puttin’ on the Ritz (1974), which opened the 18th London Film Festival, and High Fidelity (1976), which was the official British entry at the Cannes Film Festival. This film was produced by the British Film Institute and screened on BBC and ITV television.

Returning to Sydney in 1979, Antoinette was developing a reputation as one of Australia’s finest animators and continued to make short animated films, which screened at major international film festivals. She updated her skills at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney, gaining a MA in Computer Animation and Digital Imaging in 1998. Her first digital film Zipper won an award at the Australian Effects and Animation Festival and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. “Using an innovative combination of live action, animation, choreography and painting”, Zipper was described as being a “feast for the eyes”.

Her most recent animated film is Man, described by Screen Australia as “a life drawing class caught in the act of capturing the male nude on paper”.

Antoinette has been a judge at the AFI and AACTA Awards, an Art and Animation teacher, tutor and lecturer. She recently moved from Sydney to Melbourne where she lives near the sea in St Kilda and continues her art practice.

Photo credit: Al Katinas