It's taken awhile, emotionally and physically, for Dorin Suciu to sort through her father's life, since he died in June, 2020, at the age of 97. But she's getting there.
Livio Michael Suciu, born in October, 1922, was a post-war immigrant to Australia from Romania. He arrived in Newcastle Harbour on the Amarapoora in 1950, and set about making a new life, post-World War 2.
A trained artist who was raised on a small family farm in the mountains of Transylvania, Suciu wasted no time in making an impression in Newcastle, where he gained a reputation not only as a visual artist, but also for commercial display, graphic design and interior design.
"He just never lost this soft, European light," Dorin says of his artistic style. "He always had this, kind of, misty, muted tones in all his paintings."
"My father had a real appreciation of beauty, and in nature. That was a really a driving force for him."
Dorin says, "He saw everything through European eyes. You know, even his technique was very traditional and time consuming. All his paintings are waxed and polished. He was very good at technique and his paint application."
His first art exhibition was opened by none other than artist William Dobell, at the Alcron Restaurant, in June of 1952. Family scrapbooks include a personal cartoon sketch Dobell did for Livio, wishing him good luck with his show.
Over the course of his career he had shows at Cooks Hill Galleries and von Bertouch gallery in Newcastle.
Gael Davies of von Bertouch gallery was cited in a Newcastle Herald article about one of his shows as saying "Livio often applies up to 15 layers of paint to give his art an often luminous texture. The artist uses a palette knife, instead of a paint brush. The only brushstroke on his paintings is his flowing signature."
His last commercial show was in 1996 at Cooks Hill Galleries, with works priced at $6000.
His passion was life long: he was still creating small watercolour paintings until his death.
Among Livio's closest friends in the art world was William T "Bill" Cooper, an Adamstown-born artist and naturalist who went on to great fame and success.
Cooper died in 2015.
"They were good friends," Dorin says. "Bill would come and visit. He drove an old Land Rover."
Cooper began as a landscape and seascape artist (Dorin owns an early Cooper work, of a home), before finding great success painting birds and botanical art.
When Dorin contacted him many years later, Cooper, who had moved to Queensland, replied by email that he still had the palette knife that Livio had once given him.
Dorin and her husband Kevin Gleeson helped take care of Livio in his final years, as he stayed in the family home on Croft Road, Eleebana, that he bought in 1965.
Dorin and her family now live in the Croft Road home, and she has spent several months sorting Livio's collected artworks and memories.
She is in the preliminary stages of planning an exhibition of Livio's own artwork, probably about 20 pieces from private collections and his personal collection. Dorin hopes to have the show in 2022, but is still considering the best location.
Livio and his wife, Elsey, who died in 2012 after 55 years of marriage, built a home on an acreage in Whitebridge before selling up and moving to Eleebana.
Livio and Elsey first met at the Alcron Restaurant.
Elsey chose the Eleebana home.
"They loved the views," Dorin says, as the corner double block has a spectacular outlook over Lake Macquarie. "These modernist homes are so functional. The light. The cross ventilation. We are privileged to be able to fix it up."
Livio Suciu was probably just as well known in Newcastle for his commercial endeavours. He had a shop, Universal Displays, on King Street, and later used 88 Laman Street as his working office.
Among his most memorable jobs were building the first commercial float for the Mattara festival parade, covered in fabric flowers; doing the interior design of Zorba's Greek Tavern, owned by Nick and Irene Gerakiteys; doing the interior design of the brand new Black Diamond Restaurant at the Novocastrian Motor Inn in the East End; and designing the Aeropelican logo.
No question, a life lived to the fullest.