aka: The Immaculate Lash
aka: Gretel Pinniger

Madame Lash is one of Australia's 'Living Treasures'. Certainly she is a national icon, responsible for challenging and inspiring many Australian institutions and individuals. The State Library of NSW included Madame Lash in their recent Sydney Eccentrics Exhibition - "Everyone has met an eccentric. You never forget them. They form part of our collective memory and consciousness. Deep down there is something of them all in all of us"
Photo: Yatzek
Madame Lash
Gretel Pinniger
The Immaculate Lash
To most Australian's she is an enigma, an eccentric, a mystery. She is a household name, although her reputation may vary considerably, depending on the source of the many anecdotes pertaining to her life. She has always been a passionate benefactor and patron of the arts. In all her pursuits in life she has taken them as far as possible. Some critics have thought too far.

Gretel's achievements have been many and varied. Her main love is opera. Within this field she lives for the music of Richard Wagner, who like Madame Lash, shook the convictions of contemporaries to the very foundation. She has even named her son, Siegfried, after Wagner's archetypal hero.

Her arrival in her trademark black limousine (a converted hearse with STIFF as numberplates) at the entrance to the Sydney Opera House, always manages to attract attention. That is until her leather-clad, variously nipple, lip and nose pierced chauffer steps from the car and presents the Madame to her forever curious public.

"My life is an open book. And the show has begun." While opera may nurture her salubrious soul, it is portrait painting that nourishes it. In her speech at the NSW Art Gallery in 1994 she delivered her Manifesto on Art to the media and a packed gallery.

Her five-level sandstone mansion on Sydney's Northern Beaches is home to several hundred of her portraits. It is also home to young artists needing a place to stay, a place to be motivated, and a place to create. The sculptors, dancers, painters and performers who are nurtured by the Madame live in the dungeon level of the house, in cells, or dormitory style accommodation. They only stay if they continue to be creative and are welcomed because according to Madame Lash "the better you look, the better I look ..."

A double decker London bus (DESTINY) sits outside the artists haven, ready to accommodate the growing number of people in her care who are in need of transport. STIFF was getting too crowded. To support such a didactic life, Madame Lash purchased an old church in central Sydney, known as The Kirk, and converted it into a venue for the expression of a wide variety of artists. She prepared her portrait for the 1995 Archibad Prize, a self-portrait, titled "The First Extra-Dimensionalist", the artist in her three personas: Madame Lash, The Immaculate Lash and Gretel Pinniger.

Madame Lash also ran for the Senate in the 1996 federal elections. "I think my presence in Canberra would do remarkable things for the economy....And I've always wanted to 'Lash' a number of politicans!"

Click here for Gretels Birthday Party Celebration - Video clip by Divine Productions (1.8MB in size)