Where the Big Things are: Artist Jo White

Artist Jo White remembers summer road trips in the family car, her legs sticking to the vinyl upholstery and the hot seatbelt burning her skin.

One holiday included a visit to Coffs Harbour's Big Banana, on the NSW north coast, where she was dwarfed by the 15-metre long tourist attraction.

"When you're a kid, these things seem enormous. And getting a chocolate-coated banana; that's even better," White told AAP.

"Pretty much everybody has a story about the Big Banana."

Australian nostalgia is central to much of White's work, but none more so than in her new exhibition Big Things, featuring 24 paintings of the country's offbeat monuments.

Caravans and classic cars, like the Holden Monaro her dad used to drive, evoke a sense of adventure, depicted alongside Larry the Lobster in Kingston South East, South Australia, Queensland's Big Pineapple and the big Ned Kelly in Glenrowan, Victoria.

"It's a pairing of cultural touchstones; merging family memories, road trips and landmarks across like Australia with Holdens.

"It ties into nostalgia of the kinds of trips that are gone."

White grew up on sheep and broadacre farms in rural NSW, where she was often found using sticks to draw in the dirt on the shed floor, or while waiting for the school bus.

While living in Moree, in northwest NSW, her work explored farm life, with cloudless blue skies, lonely, limby trees, flocks of sheep, conked out cars and machinery.

Something changed when she moved to Armidale, in the New England region in NSW, in 2019, where the light bounces off red roofs and bluestone buildings.

Her paintings began to pop with neon and candy hues.

"My work has always been highly saturated, there's nothing muted about me," she said.

"But there was a shift. You are closer to the sun here - it sounds crazy, but it's true - the sky is brighter and northern light spills into where I paint every day."

In a recent collection, White painted classic tuckshop treats, like salt and vinegar crinkle cut chips and a Sunny Boy ice block, in portrait style, capturing their significance in the Australian psyche.

"Straight away you're taken back to sitting at the town pool and they've cut the corner off the Sunny Boy for you, and you're trying to get down to the bottom of it," White said.

"No one thought about sugar back then, it was like 'feed it into them, they'll be right', but God help you if you try to give someone's kid a lolly now."

Big Things is a return to regional Australia for White, after a sell-out exhibition of 100 works inspired by the songs of Triple J's Hottest 100 summer song poll.

White said while much of her work may focus on country life, most of her buyers are in the city.

"Maybe it's people latching on to that feeling of when life wasn't all about bills to pay and working long hours; these sweet memories."

Big Things is on exhibition at the Michael Reid Murrurundi gallery in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley from January 19.