Sculptural intent

The guys over at Post Industrial Design have launched their website. It’s great to have a sculptural focus in amongst all our 2D works. If you like quirky steel and other constructions that really are Post Industrial you will find great value in checking out Jos Van Hulsen’s works.

Ursula Theinert Emerging Artist

In a follow up to a previous post on Ursula Theinert as she took us step by step through her first solo art exhibition, we now have her interview. For art enthusiasts everywhere wanting to know more about the process of starting out through to emerging as a contemporary artist, here is “part 2” of the process from Ursula’s viewpoint. Steve Gray.

Ursula lives in peaceful Callignee which is South of Traralgon on the way to the beautiful Tarra Bulga National Park, she is an emerging contemporary artist…

Ursula, can you give us an “Artists Statement”?
I like to call myself an Environmental Expressionist, because my work explores the relationship between human kind and the environment.
My focus is on the profound spiritual connection we have with nature and the duality of our behavior to our world.  I draw my inspiration from the Australian bush around my home, amid remote farms, plantations and quarries.

My work looks at the disfigurement done to the land, and in order to heighten passion and empathy I express the landscape in human terms, as a living entity.  My current series relates to the dichotomy between managing our forest and the environmental harm that results. My work attempts to highlight some “hidden” realities in our forest management practices that I became aware of during the walks and drives around my home. It fascinated me that on the “surface”, plantations of often alien species may give the impression of environmentally positive outcomes, however on closer scrutiny they lead to “deserts” under the canopy for native flora and fauna.
I feel that the challenging environmental issues facing us, requires us to look closely at our land use practices with fresh eyes and lateral thinking.

This heightened appreciation of the countryside has been influenced by living overseas for eleven years. I traveled to Bahrain in 1992 with my husband and son and taught in a small International school.  We enjoyed the full and rich experiences of living as an expatriate, which included visiting many European and Middle Eastern destinations.  On returning home to Australia, due to the second Gulf War, I began a Diploma of Visual Arts and a Certificate IV in Ceramics at GippsTAFE, in the Latrobe Valley.  This homecoming has definitely intensified my love and respect for our unique country, and a growing awareness of the beauty and fragility of the global environment.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
It does have social and political messages because I am genuinely concerned about the challenging environmental issues that confront and threaten our global future.  I believe that many problems can be helped simply through seeing what is often hidden and rethinking certain mindsets and finding improvements in the way something has always been done in the past.  Humans are adaptable and innovative and I have faith that problems can be overcome when there is an awareness of certain realities and the will for change.

There is a quote from Henry James which I feel relates and encapsulates my feelings about the need I have for my work.
” Despite the rejection of bold claim, art remains subversive —not because it demands revolution but because it illuminates life’s resonant meaning which is normally hidden, and which exposes the limitations of, rather than contradicts, society’s straight forward assumptions. “
I certainly don’t have the answers but I think it is important to begin the discussion.

What are you currently working on?
I am very excited about my next project which is to be involved in a group show called 4 the Love of Green with two fellow artists and friends, Kerrie Warren and Leonie Ryan.  We all share a love of the environment and love of art.  It is still in the early stages but we want and feel a need to create an intrinsic and powerful exhibition that expresses our own perspectives and values within our own styles and mediums. Hopefully, this exhibition will connect with the viewer’s perspective and will create an emotional experience and an awareness of alternative thoughts.
The plan is for the exhibition to travel to Regional galleries to promote discussion within the communities and to highlight the importance of the interconnectedness of our environmental choices to ourselves, families, communities, country and the world.
I am also in the process of organizing another exhibition of my ‘Forest Management’, exhibition at the Libby Edward’s Gallery at Jink’s Creek Winery, which is a great thrill.  The address is Tonimbuk Road, Tonimbuk (55 minutes East of Melbourne), and will be exhibited from about the middle of December.  I will post the firm date soon.
There is a video you can view of some of Ursula’s photographic works

What fascinates you?
This is a difficult question but I am attracted to the “hidden” and the “surface” aspects of issues.  I am also amazed at the profound spiritual connection we have to nature.

One word to describe your current works?

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
My current works are a further exploration into forest management and they are based on my photographs on pine plantations.

My paintings are acrylic on canvas, which can be read as a triptych or separately.  The paintings represent the “natural forest”, the “alien plantation” and the “devastation of the harvest”.  Each painting contains elements of spirituality, otherworldliness and Mother Earth.  As I said before these paintings are based on my photographs which were in black and white, negative prints and solarizations that conceptually linked the consequences of our actions.  The photographs are connected and mirror-imaged to suggest reflection and to highlight the panoramic vista and drama of what we have created.

The spirituality became obvious in the mystical interconnections of the photographs and I felt compelled to extend these images through Environmental Expressionism.  I wanted to tap into the subconscious spiritual bond that connects me to nature through the use of texture, colour and intrinsic emotion.

Why are you an artist?
I am not sure; it just seemed to become part of my life’s journey.  It wasn’t something that I deliberately planned; it all began when I wanted to learn ceramics.  The TAFE College experience was a stimulating one, and gave me opportunities to discover ceramics, photography, drawing, sculpture and painting.  I became hooked on the creativity and the freedom of expression that opened up for me, and now feel almost driven to create and question.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
I have been extremely lucky in my art career because I have had several wonderful experiences.  I entered the Archibald Prize three times, with the encouragement of my art teacher Peter Biram.  I first painted my accomplished ceramicist teacher, a Master Potter, Chris Myers.

Then in 2007 I painted Peter Biram, and thirdly, my friend, and abstract artist, Kerrie Warren.  Even though I was unsuccessful in becoming a finalist of The Archibald, the portraits were accepted into the Salon des Refuses, which was thrilling.  And to top it off, last year I had the honour of being asked to sit for an Archibald Portrait, by Janette Arnold-Collins, which also got into the Salon des Refuses.
This year I shared my first photographic exhibition with my husband, Werner, which was very special and touching, because we could share the experience together.

And lastly, just last week I had my first solo exhibition at the Latrobe Regional Gallery, in Morwell, which was always one of my goals and turned out to be a dream come true.

Was art a thing that was encouraged in your family?
Yes, I was very fortunate to feel that art was an extremely important part of life and learned a great deal of art appreciation from my father.  He is a wonderful drawer, and talked about his dream,  long ago, to become an artist, but because he had to provide for his family, a choice many other people find themselves in, he put that wish aside.  He always encouraged me to draw, and look closely at nature and we spent many hours enjoying art books together and going to exhibitions.

What or who inspires you?
I think nature inspires me and a need to express our connection to the world around us.  I am also inspired by many artists like, Edvard Munch, Arthur Boyd, Mark Rothko, Jan Senberg, Susan Norrie, Peter Booth, Rick Amor and Mandy Martin, the list could go on.
But I also feel that inspiration for me is coupled with being able to work within a supportive environment.  I have felt this type of encouragement by the many wonderful fellow students, teachers, like Peter Biram and Chris Myers and friends, like Kerrie Warren and Leonie Ryan and my husband who all have stimulated ideas with their discussions and talented work.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
I feel that this need to communicate with the viewer is extremely important to me.  Not in the terms of total understanding of what I am trying to say, but rather that the viewer connects with the work on an emotional level.

Are there special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
What I find almost magical about making my work is that while I am in a particularly focused process of mark making I feel as though I go into a type of meditative state.  When I become aware of my work again I marvel at the results because they have somehow come from within my subconscious. When this altered state occurs I feel particularly close and true to my work.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
Yes, I definitely do.  I have felt connected to all the art I have undertaken.  My ceramics and sculpture work were such a tactile experience that you can lose yourself in the work and I enjoyed all the 3 dimensional problems that had to be overcome.  The ceramic work also required a great deal of skill attainment, like throwing on a wheel and learning about glazes that also took you to a new level of understanding of the creation of an aesthetic object.

Photography has opened up a whole new medium which helps push my exploration into human kind and nature and my personal journey which I can then extend further in my paintings by the use of texture and colour and through my emotional energy, hopefully, create my own individual instinctual expression.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Well I feel that there are several factors that have worked for me. To begin with I think it is necessary to see yourself as an artist even as a student, with the experiences and education at school as a vital part of your artistic life journey.  With that attitude in mind I decided to immerse myself in all the different mediums on offer.  As a mature aged student I was able to not feel the same amount of time constraint as other students and had the luxury of being able to extend my course.  That meant that I took my time and focused on one or two art forms at a time and tried to learn as much as I could about them.  Then I moved onto other forms and did the same again.  To me each medium gave me invaluable creative experiences which helped open different perspectives and approaches to solving problems. In this preparation, the insights studied in art history were invaluable and of course remain a lifelong quest for more knowledge.  I found that by going through this multi-layered learning process it enable me to find my true direction.
It is also important to learn about the art industry and to consider yourself as a professional artist in your art practices and to be passionate about what you do.  Buy the best canvases and paint you can afford.  Have business cards, trifolds and a website as soon as you can, and remember to consider the point of view of the gallery, or media representative.
It is hard work to be an artist and it helps a great deal if you surround yourself with stimulating, like-minded people who are supportive and sharing.  I believe that creativity grows when you feel safe and accepted and most importantly, you must reciprocate those kindnesses.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
While I lived overseas my family and I had many holidays in Europe and were fortunate to go to the many extraordinary galleries in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Athens, and many other wonderful destinations.  They were awe inspiring and moving. We also went to nearly every cathedral in each of these countries.  My husband and I were captivated but it was a little harder to convince our young son of the educational merit of the excursions! Now our son is in his twenties, he fondly looks back at his holiday experiences and realizes what a fabulous journey of discovery they were for us all.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Amanda van Gils

Amanda van Gils is an established Melbourne Victoria Contemporary Painter working in oils. She is represented by, Anthea Polson Art in Qld, and with Jenny Port Gallery in Melbourne, you can see more about her, on her website

Others are saying…

Amanda has entered numerous art prizes and been the finalist in most, she has a Graduate Diploma of Visual Arts and a number of exhibitions to her credit. there is another interview you can read here.

Artist’s statement…
My work aims to engage with the longstanding tradition of Australian landscape painting yet offer a contemporary take on the genre. Through my work I aim to explore our dynamic psychological relationship to the world around us.
In the past I have explored the idea of people’s place in the environment through various permutations, primarily: the absence of people, people disconnected from the landscape, and moments observing others (most often children) at imaginative play creating their own space. In doing this, I have experimented with juxtaposing elements in unexpected settings to invert traditional notions of perspective and perception.

The landscapes in my works are not grand landscapes, they are small and familiar; these places are part of our everyday lives and they inform our understanding of the world. My paintings share their quietness, yet I draw on the unpredictable and the anomalous to explore how we respond to them.

My current body of work View from a Speeding Train, moves the figure off stage; the viewers are given the view of the landscape yet are drawn to the narrative of the viewer within the painting (the unseen person looking out the window). This interplay between movement and stillness, outside and inside, encourages the observer to make choices in their reading of the paintings that ultimately link to their own specific relationship to place.

What are you currently working on?
Finishing off a few paintings for my next solo exhibition, which is opening very soon on 3rd December at Jenny Port Gallery. They are essentially landscapes viewed through time with multiple layers of meaning.

Do you have one word or statement to describe your current works?

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
I guess it is a meditation on painting, and using high speed travel as a metaphor to create images of the rapid glimpses captured as we hurtle through the world. A strange and subtle melancholia – as in a sense that none of us can be sure of where  ‘times’ are leading – metaphorically, spiritually, politically, economically – just this fast train we are all on in the early 21st century.

How did you get into art?
Quite by accident. When I was 15 I went with a friend to an art school open day just for something to do, we went our separate ways and I wandered into the painting studio. The smells were somehow just magical to me and that was it, I started drawing the next day and applied to the local TAFE to study art.

Your art education was…?
Fascinating, informative, sometimes lacking, sometimes melodramatic but always worth every minute.

What did you do before becoming an artist?
There was no before as I started straight from school. But there has been – in between and alongside – quite a few jobs; I spent a number of years working part time in Human Resources in management and consulting roles while also painting and exhibiting.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
Just recently getting selected for four pretty good prizes in a row with my new work.

What is your earliest memory of art?
A Russel Drysdale print that hung in my parents bedroom

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
It’s important when it is important to get the idea across. Craftsmanship purely for the sake of craftsmanship can lead to some hollow work so I see it as only part of the equation.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?
So far it’s been more baby steps than any “big breaks”. I have had to work hard for every small break that has come my way, a big break would be nice…..

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?
Yes definitely. I try to get along to friends openings to show support but most openings conflict with baby bedtime routines so I don’t get to as many as I would like. Generally I go to exhibitions outside of openings so I can see the work.

Musical influences?
Music has always been important to me – music and literature nourish the parts that visual can’t always. I always have music on and have a fairly wide collection of music depending on my mood, but I must admit I have been painting to The Go Betweens ever since I started painting. I would love to be able to make work that produces feelings in the viewers that I get from listening to the Go Betweens, I think that’s pretty ambitious but if I get to the end and look back and can find that I had done that somewhere along the line I would be extremely happy.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
For years I have been heading off on solitary drives and taking photos that I can use later as reference material, the current works . I have a suitcase full of . My process is more immediate now than it used to be. I take photos to use as reference but don’t paint the photos as such. I have a bit of fun trying to work out my camera to get the sort of photos I want and I disregard quite a lot that is in the photo. I am less reliant these days on notebooks for pre planning preferring to get the idea down quickly on canvas.

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
I hope that I am successful enough in conveying my intention that I don’t need to spell anything out. Having said that I am always interested in the viewers perceptions – sometimes they might pick up something that passed me by and a chance comment can spark off a whole new body of work.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
I think the work needs to touch the viewer in some way: intellectually, emotionally, sensory for it to be of value to that viewer. And hopefully what is communicated is at least partly what the work is about for me, but I’m not too dogmatic about that.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
It’s difficult to articulate the depth of meaning in words. Suffice to say that there is a lot in the work, not symbols as such, but when I hear someone have a ‘me too’ moment of recognition in response to the work that is really satisfying.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?
Point of elation definitely. As with anything there are the bright spots and the dull times that seem to go forever but overall I just think it is exciting and interesting, stimulating and frankly a whole lot of fun.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
Absolutely, I ‘gave up’ art for a few years and it was without doubt the worst time of my life. I aim to never repeat that particular error.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
No. In fact I think I am pretty good at knowing whether 15 more minutes or an hour is needed. Getting a painting finished is about getting it to a certain ‘feeling of rightness’ and it’s not finished until it’s there. And once you are there you aren’t tempted to lay down any more paint.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
You write ‘artist’ as your occupation on government forms without giving it a second thought

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
I think unless you are very lucky to hook up with great dealers early on there is so much work to do to effectively market yourself – and not just to buyers but curators, gallerists, media and so on – that it can eat into studio time if you aren’t well organised. Marketing and business also requires a very different set of skills to creating art so it can be challenging.

How do you feel about earlier works that are in people’s collections / ownership?
Luckily I didn’t show much early on. I’m quite comfortable with all the work that’s been sold – obviously the buyer responded to it and I have to respect the buyers response, even if it’s not how I would paint it today.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
Interestingly not one I would have thought of, it’s actually a self help type book called “Coach Yourself: It’s your life What are you going to do with it?” I was using it for paid work that I was doing and then read through thinking about my own situation and really got the synapses firing. It was probably the right book at the right time and acted as a catalyst for me leaving part time employment and backing myself to become a full time artist.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
Really just more clarity and more confidence.

Tell us about your studio environment…
These days I paint in a garage out the back of my house as it’s most suited to my life. It is the messiest most unsuitable studio I’ve ever had…and I find I am producing my best work so really I can’t complain.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I love photography, especially cinematic photography in particular artists like Tracey Moffat, Deborah Pauwe, Rosemary Laing, Bill Henson

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
I have a really great network of artists who I consider myself fortunate to be able to call friends. I have a couple in particular who I bounce things off when I need a second opinion. And of course being married to an artist helps too, especially in stressful times like the lead up to a big show.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?
Sometimes I do, it can be a good way to extend your audience and build a bit of a profile. I know some people argue that art isn’t a sport and shouldn’t be competitive and I appreciate that argument but I don’t go into these things hoping to be anointed ‘the best’ but rather hoping for the opportunity to be ‘in the room’ showing with peers.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?
A combination of all of the above. I often take reference photos but I am far from slavish in reproducing them. They are often a springboard or a memory trigger and little else. A lot of what evolves is from the imagination or memory, things that I have noticed

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
It tends to be an emotional relief if I haven’t been able to paint for a while. I get the itchy craving to do some painting (and can be a bit stroppy) if I can’t work for a while, and while it is far from therapy there is a real relief when I can get working again. Aside from that though there is no particular ‘emotional relief’ either at the beginning, during or after a work is completed.

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” ?
My intent is smaller than that. You can’t make work with that in mind, in the same way that making work purely for commercial reasons i.e. ‘If I paint X it will sell’ having that as the end point corrupts the process and the outcome. If I manage to get peer recognition and make a living doing the sort of work that I want to do with my integrity in tact then the rest should look after itself.

What is your working routine?
I am pretty organised; I have calendars with dates to work towards and lists of what I need to get done when. I mainly paint during the day, a couple of days I have my son in childcare so I get to paint all day, the rest of the time I snatch time when he is asleep. I always listen to music ad normally have quite a few paintings on the go at once.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
I need to make a living with my work to allow me to continue to make the work so I certainly don’t shun the limelight, but I’m, not a natural attention seeker either, I hope I strike a good balance.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
If you want to be a professional artist you need to work a lot at your art, learn to be self-critical and be open to critique but filter it (critique from a family member is different than critique from an artist or gallery director). There is a lot more to being an artist than just making the work, I think it is important to learn as much as you can about the art industry and have an understanding of art history. But above all keep making art and keep learning.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage?
In 2006 I finally got to Europe for the first time. My husband and I organised our trip specifically so we could see as much art as possible, even when it meant going to Madrid for just one day for The Prado. Seeing the collection in The Louvre was an incredible experience all on it’s own but we were lucky enough to see museums and galleries in Italy, Spain, France, Berlin, Amsterdam and London.

Do you have a question for the artist? check out the comments link below and ask away!

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Australian Artist

Erika Gofton

Erika Gofton is a painter from Melbourne Victoria , she paints predominately with Oil on Canvas, while some works have handstitching/embroidery. She is represented by Dickerson Gallery Melbourne and Sydney and Anthea Polson Art. You can find out more about her at her website

Erica, what can you tell us about your works?
I am celebrating the sensitivity and beauty of the female figure. I wish to present an intimate look at womanhood and to create works depicting beauty, grace and harmony. I am captivated by the female form and intrigued with the subtlety between the sensual and the sexual, the unique motifs and iconography associated with femininity.

Texture, fabric and drapery play an integral role in my work. The natural beauty of the body and the echo of form beneath the natural folds of the drapery suggests a quiet and captivating sexuality.  The evocative suggestion of flesh showing through lace is enchanting.

Lacework, embroidery, patternmaking and fabric designs, uniquely female experiences and motifs, are also prominent in my work and symbolise characteristically female practices. The strong design and composition of these elements also aim to reflect shapes and forms in the figure and the chosen dresses, offering a work built on layers of pattern and form. By handstitching on the canvas in some works aims to give another layer of significance to the painted layers beneath but also employs the practice I am celebrating.

Butterflies, and more recently birds, feature in my work, as they embody beauty, grace and harmony. Their presence suggests quiet movement as a subtle contrast to the stillness of the figure. Birds also represent another uniquely female experience; motherhood.

What are you currently working on?
A body of work to be exhibited at Schubert Gallery in December

One word or statement to describe your current works?
Sensitive. Still. Tension. Layered.

How did you get into art?
I have always had an engagement with art and creativity. I was taught from a very young age to draw and paint by my Mother who was a graphic designer and illustrator I did my first oil painting at 10 and have always painted.

What did you do before becoming an artist?
I completed a Diploma of Education after my Fine Art Degree so that I could teach secondary school, ‘something to fall back on’ but found that it unfortunately had a really negative impact on my work. I ended up working in art supply shops and as a technician which was just fantastic as it gave me a whole new understanding of my materials and other mediums.  It really complimented my practice and was a great way to learn and meet other artists.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Sitting still for my Mum while she painted my sister and myself. My earliest memories are very much about my Mum, her wonderfully drawn paper dolls. Her tubes of gouache.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Most definitely

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Not particularly. In fact I found it quite suffocating.

What or who inspires your art?
Oh where to begin. Everything around me really. Pattern, colour, texture, line, fabrics, words, drawing, printmaking. The paint itself.

Visiting galleries and reading contemporary art magazines gives me a huge amount of inspiration. It allows me to see how other artists approach their subjects, their materials, how they solve problems. I have a filing cabinet full and wall in my studio that is covered in other contemporary and historical artists work, it is extremely broad but I find inspiration in the smallest parts, maybe a colour or a line, a compositional choice. I have a deep love and respect for good abstract and non representational work and find that I get a great deal of inspiration from the different way of communicating a message, a different language.

How important is art for you?
It defines who I am.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I have an immense love of paint, I always have had. I just love everything about it. The bar is constantly keep moving up. I just want to learn more and feel more in control, which only really comes with getting to know the medium more intimately.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
I think it depends on the work to a degree and what you are trying to convey. The better grasp and understanding of the chosen medium I believe has the potential to makes the message stronger or at least clearer. If the artist has a vision in their mind but struggles to translate that through a lack of craftsmanship they have failed to communicate that to the best that they can. This doesn’t just mean painters or sculptors understanding their medium but video artist, performance artists. An understanding of the medium, its possibilities, its limitations.

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art?
My work is beginning to sell enough that I am holding my head above water, just, but I do also teach drawing to adults which I really enjoy.

Some say the lifespan of an “artist” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
I think the difference to life as an artist at art school and life as an artist outside of the institution is vastly different. They are two quite different experiences.  I can imagine that many artists struggle with the isolation that comes with life outside of art school, and possibly the self discipline that is required.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
Moving to Melbourne had a huge impact on my career. I had the freedom where I felt I could do the work I wanted to. I found acceptance in being a painter.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Any Chuck Close Self Portrait. I have always admired and been fascinated by his work. I really admire the way he has evolved through the years and his deep and passionate love of painting. Or John Millais’ Ophelia.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
I have been very fortunate in my life. I do struggle often with self doubt and lack of confidence. I have also found that motherhood has proven to be a struggle in my practice. Being an artist sometimes feels like it is such a selfish, self indulgent thing to do but motherhood requires you to be totally selfless. The two fight each other sometimes, but it is also really starting to inform my work which I find really exciting.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Yes I always have, I write in it most days. It helps me to organise the words, images and ideas that float in my brain. It gives me order.

What can you tell us about your creative development process?
It is ridiculously laborious. Begins with a lot of drawing and writing. I write a lot. Words factor a lot in my work even if it isn’t evident. An idea for a work may happen quickly or may stem from an idea some time ago. The last couple of years have seen works grow from previous works. I am noticing lately that I am looking more towards my own environment, more inward.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?
A bit of both.  I often feel that I have a love hate relationship with my practice or at least the intensity that my work imbibes. I never feel like I can switch it off which sometimes is problematic.

What discourages you from doing art?
My own insecurities. Time.

The value of Visual Arts is…
Its capacity to communicate. To stir emotion. To create dialogue. To question. To Mirror.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?
A huge learning curve as to what NOT to do! I taught me that I had to take responsibility for my own career. To be active in your own career.

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
It depends on where I am at. If I am working towards a show I can’t really take time away so I really just push through, which can often make it so much more intense. If I have time, taking time away from the brush. Time spent drawing, reading, looking at art. Almost denying myself so that I build up a desire to get back into the studio. I find a huge internal pressure to always have a brush in my hand because my studio time is so limited and this impacts quite heavily when I get into a slump it tends to snowball.

Metaphors, analogies, symbols, stories, how important are they to your work?

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
Too many to mention. I love books and refer back to so many when I am looking for inspiration. I was given a copy of Robert Vickery’s Egg Tempera book when I was young and that is very special to me.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?
I worked in shared spaces until having my son. I now work in a really lovely space at home now, a converted garage. I love being in there. It would be nice to be bigger but it is nice and bright and its my sanctuary. I do miss having other artists around though and the isolation is a struggle sometimes.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Extremely slow and laborious. Ridiculously sometimes!

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?
I think it can be very therapeutic at times but I also I think sometimes I need therapy because of my art!!!

People around you (family friends etc.) what would they say about the way you work, the moods you have, your life as an artist etc?
I work very privately, I don’t share my work with many people. I keep my work hidden generally until it gets to a gallery. I have some quite big lows and anxiety relating to my work, particularly when I am struggling with a piece. It tends to make it worse if I talk about it too much. It quite often affects me physically and I have learnt I need to have time to expend some of the pent up energy and anxiety, either by walking or swimming. If I am struggling with a particular painting I find it very hard to walk out of the studio and forget about it. I get very distracted with everything else around me until it is resolved. I am quite obsessive about how I work. I feel very private about my life as an artist. My family know that I am much more satisfied if I am able to work.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I have a real love of printmaking.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
A cup of tea and silence for a while.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
They have equal importance. One can’t survive without the other.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
I have gained more confidence in my right to be an artist. I am content with how I work I don’t feel so compelled to ‘please’ anyone but myself.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?
So, so, so much harder but ultimately more satisfying

What is your working routine? Do you listen to music while you work, or stay up late for instance?
I listen a lot to talkback or podcast interviews while I work, it helps to break the isolation in the studio. I tend to listen to music towards the end of the day to pep me up a bit. I don’t paint of a night. Natural light is very important. I do a lot of prep work of a night, sketching in my journal and resourcing reference materials. I have a very set routine by sheer necessity with a young child I have had to learn to be very disciplined and be good at managing my time.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?
I love the constant challenges. I love being able to create for a living. I love seeing the world in a different way. I love the process. I love the endless learning. I love the constant exposure to other artists and their work. I love being surrounded by art.  I hate the stereotypical view of what an artist is, and does. I hate not being able to switch off being an artist, when sometimes you need to escape it for a while you can’t. I hate the long apprenticeship.  I hate the financial uncertainty.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Find what is uniquely you. Be prepared that it is very different to Art School. Seek criticism from people you respect.  Learn how the gallery system works. Market yourself but don’t make your work just to be marketable. Develop discipline, determination, persistence and a thick skin. Be prepared for rejection, lots of rejection. Learn to like working by yourself, but try to engage with like minded artists when you can. Visit galleries. Keep learning. Read, listen, look. Don’t ever think that what you have chosen as your career has less value than other occupations.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
I went to France and Italy, London and New York. I went to immerse myself in the works that I had so long admired and drawn inspiration from, but had never seen in the flesh. I wanted to study the brush strokes, and the surfaces. I was very fortunate and saw the big Holbein exhibition at the Tate which was just incredible. I also did a great portrait workshop in New York.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Australian Artist


I put this site up in the links, and that’s fine, but if you didn’t go through all the links and find the info on each (like most people don’t) then you would not know anything about it. Like other things I came across this by fluke.

WATIM is a not for profit online publication which promotes australian artists, illustrators, designers and photographers. WATIM provides a platform for both established and emerging Australian creatives to show their work to a worldwide audience online.

Steve Gray

Steve Gray from Geelong Vic Australia is a contemporary Visual Artist and has been making art for about 35 years (with some serious break’s in between) his website and blog is at

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
Business, family, music (I play a bit of guitar) the environment. I am fascinated by a whole range of things, from the day to day to the bigger picture.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Acrylics, photographs and drawing with some pen and ink thrown in for exploration.

Artist’s statement…
I spend a lot of mental time evaluating things, I should do this, I can do that it’s about this and about that, then I swing 180 degrees and think the opposite, so my works float somewhere in between. In essence I always come back to universal  forces and exploring the various notions this can mean. I am interested in the duality of life, a happy scene can become tragic, a dry day can become wet, $100 in the hand can be stolen etc, and a myriad of options from there.

My later works have delved into and around some of the concepts of DNA and the ways it’s portrayed visually (by scientists), I loosely started out with the promise of “What if it’s not like that at all? What if it’s a double helix but not a strict or formal structure?”

Mind you all of this is fine to say, but a day or so on from writing this I can change my mind… hmm and anyhow , how can you put visual language into words, we often fall short.

How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?
Abstract and stylised (some of my more literal landscape type images) the photo’s are clearly realistic and I aim for the an awe inspiring feel with those (although I may rarely capture that sensibility!)

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
Some of the works are environmentally focused, the bridges series looked at the connection (Bridges) both literal and conceptual between man, and the landscape and the way it’s been fooled around with.

What fascinates you?
Life and lots of things, I revel in an almost existential fascination for things, I will stop mid stride to check out the effect of dappled light from a tree on to a surface, then watch an ant, a fly, a flower and walk off. Oh and business that is an art in itself. I also think life is full of EM – NM (Everything Matters – Nothing Matters) It’s like a pendulum swinging between the two, and depending on your view or involvement will depend on which it is and to what degree, Therefore I can spend time thinking which is this an EM or NM situation, I thought of this myself, pretty neat hey? “Umm yeah I guess so”.

The change of seasons, so about now we are in late spring leading up to summer, and this morning there is BRILLIANT sunshine  bathing everything, the plants out the front are perfectly lit (where’s that camera?) and the feeling is one of nothing can be wrong in the world. It’s brilliant, as a kid the leaves on the trees in autumn would go golden, and in the spring the new growth was a clear sign things were growing fast, so I always had a good feel for the seasons although we can have 4 seasons in one day! I am also pretty good at knowing the time without a watch, and remember being able to pick 2 pm fairly well as a kid.

As a kid I got to look after people’s places in the neighbourhood while they were away, so I got a more in depth feel for how people lived, I watered their garden, mowed the grass, fed their cat etc. Sometimes the cat would be an indoors one so you could wander about and experience the view from their lounge room, pat the cat, feed it and move on. I love seeing how people do things differently, the way they revere different things, the family photo’s the smells.

In our current house we have a view from upstairs over an elderly ladies backyard, her vegie patch, her grass, the washing on the line, the dappled light cast from her trees and so on. When she dotters and potters about the backyard it’s a glimpse of another life, another way of being… Now that’s fascination, What’s her history, what’s her story, how long will she live, what does she do, the list is endless.

That leads me to another area of fascination, day dreaming, as a kid I did it heaps (who did school work anyway?) I would watch the birds out the window in the garden, the light through the trees, imagine being elsewhere. Other kids read books to “escape” I had my own world to escape to. I figured out later in life I am ADD and so this fits, short attention span for crap in class.

You are about being “In the moment” by the sounds of things?
That’s a great way to put it… in the moment, I can get out of a car on a rainy day, my head hurtling in one direction full of things to do, places to  be and all that jazz, then get caught in the moment, mesmerised by a view (wet bitumen in a car park can do that to a person)… I also like to use the word “mesmeric” I am not sure if it’s a real word but it’s a way of saying “when a thing is mesmerising” so I call it mesmeric. Dad taught me (not meaning to…) to play with words, it’s one of those joys in life people speak little of, he used to say things like “Pass me the K-nif-e” now we all know it’s pronounced nyf but spelt knife, so he would dishup the literal phonetic chunk and throw it out of amusement.

I can get captivated by those day dreamy chunks of life that are so ADD, away with the faeries not a care in the world.

Acrylic on Canvas 600 x 1200

Acrylic on Canvas 600 x 1200

Why are you an artist?
I could say “to avoid leading a boring life”, but really it’s about exploring the world more and keeping my hyperactive being, being, well that’s part of it, I guess I like looking at things and checking out ways it could be represented, talked about and so on.. I can’t say it’s a vital part of my life, in a sense I have had big chunks of time with no production or showing… I enjoy the engagement of the mind aspect probably the most and the tooing and froing, does this work, does that work, try this try that, push the boundaries. Then you go to see a show and find someone else has done a similar thing, and how they went about it, fascinating…

How did you get into art?
It seemed like an easy option at school (Yr 11 etc…) but it turned out to be the hardest path (in more ways than one) It was the first real time I had bothered to do any decent form of homework… Something about colour, processes and the materials engrossed me, then VOOM it all became very engaging, the notion of conceptual art… wow, the notion of creating something new… WOW! the notion of being “allowed” to explore 🙂 !!! WOW!!!. I remember thinking why are some of the students doing art not overly interested in this? They were just plodding in an awkward way, it was a trudge, a go no where challenge. I never got that, If I sign up for something (well most things) I do it because it holds some form of fascination for me.

How important is art for you?
Very important, it gives me a range of perspectives for handling and exploring a tumultuous world.

Your art education was…?
Good, I could have pushed the boundaries more, great opportunities were lost due to laziness. I had some great teachers and some lousy ones, no names please.

On the topic of art education I think it falls short, change the title to “Aesthetics” then that would give them scope to put in more interior decoration type stuff, and cover other aspects than just “Art” and lets face it even though they call it “art” it’s often more of a “busy hands” subject, and if a teacher gives them any theory or homework shite hits the fan. Go to a parent teacher interview and watch the art teacher, often underwhelmed with visitors, people don’t generally value the arts, tough really.

Have you always been interested in art?

Not really, but now, that’s a different thing, while people swan about going to sports etc on the weekend I go to galleries (not all the time, perhaps a few times a year).

What did you do before becoming an artist?
It’s what I’ve done while being an artist that is probably more important, from a secondary art teacher, technical support staff for a photo company, a handyman, business teacher, coach and consultant, entrepreneur, etc… I love business it’s an art in itself (hey did I already say that somewhere else…) but it’s true many businesses fail, they got too loose, and in art that can happen too, so follow the rules then break them, repeat that cycle, plan do check act, it’s simple and hard all at once.

But life before art, well is that possible, hmm let’s see well I have always pulled things apart and built things, been hyper, thought “what if”, created things like Billy Carts and cubby houses, and had a vivid imagination. As a kid I would climb trees and watch the world unfold beneath me, sometimes I was able to hide from mates, I learned to hide my bike so they could not find me at times (I like my independence). So a creative being always.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Kinder, doing finger painting, and Yr 7 drawing a figure, the legs were too big but the rest was good. I did a picture with textas for mum once on a chunk of ply, I asked for it back a few months later, I think the ply was for a seat on my Billy Cart (hey it was important okay!)

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Simply put, no, but they put up with it. Struggle and discussion has helped, at dinner mum and I would discuss if a thing was a sculpture or not, she typed some of my early art assignments when I got stuck and helped out with a few of the structural parts of those, so that was good. The job prospects were NEVER there but over time It has had it’s uses, hey look at this blog, mind you my mum never said, you should start a blog and I will support you, my wife didn’t really either although it’s really her ideas that sparked my interest in creating it so thanks Sal. I think art needs to be encouraged, but the struggling artist thing is a great cliche to fall on to support it not being supported (did that come out right?). We are the sum total of all the things we have done, and so a rebellion against the “tres ordinare” life of my folks? Yeah probably.


Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Yep, Yallourn in Victoria had great spring, summer and autumn days, the sun in the trees we used to climb, the innocence of the community (in the 60’s) I loved being a kid in a great place (it was a very beautiful town) and watching everything unfold with graceful elegance. I could ride my bike for hours exploring that place (and did.) I guess over time I look back with fondness and wish it was still there to explore differently. (The town was removed to remove the coal underneath it).

What or who inspires your art?
The landscape, the work of Jacko Pollock, visiting contemporary galleries (I try to get out on a gallery “crawl” as often as I can.) Science, documentaries, human frailty, human stupidity, intelligence, philosophy, nature, the Simpsons, positive people etc. Oh and Zippy the Pin Head (cartoon) great influence (or perhaps diversion) “Are we having fun yet!” Go google that and you will see where some of my sense of humor, philosophy and outlook on life has been tweaked (thanks again to Max for that one, can I mention he was an influence). Yeah one more Fluke, happenstance, synchronicity, universal forces… (those sneaky gods, what lesson are they teaching me now, or am I just being used as a guide as to what not to do?)

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
Acrylics dry fast and I can get some nearly oil like effects when I want to. It suits my Hyperactive ADD nature, if I want image now, I don’t want to fuss and mess about with a long process spontaneity is a big thing for me at times, if I want to do it now I darn well will or be angry for not being able to.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Yes and no… I seem go in one direction and then return to the source, then off on another tangent, I was always interested in “Universal forces”. I have slowly developed a sensibility around mark making and hope that what I do has tome “Intelligent” mark making happen.

Have your artistic influences altered over time?
Yes, I see new artists in on a gallery crawl and think YUM, and sometimes even YUK! Or I can do that, how much are they asking for it? Hmm.. I remember Kaye Green (Tasmanian Printmaker) who was one of my lecturers at the end of my vis art studies at uni say “I am interested in the perfect hill, finding it, drawing it, exploring it, creating it… That’s what  am about in my work” Now that was at the time, it may have altered since then but you get the idea. I was totally taken with that level of absorption to the subject matter at the time. Then I go to a point of exploring things in other ways and search more for the essence of things, rather than trying to represent things in some way… However when it comes to landscape it can be SOOO tempting to throw in a ‘cliche’ horizon line.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
You get a sense your peers are nodding in a positive way and the galleries show more than a passing glance at what you do. No stuff that it’s when people line up to buy your works and you can’t produce enough so you take on staff to assist you. No wrong, it’s when you are making $250k per year+ just from your art. Yeah that’s it, oh does that sound too much like I want to only make money from Art… Hmm, I guess I want a balance between producing amazing works that grab attention and stand on their own (whatever that might mean) and an income.


How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Basics are basics, well made will win out more often than not, mind you I have seen a lot of crap over the years going for top dollar in galleries, I end up saying I could do better than that! so it’s back to basics…

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
Yes, sometimes I get swamped, sometimes it’s a gentle current. Once I did a bunch of etchings and gave one to a mate for his 21st present, one of his “bogan mates” commented that it “looked like two bandaids jumping a barbed wire fence…” so the next day i did an etching had that title and was more literally like it says, I was so excited by the idea, the guy didn’t understand, thought I was a nut, I had a sleepless night waiting to get to the print room.


Some say the lifespan of an “artist” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Fight it I say, ask how important is Visual Art to you and then make it happen, yeah easier said than done… It comes down to people not valuing the arts, and that falls on the education system as much as parental values and beliefs do. We should be holding artists aloft, treating them like goddesses and warriors… oh who am I kidding but it’s a nice thought, heck these people create anew, they explore boundaries, push limits, challenge our thinking, and that is VERY useful.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
Having a joint exhibition with Pete Biram, I pushed, he produced, I produced and we did it, 25 odd years after the first photo show we did together after art school, good value I got an itch to do more. The first solo show (the next year after the joint show) was also good value lots of friends and some family showed up, the friends that showed up were genuine in their support and I hope I have also been genuine in my support of them too.

Another turning point was at Uni I set up an art installation and one of the guys said “Oh your work is very existential” I then tried to figure out what he meant, that moment comes back often, and yeah he’s right. Its a branch of philosophy, with a view that things unfold day to day and my work now and then fits to that, then again so does so much other work too!


If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Blue poles by jackson Pollock, masterpieces are masterpieces full stop, I could (and have) stood and looked at it for ages. The same with most of Fred Williams work, as for a print, Melancholia by Albrecht Durer is simply sensational, the symbolism, the sense of foreboding etc… YUM! Yeah and a big indigenous piece in the Ian Potter Museum in Melbourne, it’s really long and was a joint effort between a bunch of artists, it is mind blowing!

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
Pollock (clearly) Mary Tonkin (sublime landscapes) from a banal view to an exceptional concept, too good to be true. Denis Nona, lots of Indigenous works, lots my peers… Kaye Green, Euan Heng, Tim Storrier, Ray Arnold, Penelope Long, Pete Biram, Albrecht Durer, Ansel Adams, Euene Atget, Kerrie Warren, Colin Pennock (texture rocks!), and a bunch of others. I have one of Kerries, and Kayes Pieces, so vibrant.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
Life is full of “curve balls” a long break between shows and producing didn’t help I guess. I wanted to be prolific but that has come in fits and spurts, I get started and then fade, I guess I lose some interest perhaps from a lack of confidence in my own ability, I see how many artists are out there and I am only one small voice.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Only when working, I used to have a very active journal (lots of writing and not much imagery.)

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
Yes, rules are there to be pushed, it’s part of the “You can’t do that, mentality…” and the ensuing “Oh no? Just watch me…!”

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
The internet is a source of lots of things. I draw a bit, use memory use photo’s as a sense of reference. In the good old days it was a conceptual world so not a lot of reference points were thought about, drawn, photographed etc.

I write a lot, jotting ideas down, getting strings of words together to assist me to make sense of the world, does it show that I like words? sometimes I am able to pull together a neat bunch of words and want to some how illustrate those or mimic them visually somehow.

Musical influences?
Zappa (thanks Max…) Absurd realities is what Frank was all about, I love the absurd views. Also instrumental stuff, new age sometimes, classical, but I generally work in silence. I tried having music in the darkroom as a student but I danced about too much and got little done, don’t tell anyone that! Oops…

My Brother has a band I was in one of them (playing bass many years back) the latest incarnation plays Blues, that’s been an influence, I used to also do sound and lighting for one of the earlier ones, so a lot of drinking played a part (hey can I put that down as an influence or a distraction?) Too much alcohol  took its toll in various ways but a big part of the scene for me at that time.

Another influence, STOMP these guys do a stage routine that has amazing beats and rhythms that are simply wonderful, and all on junkyard scrap, amazing. Oh and Cirque Du Soliel, yes the music and the performances… BRILLIANT!

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
Probably the best example is the Harm series I did with text (a comment on violence and how we accept it) these have symbols I created relating to the words I have used to explore the theme. (The symbols gave me a chance to get a directly visual connection happening to the words and therefore, hopefully engage the viewer somehow more deeply.)

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
I go back and forward on this one, but how can I know if they “Get it” or not. Some might say what is there to get?

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
Vital, but then again how can it not communicate anything, is it communicating the right things effectively?

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
Experiment and inventiveness, entertainment? Hmm not sure but the egotist in me says yeah… Would love to shock people but apart from using a tazer on the viwers I think I might not be there quite yet.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
I thought I did then I didn’t… I had a joint show an art consultant saw, we still chat but the representation thing is a hurdle, confidence? fear of failure? fear of success? Enough work? no awards… no accolades?

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
Business is mostly art or should I say a creative process, rather than a strict science, so art should be able to handle it conceptually and artists should go for the ride full throttle (my view). But it doesn’t happen often enough, I think there must be a lot of works under beds hidden away because of this. I guess there is not enough emphasis on the business side of art in educational institutions as it is seen as some form of “Prostitution” and you “sell out” if you sell your work, but then they talk about successful artists often in $$ terms.

Note how this swings through what I was talking about earlier, EM – NM. I think there must be many frustrated parents that have sent their “kid” to art school (because they were somehow “good at it” according to the teacher), this was covered with some thinly veiled notion of jobs being available… Lets take that for a moment and think if you spend three or more years at Uni on most other courses, you come out with a job prospect and a pay scale commensurate with doing that level of study, in Vis Arts, nup that rarely happens… Oh but go ahead and prove me wrong.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
“These photographs are meaningless.” Gee Einstien thanks for that, glad you have diplomacy skills (not!) I had a giggle, he got a few mouthfuls from the crowd, the odd ooh and ahh (negatively) for that. (There goes that pendulum swinging between EM – NM again… If you don’t watch it it will knock you over…

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
Sheesh! I wish I could decide and get on with it… I want it to pay it’s way, I want people to hang the works, I want to have a gallery say “more, more, MORE!” But for all the right reasons.

Your work seems to cover a range of stylistic diversions, thoughts, concepts?
Hmm yep, I like lots of things, so from a Mandala, a DNA type image, dappled light, war and harm, landscape, pure abstraction I like it all (and then some), so for me to explore all these things is great, the big thing is I have come back to art later in life and don’t have too many pressures of galleries saying I need to be consistent etc. Anyway I don’t stand too solidly by the consistency theory, I am more “art for art sake” than commercially viable, but I always struggle to handle that, perhaps it’s a response to not being represented (yet) and I am covering my lack of confidence, but then I also have forces working on the idea of “but if it’s got a decorative nature to it it will sell better? Am I looping yet?. What was the question?

If you have been working as an artist for a while, how do you feel about earlier works that are in people’s collections / ownership?
Fine, there is one piece I would like back it’s too good to be out in public/private hands… the guy that had it died so I hope his partner kept it. It’s a red scupltural piece that hangs on the wall with imagery and a waxed parcel of photocopies… I t freak my mum out as it has me wearing a blindfold holding up a mirror, she was spooked by it, so much so I had to take it off my wall at home.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
A photo book on Eugene Atget with Poems by Marcel Proust, I loved that book, it was $75 about 25 years back I read it cover to cover in two days and drooled over the photo’s… Images by Ansel Adams did the same thing, hey should I mention these guys as artistic influences or whatever? Oh and there was a photo book shop in Melb where I tried to buy $150 worth of books and I did not have that much on my credit card, it was hard to only get $50 worth, I had to choose! gee that was hard.

Shaun Tan’s books are a visual delight, they are worth a look and of course “Re-Imagine” by Tom Peters, the man is a legend in business management circles and yess ALL of it relates to art, the pasion for the subject, the passion for design, etc, it’s all there.

One other book that also stands out is by Dr David McLelland on Human Motivation, Brilliant!

Tell us about your studio environment.
At the moment I have a tight little garage space my wife wants back for the car… grr. Low light, crap space no room for much storage, but I am lucky I now want to do smaller works (rolls his eye’s).

Is your work process fast or slow?
Yes it can be. (rolls his eye’s again) But I don’t do nearly enough work, like a lot of artists I run out of room, (hey wanna buy a painting, give an old artist some more room to create?) I would like to be really prolific, but I start looping about, it goes like this… “I have to but I can’t, I can but do I want to?” repeat… Grr! again… (Steve fidgets a bit and says) So yeah it’s a conundrum, (He’s now jiggling one leg up and down rather fast, an almost nervous twitch.) So I would like to have a great situation, you know, someone supplies the canvas and the paint and I paint, or draw, or photograph, but I figure right… I would probably procrastinate,s o there is something about the struggling artist bit that makes things interesting.

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you?
How can it not be? Devil be gone! But he keeps coming back, tortures the soul the prick, and if there is a god I think he (or it?) is in cahoots with the devil, they play good cop bad cop all the time, as to why they have singled me out is another thing.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?
Yes, how can it not be… (Did I say that already?) cathartic might be a response here, see the Otto Dix statement. I am interested in how at can open dialogue between people, not that this happens much (or enough), but when it does “Watch out!” case in point when a work on a wall in a home causes a discussion and it goes back and forth for 20 mins + then that is a good thing, even if the discussion is an argument.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
Deep in contemplation, no disruptions please and keep your ideas to yourself, nice that you might like it but rack off while it’s being developed.

When you get the urge to create art because something has “pushed your button/s” how compelling is it for you?
Try and stop me, it’s a hassle though, you can be a squillion miles away from the studio or your camera grr! Ever notice how many photo’s you see without a camera?

What is more important to you in your work, content or technique, concept or product?
Concept, I see it as the foundation the rest is built on, no idea, no art. End product is vital (as proof you made art).

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?
Never, it’s harder and very competitive, mind you the teachers did say that, we never belived a word of it though.

Do you connect with other art mediums and styles?
Yes lots, but printmaking and drawing (all sorts) is of perhaps deeper interest. I would like to get back into mono prints, they can be so rich, deep and alluring.

You just said it’s competitive, who are you competing with?
Myself mainly, but the big bad world of art has fresh faced graduates coming out and older ones stepping up, and mature ones coming back, and not enough galleries to go around, hey they should put a limit on how many artists there are… grr. (Rolls his eye’s and giggles.)

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” with the aim of being seen in the future as an artist that really made their mark in art history?
I wish… Masterpieces would be good, oh and how would you measure that?

What are you currently working on?
Did some pen and ink works to explore where I am at with my general imagery and concepts, it became a bit of an evolutionary process. I want to do more, some mono prints would be good, my latter paintings are very light so working in Black and white has been useful to break the bonds that provides.

You didn’t include any of the drawings or photo’s in the images for this interview, reason?
Go check them out in the album on the website (link at top), the drawings are all about exploring ideas and notional concepts of possibility, I guess they are not finished art works as such, hmm then again? the photo’s are a mix of things that interest me and a quick grab of things of value, I am so fortunate to be able to paint and photograph, draw and do whatever with all of it. My early photo’s are black and white (not on the website yet) are strongly contrasted against the colours and flightiness of the paintings and drawings.

Your blog is different from other artists blogs, how come?
Well It’s interesting, It started out as a resource to assist teachers to teach without having too, send the students here and let them do some “trawling” for resources, especially art theory at VCE level, but now the interviews have taken off and some great feedback too. I also have some web experience in other blogs and forums and have coupled that experience together and used it here, my web guy is right, he says content is king, so on start up I whacked up a bunch of articles and just kept going. So by the time people got here it looked well established, and in Blog terms it is.

Other artists start a blog to tell the world about their journey, but in essence who cares? (cynical is another trait of mine, so sorry if I have offended…) and in google search terms the idea is to keep it active and humming, many run out of things to say, many don’t have it as their home page and jump on it to chat to the world, many don’t even know how many people look at it, so after a while their interest wanes. Pity really so much that could be said, so little time.

Watch out for a fresh development a sister site (hey how come we don’t say a brother site?) with art activities and this site to have the gritty interviews etc.

Your work other than art is training and development based, how does that fit into the picture?
Well the idea was as an art student to make money making art. Then reality set in, over the years I have done a lot of things and one of the things I found I was good at was training people, so the stuff I do is about leadership, Innovation (creativity had to creep in there somewhere!) and communication. I use a lot of creative approaches to teach people, that means fun, that means more info shared effectively. Quick example of a creative training approach, I have used with groups a simple exercise to stimulate left and right brain, mind mapping and so on.

One of these activities is a physical one where you do a lot of “cross over” exercises, I coupled this with a mirroring and matching exercise build around building rapport. The end result after a few goes is a fantastic mix of the whole lot that had innovation classes with people taking the exercises to a new level and it became very 3D! (think twister with a twist.)

Oh and don’t forget the handyman stuff… problem solving all the time.

Thanks for your time Steve, Your welcome Steve, now how about a beer? Is that recorder still on? (click…)

“Hey here’s a photo of me as a kid… Interested?” No Steve it’s not professional… “Oh go on, it will add some ‘human interest’!”  Oh okay if you insist.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Peter Biram

Peter Biram is an oil painter from Gembrook in Victoria who considers himself to be an environmental Expressionist, he is a contemporary artist who paints landscapes and portraits with equal gusto. Peter says he has been making art all his life and hopes to do so in his next life as well. Peter’s website showcases his works, blog, depth of media exposure, and exhibitions.

You are passionate about art, what about other areas of your life?
I have two passions in my life, Art & Art Education. Over the past fifteen years I have worked in Visual Art education, I have been placed into the frustrating position of having to continuously justify the value of the arts and arts education. At present there is a move in the United States recognising the value of the ‘creative industries’ and the value that in turn, contributes to the economy. I can only hope that rubs off here. Of course I am also passionate about my family, very supportive friends and the many students I have the pleasure of working with, some of whom have become personal friends and emerging contemporary artists as well.

What do you want to tell us about your background?
Born in 1959 studied Visual Arts at G.I.A.E. (now Monash University) where he graduated in 1981 with a Diploma in Visual Arts. In the years since I have continued study, which now includes a Graduate Diploma in Education, a Bachelor of Education and a Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts (Painting). In the 1980’s I worked as a photo-journalist which lead to the position of News Camerman with Channel 10 in Melbourne. In 1989 I began my teaching career as Photography teacher at Monash Universtiy (part time). In 1994 I moved to Gipps TAFE in the Latrobe Valley where I am currently teaching a range of Art subjects in the Art, Design and Mulitmedia Department.

Since becoming an art teacher I have had several exhibitions featuring a body of work exploring the ‘sublime in landscape’. Within this context the work also explores how humankind interacts with the natural environment, paying special attention to the ‘order and chaos’ that exists within the natural world. At the moment I enjoy the combination of both working as an artist and teaching.

How about your art?
I draw my inspiration from the Australian bush and express this love in the bright fresh application of colour. I prefer to paint with my hands and fingers, to feel the tactile quality of the painting process. I am also also a portrait painter, and a regular entrant in the Archibald Prize, I am currently working on a body of work exploring the theme of ‘land ownership’ and ‘usage’ within an environmental framework. This relationship includes traditional and non-traditional interaction with the land. Within this theme I am exploring the fine balance that exists in the natural environment.
My work reads on several layers-
Mark making
On this level the viewer processes the work on a surface level, that is to say the paint texture and colour of the work. The work at this level can be read in decorative terms.

At this level the viewer reads the work as a landscape, within this framework the observer can interpret the geometric forms as pure decoration.

Conceptual Narrative
This current body of work exploring the theme of ‘land ownership’ and ‘usage’ within an environmental framework. This relationship includes traditional and non-traditional interaction with the land.

For example, within this theme of land ownership I am exploring the pressure that is placed on the land in an environmental sense both in a western/ European standpoint (the ‘Triangle’) and the koorie perspective, (the dots).

Within this theme I am exploring the fine balance that exists in the natural environment. This is to say “Order & Chaos” found within nature and the balance of power shifting between the two states. The composition is deliberately broken into two sections symbolizing the two states of chaos & order, the fine balance of nature is placed under pressure re land “caretakership”. Within this framework I have explored both contemporary ownership symbolized by the triangle in the bottom half of the composition. (from a European standpoint) The ‘hard edged’ nature of the triangle also represents past civilizations (the pyramids of Egypt) this presents a symbol of ‘land ownership’ in the sense of  ‘branding’ the land.

I choose the triangle/pyramid shape because of its direct contrast to the soft organic nature of the bush motif. This also symbolizes human kind’s influence on the natural landscape. The two triangles “together” also read as a symbol for a ‘blackhole’ within the context of a universe the top triangle is a symbol for Steve Hawking’s theory on the ‘Dual Universe’. I use this as a metaphor for “Order & Chaos” and how one juxtaposes one against another, that is to say, as human beings our nature is to explore, from a ‘micro’ level, our backyard, to a ‘macro’ level our universe.

With ‘exploration, comes responsibilities re, the balance of the natural environment vs exploitation.
In this particular painting, “He who explores” I am expressing the impact human kind imposes on the land, this work is an extension from a previous work “The Human Landscape”. In this work I explore the impact that humankind expresses on a “VISUAL” Level, for example, the visual impact that thousands & thousands of kilometres of roads that crisscross this nation. Also the road and the vapour trail in the sky is used as a direct symbol of EXPLORATION Of our land, or in other words the taming of the “wilderness”, this vapour trail is also a symbol of ‘modernity’ and how our attention turns to the sky for the next evolution of – He who explores.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a portrait of’ bud’ Tingwell for the 2009 Archibald prize.
I previously been accepted in the 2005, 2006,2007 Salon Des Refuses, am hoping that next year ‘Bud” will do it for me.

The Archibald is about controversy and I love it, because we can criticise it.
That’s what I love about being Australian, we like having a go at the establishment and while I worship the Archibald – and would worship it even more if I won it – it should be able to stand up to criticism. An artist’s job is to act as a commentator on what’s happening. I think most artists feel the same way as I do (about the Archibald Prize) but if they feel they’re being gagged then they’re not doing their job.

Why are you an artist?
Because I don’t have a choice

What is your earliest memory of art?
Grabbing a can-opener and gouging an image into my parent’s bed head

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Going Solo… Ursula Theinert

It’s not every day you get a chance to explore the behind the scenes efforts of artists, as they do their “bit” to add to the cultural landscape and provide us with their unique insights into the world from their creative standpoint. So here is a “diary” of setting up a show by Ursula Theinert, who’s first solo show is at a public gallery in large country town, blessed with a great regional gallery. So lets follow part of her journey as events unfold, I hope you enjoy this as much as I have. Oh and see her own website by following her link in the artists links to the right below for more images of the show.

Steve Gray


This is an insight into the last few days of my first solo exhibition. I am going to include a short introduction and then a series of photographs and diary entries that show the sequence of events that lead to the attainment of one of the important goals, which artists set for themselves.

At the time of submitting my proposal to the gallery, on 25/4/07, I only had the concept, which was, to address the hidden problems of forest management. My focus was going to be on pine plantations to highlight the plantations of an alien species of trees which covers thousands of hectares of land, insidiously effecting the environment. I wanted to reveal that under the canopy of perceived green there is a veritable desert of pine needles affecting the habitat of our native flora and fauna.

I intended to express the landscape in human terms, as a living entity, in order to heighten passion and empathy.

The gallery took me on good faith and I worked very hard to complete the series of paintings. This personal journey culminated with the exhibition opening night on the 24th of October, 2008. It has been a very rewarding experience and one that I will to share with you through my diary.
Having created the works I was now in the final planning stages, on the weekend before the set up day 21/10/08, I made a list of the final jobs that needed to be done.


I typed up and printed my labels and then pasted them to the back of all my works on paper and canvas.

I then needed to find enough “D” rings to attach to the back of all the canvases. I also checked that all the edges of the canvases were clean, and painted them white. I also decided to measure and mark the distances for hanging just above the “D” rings so that the set up day would go smoothly. I used the formula :-
A divided by 2 +B – C = D
A = The height of the work.
B = The height from the floor to the centre line of the work, which is 1500mm.
C = The distance from the top of the work down to the top of the “D” ring.
D = The height from the floor to where you should place the hanging system.


I had an interesting wood sculpture that was a little unstable but I wanted to include it in the exhibition. So I went on a hunt around the back of our old workshop and found a beautiful rusty old piece of forged steel, which I think is part of an old railway line. It was used to go under the railway track which is then fixed onto the sleeper. It was perfect for the sculpture “Time Warp”, and after a great deal of wire brushing and hitting rust off with a hammer, and then oiling, it looked wonderful. Two holes were drilled through the steel and attached to the sculpture. All I needed to do then was to re-sand the sculpture and oil it. This was followed by a buff and polish and it was ready!


I had 16 paintings to pack into the van. Eight of them were framed and all were about 750 x 1000mm, so they were quite heavy. They went down first and then the four 1500 x 1200mm canvases, followed by the three 1000 x 2.200mm canvases. My handy commuter van has plenty of storage space. I could even put the small canvas at the end of the bay.
I almost forgot my sculpture. I wrapped it up and strapped it into the seat with the seat belt. Finally, all the packing was done along with a bag full of trifolds, business cards, and a visitor book. I also had an additional list of measurements, cleaning cloths and glass cleaner. I was a little nervous about the set up day and I wanted to be organized and look as professional as possible!

21/10/08 – SET UP DAY!
I didn’t sleep well that night. My husband, Werner, and I arrived at the Latrobe Regional Gallery at about 9.30 a.m. and had a coffee at the gallery coffee shop “So Swish”. We then got to work and were pleasantly surprised that some of the gallery staff helped us unload the van and get the work into the gallery space. They told us that there was a shared “set up day” with Monash University Gippsland Campus – Magistery Exhibition. I was also going to have a joint opening with this exhibition! This exhibition would have works from past and present art lecturers, and so they would not be able to help me set up that morning and would install my works either later that day or the next morning. All I had to do was to unwrap the works and decide on the placement along the walls. That job was easy especially when my friends and fellow artists were there to help me.

After the placement was decided all I had to do was to revise me list of works to help the gallery staff amend the copy that I had emailed them earlier. I also wrote down some additional instructions e.g. I needed two plinths – one for the sculpture and one for the trifolds, business cards and visitor’s book.

It was lovely to have Kerrie, Leonie (artists and dear friends) and Werner, my photographer, share this day with me. It was a great support and made the day a lot of fun. We all enjoyed a cup of coffee and a chat afterwards. I decided to come back the following day just to check that all was well. And of course the gallery staff did a super job!


It was very exciting to have the opening of the exhibition finally arrive. It was a joint opening and there was a large crowd and a wonderful atmosphere. Paul Holton welcomed everyone and then gave the opening speech for my exhibition – I had butterflies and a smile from ear to ear! Tony Hanning then gave his speech which was followed by the guest speaker for the Magistery exhibition Professor Helen Bartlett, who is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Monash University Gippsland Campus. It was a grand affair!! How fortunate for me to be part of this special opening night.

After the speeches people went up to Gallery 6 and my exhibition. I was very happy to see the many friends, family and fellow students coming along to support me. It was also pleasing to see so many unknown faces in the crowd too.

I felt so fortunate to have my teachers, Peter Biram and Chris Myers, who have always been so encouraging and inspiring, to be at the exhibition. And my son James, who flew down from Cairns to share that special night with me.

Just to show you the beautiful space at Latrobe Regional Gallery.

The whole experience of exhibiting at LRG was enriching, and one that I wouldn’t have missed for anything! The exhibition space is beautiful, and the staff were professional and helpful.

It is a challenging journey to strive to be an artist and it extremely important to be surrounded by talented, stimulating and encouraging people. I recognize that I have been extremely fortunate to have so many wonderful and kind people supporting me and they have all played a part in making one of my dreams come true.

Do you have questions for the Artist? Go to the comments section at the bottom of this post and ask away.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Australian Artist