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Erika Gofton who was interviewed earlier in the blog is in this show opening Feb 4th

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Sue Ninham

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Sue Ninham Is from Adelaide South Australia, you can find her website at www.sueninham.com

Sue says she has always been making art,”I was an illustrator for about 18 years and then started to paint in 2002, my work is mainly watercolours and oils, my style is basically abstract”.

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
I am a mother and a teacher of Graphic design at Uni SA….I am also a Surf Life Saver ( Not that we have any surf! )

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
I find this one hard! It is personal in that it is intuitive. I am not trying to SAY anything. My work expresses how I am feeling and it is for anyone who is interested in Knowing.

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What are you currently working on?
I am working purely in watercolour at the moment, exploring the life of a character that has started to emerge from the abstraction…Surplus Man. I am working very freely and cutting up the works that ‘ don’t work ‘ , shuffling them and sticking them together again. They are studies for future large works, ( maybe in oil ). I love the fact that I don’t really know!

What fascinates you?
Not knowing where I am going…the anxiety of being creative. 1950’s design and art….pure abstraction…human beings…and watercolour ( you never know what it is going to do )

One word or statement to describe your current works?
They are positive.

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Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works…
This character, Surplus Man, keeps cropping up. Mostly he is an observer of humanity. Sometimes he is escaping, sometimes he is the rescuer, sometimes he is angry. Surplus is too much of something, but the flip-side of that is that it also can mean there are leftovers. Mostly Surplus Man is separate from the rest. He is wise because of his alienation.

Why are you an artist?
I have an urge to do it and it brings me joy.

How did you get into art?
I have always drawn. I chose to be an illustrator, and enjoyed it immensely, but the restriction of deadlines and briefs frustrated me and I always wished I was painting what I wanted to paint. It didn’t satisfy the urge.

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How important is art for you?
Incredibly! I have a family, which tempers what could be an addiction and keeps me on planet earth! If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t know when to stop. When I am making art I lose myself a bit and I love the moments when it all comes together, mostly when there is no thought in it. Sometimes it can make my heart race.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
The fact that it is never repeated (perhaps I should qualify that…GOOD visual art).  It doesn’t matter how many people are doing it and for how long we can never repeat anything we have done. The results are dependant on so many variables!!

Your art education was…?
I have a Bachelor of Design… no formal visual arts education.

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The craziest thing you did at art school was…
Crack a huge litho stone as I rolled it through the press. It wasn’t deliberate but in the history of the printmaking department, no-one had ever managed to do it. I wasn’t a rabble rouser, we left that up to the visual arts students. It was the height of punk and they were so good at it!!

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
My education was fantastic. I was at the Underdale campus of what is now the Uni of SA. I was there between 79 and 83 and it was free ( as in gratis )!! We were still the beneficiaries of Gough Whitlam and Don Dustan’s enthusiasm for the Arts. We had 24 hour access to the best equipment and facillities imaginable. We had a whole day of life drawing each week for god’s sake!! The teachers were on the whole inspiring, but it was the freedom that was the real educator.

Have you always been interested in art?
Yes apparently from the word go.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
Every time the work is hung in an exhibition, I have the same buzz. It is always an amazing experience, terrifying  but amazing. Sometimes you sell well, sometimes it is slow, but always it is satisfying to see the culmination of months of work, on show for people to experience. Usually I have already moved on creatively, but I am still attached emotionally and the context of a shiny gallery, lifts the work somehow.

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What is your earliest memory of art?
I was brought up a catholic and I guess my first memory is of the paintings in our church of the stations of the cross and the bleeding statues. I know it isn’t high art, but in the mind of a child it is art of some kind. I spent a lot of hours scrutinising them. They were quite gruesome and fascinating. I was brought up in Sydney and also remember playing on the Henry Moore sculpture outside the Gallery of NSW!!!! Maybe that was the beginning of my love for Modernism.

Do you remember your first painting or artwork?
Yes. I entered a painting into a local art competition in Eastwood, Sydney when I was probably 8 or 9. I won a prize and the work was hung… That was it for me!

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Absolutely! There are no artists in the family, but my mother especially always made sure there was plenty of paper and pencils around. Apparently I was pretty persistent about it. Whenever there was doubt on my part as I got older, (usually triggered by the pressures of the school system…art was always treated as a playtime subject! ) my parents encouraged me.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Yes. Sydney was my hometown. My father is an adventurous, curious man and we were always exploring the place we lived in. Not in an obvious way though. He would take us to places that were off the beaten track. It was the sixties and early seventies and Sydney was probably fairly conservative. He would take us on excursions to eat crumbed prawns in Chinatown, walks through Waverley cemetery, family Italian restaurants in Leichardt, The Domain to hear people rant from their soapboxes. I think his curiosity in humanity rubbed of in me in a creative way.

What or who inspires your art?
Miro, Motherwell, Rothko, Picasso, O’Keefe, Hockney, Crowley, Basquiat.  Architects also, Neutra, Eames. There are others, but they are the main ones.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I have always loved to paint in watercolour, a much maligned medium. I love the riskiness of it. Once it is on the paper, that’s it! It generally has a habit of behaving the way IT wants to. I also love its clarity. Oils are a totally different medium. I find them more challenging. I use them because of the intensity of colour. I am still learning!

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Yes. My work gets looser and braver as the years go by.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
I think it is when you stop worrying about sales and the approval of EVERYONE on the planet and you paint entirely to please yourself!

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
The big change for me came when I stopped planning the works as thumbnail drawings, transferred to the canvas and began about a year ago to paint straight onto them with absolutely no image in my mind. This has meant that the process has become more intuitive.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Mostly I don’t have a problem. Sometimes I find I can’t “see”  the paintings anymore and I can  become fixated with the detail. When this happens I get stuck and can become frustrated. I usually move onto a new work or leave the studio until the next day. I never lack inspiration.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
The intensity of them does.

Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening ad how do you work with these?
I might jot them down in a sketch book, take a photo with my phone, print something off the net or spend time in the Uni SA library which has a treasure trove of Arts related books. I record them some how.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
Less than it used to be.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
It’s so difficult…I think it is the act and then result of physically recording very personal feelings.

Have you had any commissions?
A couple. I don’t tend to do it because I feel like I did when I was illustrating…the same restraints exist.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Hugely important. Generally it is lacking in painting at the moment.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
Yes. I share a studio with 11 others and I have many friends who are artists. We support one another.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
I am taking time off from exhibiting in 2009 to push my oil painting technique in a new direction.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
No, not really. Working as a freelance designer for so long, I am used to deadlines and am therefore pretty disciplined. I plan my time very carefully.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
I find it very difficult to put concepts into words. The way I work it changing all the time. The hours I keep are dictated by my children’s routine and when the uni year is in full swing, by my teaching schedule. Generally I am in the studio at 9am and on a a good day will be able to leave at 5. I usually have a number of works on the go. I find that I just get straight into it. Sometimes I will spend time drawing if I am stuck on a painting or if it really isn’t happening, I will go to see an exhibition for inspiration. I also love to spend time in a good newsagent pouring through art, design and fashion mags, to see what is happening NOW. Subject matter is constantly changing also. Because I paint form , shape and colour, it is very intuitive and I might begin to make work that has sprung from a sub-conscious reaction to something I have seen that morning, or the colour of the clothes someone in the studio is wearing. I don’t know where it has come from until some time later when I retrace the day.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
In 1998 I went to Sumatra, Indonesia for six weeks, as part of an Artists working retreat. A group of us lived and worked in a hut on the edge of Lake Maninjau. I had never spent such a concentrated time making art. I came home absolutely convinced that I wanted to paint full-time.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Phew!  That is so tough. I think it would have to be a painting by David Hockney. Any of his Californian pool series would do. Ever since Art school, I have loved his work. The pool series has always fascinated me. I love water with a passion, being in it, the ways it bends light, the rhythms of it. It is incredibly difficult to paint and draw, but Hockney did it . I love the way he didn’t copy it, he captured it. I also love how he managed to do it through the eyes of a Northern Englishman who had fallen in love with LA.These works are optimistic.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
Hockney, for the reasons discussed. Robert Motherwell, because of his work’s masculine freedom and power. Georgia O’keefe, because her work is secretive.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?
I am not sure what a “Big Break” is. Surely it is shifting all the time. The bar is always being raised.  I guess it would be the first time a gallery was prepared to give me a show.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
I find the gallery system a struggle. It is a whole hurdle on its own. It is one thing to make the art that being the easy, enjoyable part!), finding the right gallery or galleries for my work is the thing I struggle with most. A needle in a haystack!

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
On and off.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
Sometimes I paint over them. A couple, haven’t benefited from that and sit in my studio, face against the wall.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?
I listened to everything they said. I had wonderful Teachers I respected them enormously, and still draw on their advice.

Do you have a personal philosophy, which underpins your work?
Exploration.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
Neither. I follow “rules” that I know work. They are almost applied at a subconscious level, so often I am not aware that I am following them… within that I “just create”.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?

I admit I don’t do a lot of research. I have my antennae up all the time as I find observation works best. Sometimes research is required, when I want to delve deeper. I go to the library, comb magazines, visit exhibitions.

Musical influences?
I love to work with music playing. I have an i Pod which I hook up to speakers or I used ear phones if I think I am going to drive the artists around me crazy! I have very eclectic taste and my mood dictates my choices on the day. The stuff that gets a hammering….Be Bop jazz, Radiohead, Reggae, Salmonella Dub, Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Bjork, Doors, White Stripes, Bowie.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
I really find it very difficult to articulate because I don’t see it that way. Because I was not taught to paint in an Art school, I also haven’t been taught to explain my work. I know people want this from artists, but I only seem to find it achievable when I am standing in front of a particular work of mine. I can then use it as a reference point. I usually remember the journey I went on with it. It’s a bit like looking at a family snap, and remembering where you were, who was there, whether you had a good time or not!

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 they will get it. Because the work is abstract, people sometimes” get it” and then some. They bring their meaning to it also. This always amazes me, especially if they are able to tell me about it.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
HUGELY

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
The emotional struggles I may have experienced whilst making it.

What can you tell us about your creative development process?
If I am working towards an exhibition I usually have an idea or theme that I explore in all the works. This unites them visually, which can be important for a show. If, as is the case at the moment, I am painting with no deadline, I make as much work as I can. I am painting in watercolour at the moment, which is quick. I am finding that I am painting whatever comes into my head and the individual works converse visually with one another as I have them laid out around me. These conversations sometimes trigger new works as a reaction.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?
Definitely elation.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
None of those words really fit but if I HAD to use one of them… experiment.

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…
It is. When I am making it I am exploring MY human condition.

About significant moments in your life, the sort of things that changed things for you forever… perhaps altered your Art… Who how why what and where…?
I think having children did for me. They have made me realize how life moves very quickly. I had always wanted to paint but was too afraid. After kids I decided to face the fear head on. I didn’t want to be left wondering.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
Yes. It defines me.

What discourages you from doing art?
Nothing any more. I have had a lot of disappointment with it in the last couple of years, usually at the hands of some galleries, but it has made me even more resilient. I care less about being accepted, less “grateful” for the work being liked. I don’t mean that I am not happy when it is, just that I don’t need it as much as I used to.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
Oh Yeah!!! I struggle with this a lot. I am getting better, but I am one of those who tend to over work paintings. I worry them to death sometimes!!

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
Sometimes I love them. I have fun with it. Sometimes I have reservations. They can tend to dictate to the viewer what the work is all about, when you really would rather they made up their own mind. This is a particular problem with abstract work I feel.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work you want to share?
With my watercolours I would like people to know that the much-maligned medium is sublime! It is affected by so many external variables. The weather, the paper you use, how wet it is. You never really know how it is going to behave… It’s dangerous!

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
I don’t really know what that means. Some measure it by how much money they are making. Others by who agrees to open their show. I guess my criteria would be that I love every moment I spend doing it, and that it brings pleasure to some.

The value of Visual Arts to you is…
I can’t measure it. It is invaluable.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
I sought the gallery out, showed them images of my work and they decided to take me on.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?
It was a very good experience (apart from them nerves).  The work was hung well, I had a crowd at the opening and I made sales.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
It is challenging for me, I have my website and I try to get press when I can. I tend to let the work do the work. This means that I do not have a very obvious profile, but I really think that you have to do it in a way you are comfortable with. If success and recognition take longer to achieve, I can accept that. I have thought about employing a PR company, which a lot of artists I know do, but maybe after I have worked through this phase that I am in with my work.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
Opening night of a solo show in Sydney, before the guests and I had arrived, someone who was driving past the gallery, stopped and dashed in to buy one hanging in the window! Such a spontaneous reaction, was a thrill for me.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?
A bit. Mostly when people I know have bought them. When I set up my website “stranger” were able to contact me. Most galleries I have worked with will not let you know who has bought your work, so it ends there!

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
I haven’t had one.

Metaphors, analogies, symbols, stories, how important are they to your work?
Symbols are. As a trained designer, I use them a lot.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
A bit of both.

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?
I still like them. I can see how far I have come, but I am still pleased to see them. I don’t cringe like some artists do. They represent who I was at the time, I don’t regret them.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
A number of them. I have some amazing books that I refer to in my studio. The one that is most worn is one about 1950’s design and architecture. I don’t know the title.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
I get this from time to time from visual Arts trained people, usually of a certain age. I think my design background is not seen as weighty enough. Who knows, It used to upset me, but it really comes back to the whole “get it” question. They probably don’t get it.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?
Great space. It is probably too small, but the light is fantastic and the ceilings are very high It’s in a grand old building in the centre of Adelaide. There are about 12 people sharing the top floor, we each have a partitioned or walled space to work in.

What would you say are the top three things that make you successful as an artist?
Being able to exhibit in galleries in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Making work, which people other than myself want to have and the desire to do it till I drop! .

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…
I have looked up the word to be really sure of it’s meaning. It is too negative a word to describe how I feel about my art. It is not an expulsion for me, it is an outpouring.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?
Sometimes it is. Sometimes I can be in a dark place within and making art can pull me out of it.

Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?
In my present studio they do. Summer is particularly difficult. For example, I won’t be able to work this week as we have three days of 41 C and then four of 35 C forecast. There is no insulation and now cooling in our building. Apart from the physical discomfort, the watercolour will dry faster than I can paint it.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
Always one of my intensions. The people who have my works and speak to me about it retrospectively say that they are always finding new  reactions to  the work.

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?
My husband would say I am neurotic!!!! My kids say that talk about it too much. Some friends say I am disciplined. Almost everyone says I shouldn’t be so hard on myself!!!

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I love sculpture, music and film.

When you get the urge to create art because something has “pushed your button/s” how compelling is it for you?
Very, but I can’t drop everything and dash in to the studio if it happens when I am out and about or at home. I might have to record the idea somehow.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Music usually and fresh air.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
I am a purist.

What or how do you respond to the term “starving Artist”?
I haven’t starved yet. I think that most artists know  that you need to have a job outside your art to cover costs and get through the day to day stuff, until you are making enough money to support yourself. I think the starving artist thing doesn’t happen any more. Most artists these days see making art as a career and work very hard marketing themselves.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you that might be connect to your art?
The things I see on the news. There is plenty there and it keeps on happening. Unfortunately a lot of it angers me, but sometimes there is news that inspires optimism in my work.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?
I want to get to the point in my practise where I am confident with both.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
I have to work during school, working hours. Occasionally I will work on a weekend. Never at night.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
I have grown wiser and more confident…slowly.

How do you think art can change people or their perceptions?
Not all art can. At with a political message can. Art that pulls ideas and images together in a way that people are not used to seeing can. Art that uses shock can sometimes do it. Some people are very open-minded when viewing art, some will not allow anything to change their minds…especially art.

Have you won any awards?
Yes. I recently won a national watercolour prize.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
I tend to shun the limelight.

Technology (websites and social networking sites to name a few) has become an important marketing tool for many industries and individuals, what are your thoughts from a “You Inc” perspective and your art sensibility.
I think that websites are great because I can cast the net wide. I haven’t been very active with this yet but plan to next year, with a new body of work behind me.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
As I do it. It is not always a relief, but an outpouring.

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?
That is never an intention. If it happened that way I wouldn’t mind!!!!

What is your working routine?
I listen to music often, not always. Sometimes I crave silence. I start at 9 and work til lunchtime. I usually sit with some of the other artists I share with and we chat about how our work is going that day or just life in general. I then work in the afternoon.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?
I love everything and hate nothing.

The problem with the art scene today is…
The new pressure to be successful. I think a lot of the galleries drive this, dropping artists as quickly as they have snapped them up if they are not selling. Also the reliance of some artists who are coming out of certain Art schools on “Art Speak” to support what they have made. Long dissertations on its meaning, which can only be understood by those who are “in the know” PHEW Am I going to cop it or what?

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
I know it is a cliché…be true to yourself, be tenacious, and have fun!!!

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
Not yet. If I do, the first place I drop in would be Frank Gearry’s  (sp? ) Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain…for the art of course, but mostly for the building. Then it would be to Palm Springs  and then LA to drive the neighbourhoods  looking at palm trees, signage, buildings diners…all designed in the 50’s!!!!

Edited and compiled by Steve Gray Contemporary Australian Artist © 2009+

Guy Porter

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Guy Porter lives in Sydney and has exhibited most recently at Breathing Colours Gallery in Balmain. His website is www.guyporter.org he has a newer work right here.

Teachers and Students; you can download a worksheet on Guy Porter’s interview here.

How long have you been making art?
Since early childhood – as long as I can remember!

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

Music.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Acrylic on canvas.

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Artist’s statement…
I would describe my paintings as post-modern in that they shamelessly synthesize various eclectic influences. These include abstract expressionism, comic art, and Asian art – particularly Tibetan and Japanese painting.

My paintings feature narratives, most of which arise from the subconscious. That is, I do not set out to try to consciously put forth a ‘message’ to the viewer. Instead I paint what comes to heart and very often the experience of the viewer grants me insight into the meanings of the paintings. I have always believed that the viewer’s interpretation of an artwork is valid and useful, even if it is not what the artist intended.

The contemporary art scene, both in Australia and abroad, is filled to the brim with conceptual ‘high’ art which has the tendency to alienate large portions of the population. In many ways, my work is a reaction against this trend. I hope that it can appeal to individuals of all ages and of all backgrounds.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
I am interested in the relationship between humans and animals. While humans are also animals, we dominate the planet to the detriment of the environment and other creatures. My paintings allude to the futile efforts of humans to subjugate other creatures, sometimes with comical results.

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What are you currently working on?
A painting called “Rock N Roll Dragon-Slaying”. It has 3 serpent-like Chinese dragons intertwining beneath a giant hibiscus tree. Around the edges are hundreds of little men playing drums, electric guitars.

What fascinates you?
The moon, stars, and that cosmic sense of being.

One word or statement to describe your current works?
Quirky.

Why are you an artist?
I can’t help it. It is like an itch. I just keep painting every day.

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How did you get into art?
I have always loved art. In high school I first decided that I wanted to be an artist and began drawing and painting to the exclusion of all my other subjects.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
It is limitless.

Your art education was…?
Chelsea School of Art, London 1995-1996
Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore 1996-1999
RMIT 1999 BA Fine Arts (Painting) – Distinction

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The craziest thing you did at art school was…
I made a parody of Damien Hirst’s preserved animals using soft toys and teddy bears.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
It felt like a hindrance at the time but ultimately it was helpful and I miss the art school environment.

Have you always been interested in art?
Yes.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Splattering paint on paper.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Yes.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Yes, I grew up in Singapore and I have been influenced by the various South East Asian cultures, which form a melting pot in that country.

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What or who inspires your art?
I was very inspired by my first art teacher in Singapore – Mr Teo Eng Seng. He is a renowned artist over there and is very eccentric. I learnt much from him about art theory, particularly about overcoming boundaries.

Was there a big turning point in your art journey that caused you to think that “it’s all worthwhile”, or “oh yeah I get it…”?
When people started buying my paintings in Australia.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I paint in flat colours. Matt acrylic is the perfect choice for this reason. It also dries quickly so I can work over the same area the same day. It is also water-based and less toxic and less malodorous than using oils with turpentine.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).
Yes. I’ve somehow managed to crystallize all my previous influences into my own style.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)
These days I’m more influenced by CG, digital, and fantasy art. I get more inspiration for painting from watching Lord of the Rings than by attending galleries.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
Both you and others enjoy your work.

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What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
I tend to see paintings in my mind in their completed form weeks or months before I start painting. I often make preparatory drawings but try not to get carried away otherwise the painting itself loses spontaneity. Sometimes I just write down an idea for a painting. In the past I would spend more time sketching and preparing to ‘execute’ the work. Things have loosened up since then. In this regard you could consider my paintings as drawings, which I have coloured in.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Yes.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
Yes.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
For me, it is more important to have clarity about simple concepts than complex ones. Complex concepts are best left to the subconscious and often emerge later once the work is completed.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
The twentieth century taught us that any attempts to define ‘Art’ simply provide an opportunity for someone else to try to break that definition. It is like a dog chasing its tail.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…
Yes, I’ve had several commissions over the last few months.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Very important, although the conceptual artists would disagree.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
A few. I have a friend in Pakistan who is a Stuckist artist (Asim Butt). I love his paintings and we correspond regularly. We’ve been talking about doing a collaboration.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
My next solo show will be at Breathing Colours Gallery, Balmain, from 3rd-14th June 2009. I’m currently working on several major paintings for the show.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Nope, I love it.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Rubbish. You can pick up your career at any stage.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Any hand-painted Tibetan tangka painting. A big influence on my work.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
My main struggle has been living as a nomad most of my life. I’ve lived in several different countries and have had to re-invent myself each time I move.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Not really but I have a sketchbook for ideas.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
I keep reworking them until they do.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?
I seem to have developed more as an artist by ignoring what my teachers and lecturers told me.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
Be true to yourself.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
There seems to be something of a taboo about having cartoonish characters in paintings in a fine art context. Some galleries have brushed me aside saying I’m an ‘illustrator’ or a ‘fabric designer’. People expect paint to be thrown at the canvas and it seems that pop art is the only acceptable way to introduce comic / cartoon type characters into a contemporary gallery. My work challenges this notion. The way I paint is the most effective means to convey what I want to say, and it really shouldn’t matter if stylistically it resembles ‘Where’s Wally’ or Leunig.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
I paint from imagination.

Musical influences?
Ravi Shankar, Tool, John Maclaughlin, Alanis Morrisette, Daft Punk, anything and everything, you name it!

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
Often viewers understand more about my paintings than I do. I don’t set out to try to communicate something.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
My aim would be to produce some sort of reaction in the viewer. If a painting communicates something specific then that would be an added bonus.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
How much hard work goes into painting the larger more detailed paintings!

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…
See above about trying to define art.

What discourages you from doing art?
Nothing at the moment.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
No.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
Not with my current methodology but it was an issue in the past, so I know how it feels.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
The title is actually very important for my paintings. Sometimes I rely on the title to throw the viewer off guard.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
For me, that point of creation where you put down the initial pencil sketch for your painting – that is sacred. The rest is just colouring in.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
I finally admitted to myself that I was an artist after years of self-doubt.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
This is challenging for me and I am endeavouring to improve in this area. It is not easy pricing paintings.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
When five different people wanted to buy a painting I had already sold.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?
Only if the painting was sold to a friend.

Metaphors, analogies, symbols, stories, how important are they to your work?
Each of my paintings has an underlying narrative. The narrative often evolves as I paint and the meaning often only becomes apparent once the painting is completed.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
Art for arts sake.

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?
I’m happy that they are being enjoyed somewhere by someone.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
To ignore them.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?
Too small at the moment, but I’m expanding it.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Fast for compositionally simple paintings, slow for compositionally complex paintings.

What would you say are the top three things that make you successful as an artist?
1) Painting what and how I want to paint,
2) Hard work,
3) Making art a process of giving as much as it is a process of self-gratification.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?
I do feel better about myself and the world after a long painting session, so yes, in that sense it is therapeutic for me. When my paintings make other people laugh, it becomes therapeutic for them too.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
I would agree with this. However, usually if people like something they will know it straight away. People buy paintings on impulse. Chasing someone who is ambivalent or is ‘thinking about buying’ is rarely a useful exercise.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I play guitar.

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 prefer to work alone.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Lots of light.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
My early work suffered from mixing materials around too much. These days I stick to acrylic, although I use whatever I can find that is the right colour and sometimes use emulsion paint for backgrounds.

What or how do you respond to the term “starving Artist”?
It is a cultural stereotype, you don’t need to starve to make good art.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you that might be connect to your art?
I am moved most by the behaviour of animals, particularly my cat and dog.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
The subject.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?
I combine a smooth painting technique with energetic expressive overall compositions.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
In the evenings, but I do make myself paint from early in the morning in order to stay productive.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
I used to be more egotistical – the paintings were all about me. Now I paint for other people.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?
Yes.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
I am coming out of my shell – I’m now looking for ways to bring my art to a wider audience.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?
From imagination.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
Current paintings are always on my mind – when they are finished it is a relief.

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?
The German philosopher Schopenhauer said that the hunger for fame was the last desire for the wise man to give up.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?
I like how being an artist makes you enigmatic.

The problem with the art scene today is…
Conceptual art.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Work hard.

Compiled and Edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Artist. © 2009+

Exhibition

A new exhibition Minuscule/Massive/En Masse opens Tuesday 27th January 6-8pm.

Mini/Massive/En Masse is a playful experiment based around Adrian Lawson’s text ‘Alley Cat Nomad’, an unpublished novel. The text, grammar and language of ‘Alley Cat Nomad’ is experimental, rythmic and unique and so too its bindings and reproductions should be rich with interpretation and play. In this exhibition the book will be shown in many different formats; blown up to a massive scale, shrunk into a 1000page miniscule book and stretched into a 20m concertina book.

We look forward to seeing you at the opening.
Exhibition runs until 28th Feb. Mon- Sat 12pm-5pm..
www.handheldgallery.blogspot.com

Cheers,

Megan Herring
Hand Held Gallery
Suite 18, Paramount Centre
108 Bourke Street
Melbourne, 3000
(03)9654 4006

Bruno Quinquet

Bruno Quinquet has been living in Tokyo since 2006, before this, he was in France where he was born… You can find more at his website www.brunoquinquet.com

brunoquinquet_selfportrait

Are you currently represented by a gallery?
No. I’m starting to work on this in Paris and Tokyo.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Photography. In the future, I will probably try to include sound in some of my work.

Herbarium Japonicum

How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?
I see my work as contemplative documentary with a conceptual and surrealistic touch.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
Messages, no. Connections with all that, definitely.

Herbarium Japonicum

A statement to describe your current works?
The Salaryman Project is a street photography series. It consists of diptychs of Japanese office workers. The core of the series relies on a reflection about the problems between candid street photography and portraits rights.
Herbarium Japonicum is a study of plants in Tokyo’s urban context. It is a more relaxed approach, using analog photography and kind of outdated darkroom techniques.
Window Shopping is a photo collage of Japanese private spaces.

How did you get into art?

As a child, I have been encouraged towards creativity, especially drawing. At home, I was exposed to art books, XXth century design and architecture. Between 20~40 years old, I’ve been working as a recording engineer and kept some time for personal projects. Turning 42, I started photography and that feels like a creative rebirth.

What or who inspires your art?
At the moment, I am inspired by Tokyo, the city where I live.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
The new possibilities of digital photography.

salarymanproject2008diptych02

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
The clarity of concept is very important to me, but it never comes from the start. It comes in the making, as a confirmation that my photo series works.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
I am more interested in the approach than the subject, be it plant, office worker, window or mailbox…For me, form defines the content. For each new series, I try to define a specific visual identity.

salarymanproject2008diptych071

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
Bacon, Rodchenko, Kraftwerk. Why? Why not?

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
I forget them for a while.

windowshopping04

Do you have a personal philosophy which underpins your work?
A contemplative approach to life.

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 the viewer will feel something. I aim for a graphically simple design that leaves interpretations open. But actually, it’s not about communication, it’s about seduction.

windowshopping05

Metaphors, analogies, symbols, stories, how important are they to your work?
They can feed my research work and give birth to new ideas.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
“Thank you”

windowshopping14

Is your work process fast or slow?
On the slow side.

Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?
They affect my subject matter. For the best.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process and you?
Definitely isolated.

Have you won any awards?
The salaryman project was nominated in 2008 at the New York Photo Awards and Voies Off photo festival in Arles, France.

Compiled and Edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Artist © 2009+

Bud, Pete and Archie…

One of our contributors, Artist and interviewee Peter Biram has again managed to get some PR exposure for his entry into this years Archibald prize, Well done Pete!

Tom Jarvis

Tom Jarvis Lives and works in London where he currently works with a group of artists called the DA! collective. You can see his website at www.tomjarvis.co.uk here is his interview…

We reside and exhibit in disused buildings around the slightly ostentatious part of town, Mayfair. My parents live in the South of France. I was brought up there until I was 13 years old, I return 2 or three times a year to get way. The pace of life there is pretty much at a stand still so it’s a nice contrast with busy London.

How long have you been making art?
Since I can remember really. I come from a family that has always had the arts around it. My grandfather was an artist the other had number of inventions to his name, my father a musician and my mother a dancer. My best work was created between the age of one and two using yogurt on a highchair!

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
From a young age I was given the opportunity to learn music due to my father’s musical background. Music was what enabled me to return to England on a combined music/art scholarship in 2002 and start a more creative education. I play the trombone and double bass and found myself having to decide whether it was something I wished to pursue professionally. Art College seemed much more appealing to me but I think it is important as an artist to have some way of stepping aside from one ones practice, a hobby. That’s where playing music comes in.

selfdistructingmachine1

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Kinetic installation is my primary area of interest but it very much depends on what I wish to achieve. Plywood is a base for most pieces.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
One gains from the experience what one wishes. I’m sure it does have “messages” buried somewhere, everything does. It is not my objective and I am certainly not intent on spelling them out.

tree-study-i-view-of-mechanism2

What are you currently working on?
For the last couple of years I worked combining design and science during my investigation towards element powered kinetic installation. Paying homage to the way nature’s elements play puppeteer to organisms on our planet, I am currently working on tree motion replicating devices that attempt to recreate the movement of trees blowing in the wind outside and, using various interfaces, communicated this motion inside onto a tree in a sheltered space, for example a gallery. I like the marriage of artistic uncertainty with scientific fact. I find they compliment each other in a way that can be very interesting.

What fascinates you?
At the moment I’m interested in how incapable I am at replicating what nature does so easily.

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
Using movement as a painter would use colour, I have found the 4th dimension to be a very expressive and fertile ground for exploration. My often simple devices can be seen as exploring the relationship between beings, natural matter and the impossibility of two unrelated living organisms moving in complete scientific harmony. Man and machine force this unfeasible task and inevitably fail.
These studies set out to obtain two living organisms moving in parallel, matching each other’s movements, the way a child clumsily imitates their elders as they learn; the way flocks of birds swoop and glide in harmony; or groups of fish darting when frightened. The core of my motion studies have been trees. My aim is to allow the environment to create its motion within a gallery space even tho these organisms are sheltered. In the past I have attempted this by giving trees outside and therefore affected by the elements the chance to puppeteer smaller gallery bound trees. The mechanisms that act as an interface for this interaction play an important part in the significance of the pieces. The machines are what make the two beings dissimilar. They force motion rather than invite it, causing the gesture to be distinguishably mechanical.

Why are you an artist?
I’m not. Most of the time I play the role of a scientist/designer who doesn’t intend on discovering anything groundbreaking. Only once my work reaches a gallery does it become “art” and I an artist.

tree-study-i

Your art education was…?
I studied Fine art to BA level. I can see why artistic education may work for some but in my case it was more about having access to a full workshop and the environment/atmosphere that envelops art faculties.

The craziest thing you did at art school was…
…probably not appropriate to say!

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
When exhibiting in squats there is a “double buzz”. One spends weeks locked away setting up, crafting our space, therefore on the opening night you are not only letting the public into see your work but also your home. It is as much about how we live in these incredible spaces as the work we create there. In installation I feel that is very important. The show starts from the moment you approach the building.

untitled-x

Do you remember your first painting or artwork?
I use painting for something utterly different than installation work. Going back to the hobby/release thing, I find it helpful as a visual release, although I don’t normally use much paint in my paintings. Mainly chemical reactions and wax polishes! My first hung painting was when I was about 10, my father made me two 150x100cm boards to “fill” so I did, using everything I could find in his workshop. That’s how I started the reaction paintings… when I was about 15 I mixed some very reactive chemicals and the whole thing blew up! Since then I have continued creating texture using all these wonderful chemicals as a way to stop obsessing over craftsmanship and straight lines in my sculptures.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Very much so, I’ve been very lucky. My parents admit not completely understanding the installation works but their house is full of my flat works, some of which continue to react to this day. It is always a shock coming back and seeing how the pieces change. They are all harmless, mainly salt formations. I do my research before hand!

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Of course. I think it must have for most people.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
It really does depend. Research takes time. Working with the elements is not easy. One constantly needs a plan B if there is no wind for example. I try to make tests in both climatic extremes so it can be very time consuming. Construction of the products themselves takes even more time. Especially when I don’t have access to a full workshop all the time.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
Concept is very important but none of the works would function if I made the product I saw in my minds eye prior to research. They evolve over time in my sketchbook and minor alterations take place right to the end.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
In my opinion a concept can only go so far. One relates to questions posed in concepts but we admire craftsmanship. A “wow factor”, although it is something I do not strive for is something often created by craftsmanship and not concept.

windmill-device

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?
In London it is very easy to get to openings and exhibitions, we normally go as a group and have lengthy debates on our way back.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
I am currently living surrounded by artists, musicians, designers, writers, we even have a philosopher with us. The building we are currently in is a great place for debate although I normally keep my work to myself during these talks. We have over 30 rooms so there is space to escape and get work done and large “conference” rooms where we will talk and have debates. It is ideal really. Creativity is everywhere so it’s great if you’re a painter, musician, writer but when conducting experiments and thus taking the role of a scientist I usually escape to somewhere quiet and hog all the tools for a couple of days!

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
I have started throwing ideas around for my first potential collaboration. It is slightly daunting for me as I have a very particular way of working. I think it may work if we both agree on an idea and allocate ourselves specific tasks then meet back in the middle. Having two perfectionists working together is bound to end in tears.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
It is if you don’t have any work to show. I once spent two weeks putting the finishing touches to a show I had up called Wind Influenced Tree Projection I. It involved a Windmill that registered the speed of the wind and communicated the data to a computer linked to a projector. The result was a video of a tree blowing in the wind, projected at the same speed the tree would be blowing if it were a real tree outside at that particular time.

The night before the private view I got it finished, only to find after a night of torrential rain and gale force winds the windmill was in bits on the roof of the gallery. I had 1 hour to reassemble what had taken me weeks to make. In those circumstances all you can do is plough on and put ones perfectionism aside. I got it finished, turned round to find a group of people standing, staring up at me on the gallery roof, the doors had opened 20 minutes prior to my completion and viewers seemed to think I was part of the piece. I’d never done performance before that!

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
That statement may well be true, but where does your education end as an artist? I think when you stop educating yourself as an artist you stops producing anything that would possibly qualify you as an active “artist”, so based on that, the statement is false. It’s a lot less time than that.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
A sketchbook of technical drawings and results of various tests. I also use computer aided design tools when finalising in order to facilitate the construction process.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
I do enough planning to make sure that when I enter the workshop I have a very clear idea of what I’m doing. If there are miss cuts it all gets reused. Ply isn’t cheap and although working with poorly cut angles takes time, it certainly saves money.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?
“You really should turn up for lectures”

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
There aren’t many rules to break.

Musical influences?
Music is an art form in itself and requires my undivided attention. I find it hard to hear what I’m thinking if music is playing.

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 would like the viewer to “get” what I’m doing if there is something to get for their own sake. I never describe the purpose of a piece because a lot of the pleasure as a viewer comes when you work it out for yourself. Beside the fact that my work has no real purpose what it does is never too complicated to work out, what it evokes is personal to the individual and therefore not “getting it” could be part of the experience for that particular person.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
As far as the non artistically aware viewer is concerned it is hard to break free from the way we view painting and sculpture. Although installations are often about the experience, they do not necessarily need to dictate a message or convey something already lived. It is frequently the question that is important whereas one finds oneself viewing landscape paintings (for example) in order to gain an answer. If the piece does so much as make the viewer dislike it, it has succeeded in provoking a judgment on their behalf and they have therefore “experienced” and most probably prematurely answered the rhetorical question. In these installations the viewer is as much a part of the work as the machines, whether they like it or not.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
Don’t take it too seriously.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
Don’t they all go hand in hand? Inventiveness, experiment, entertainment, in that order.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
If it was you would be able to tell.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
This question is very relevant to painting, I find whilst making kinetic works the completion is very clear.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
Most of my titles are very boring, “Tree Study I”, “Self Destructing Installation I”. I don’t like to give too much away as part of the experience is working it out for oneself.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
I’m very lucky to be part of a collective that gets a lot of coverage. We are a very old school bunch operating in a way you could imagine any “art squat” to be in the 60s. On top of that, the fact that we occupy multi million pound buildings in the most expensive part of town makes us a very appealing group to write about.  Our last show was covered by all the mainstream British newspapers, half a dozen art mags and even a Russian television company.

We have moved since then and a number have found us again still keen to document our lifestyle and work. Unfortunately, a lot of this attention is not always in view of pieces individually but more towards our way of life. We have now stopped dealing with mainstream media and are only inviting in specialized art mags as the novelty coverage of our daily life gives us too much of a big brother feeling, squatting is something people feel very strongly about so it is in the interest of our work to keep our lifestyle separate from our practice. We don’t want any trouble!

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
“I like it”

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
I watch a lot of documentaries online although one shouldn’t force creativity I find my mind much more active after having learnt something new.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
It is very hard to market installation art as there is no product to pay a sum for. It is in no way the reason I make work. I think if you wish to promote yourself as an installation artist you should approach the situation the same way a musician or actor would approach their career. Your name and repertoire is very important.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
“Thanks.”

Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?
I’m currently working with the motion created by trees. Obviously a tree with no leaves does not move as much as one with, so I work mostly with coniferous trees during the winter which makes locations hard to find.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a person’s attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
In my opinion a piece of work cannot be considered a piece of kinetic art unless its motion can be achieved repeatedly. For example dropping a pen on the floor would not qualify as it is a one off motion. I find continuous motion very therapeutic and I’m sure others do to and although it is not the reason for my work many people seem to like hanging around works operating in the fourth dimension. I think it is even more the case with the pieces dictated by the elements as they are so unpredictable and it can be a couple of minutes before they actually move.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Cigarettes.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
What ever is best for the job. When it comes to timber I am a big plywood fan. But when materials are scarce I can’t afford to be picky.

What or how do you respond to the term “starving Artist”?
We do something called Freecycling. It basically consists of going around all supermarkets and sandwich shops in the area to collect the food that went out of date that day. It is incredible the amount of food that goes to waste in this country due to paranoid food retailers frightened of poisoning their clientele. We eat very well every lunch and evening for no money at all and sometime have so much we can’t help but waste ourselves! Thanks to health and safety, the phrase starving artist is now obsolete.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Photo Basics

Lets look at Photographic Art as an artistic communication device and the ways you might go about using a camera to explore creative concepts, here are a bunch of points to consider when “painting with light”.

Here’s the link to read more on this article…

Fiona Davies

Fiona Davies Lives in Lawson N.S.W. Australia her web site is www.fionadavies.com.au

Fiona, are you currently represented by a gallery?
No. I’ve tended not to follow this up as my work has been primarily ephemeral and site specific – however my work is increasingly object based so I’ve started to think more about it.

How long have you been making art?
In formal terms since I started art school in 1982

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Both site specific installation and object based work

How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?
I don’t find these categories usually useful in looking either at my work or someone else’s as I tend to then think I know what the work is. However narrative is an important tool in my work.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?

Yes my work is primarily about either individual or group narratives that are normally excluded from the dominant interpretation of history in my culture or when my culture interacts with another culture. I tend to work in non art spaces.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working in several areas. A really important one being death. I am working a series of installations and objects relating to my father’s death. These are a series of site specific works located in places which where important to how he defined himself. The first in the series is on the website and is titled Memorial/Double Pump Laplace I, It was installed in an Anglican church in the country town in NSW where both my parents grew up. I am currently working on the third in the series which will be installed in a University college in the UK  and I will then return to Sydney to install the second in the series.

As part of this investigation of death I’ve curated one show called Looking at Others Stage 1 of the Death Project at P.A.S., Parrramatta, Sydney. This process enables me to really look at how other artists are addressing some of the issues I’m interested in. I curated my own work into the show – this can be problematic but I think I got away with it this time. The second stage of this project which is looking at death in popular culture is planned for the middle of 2009. More details of these two shows are on my website under upcoming projects.

I also have a major show planned for Maitland Regional Gallery in N.S.W. later 2009 where I’ll be working with the archives, oral histories etc of the former use of the art gallery building as a TAFE and as a TAFE museum. The amount of research required for this project is significant and I have been in the archives of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, State records, Mitchell Library and TAFE Library for a large part of last year. A large oral history project run in conjunction with the council library will start in a month or so and feed individual’s stories into the work.

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
A description of the work I’m doing the for the third in the  series about my father is -  The narratives from that last ten and half months of my father’s life that are addressed in this work are focused on the way information is transferred in an intensive care ward. In this situation I could not remember all that was told to me by the staff and at some times I overlaid accidentally overheard information about other patients onto the information we had been given about Dad. The work will consist of both a sound component and an installation. The former law library area will be broken down into a series of smaller rooms accessed through hospital curtained corridors in a similar manner to an asymmetrical maze. The sound component will be multiples of fragments of those overheard conversations. Some will be broadcast from behind the curtains in the corridors, slightly too soft to be able to discern all the words. Others in the internal rooms will be fragments of formal discussions outlining detailed medical information. The sound elements will disrupt the idea of a hospital curtain offering privacy and will play with the rituals around their closing and opening.

How did you get into art?
I used to be very engaged with art when young then when choosing what further study to do after school I convinced myself that I didn’t what to do anything that mostly girls did so I did an Applied Science degree and only got back into art seriously when I was 29.

Your art education was…?
At school I didn’t do Art in years 9 and 10 and got back into it for 11 and 12. When I was 29 I did an undergraduate degree at UWS (this art school is now basically closed as of last year) and postgraduate at Monash.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
My art education was great. I got back into art through glass and then discovered I was most interested in 3D and went from there. I had a very limited exposure to 3D at school.

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
I’ve worked in science based jobs to earn money since leaving University. I decided I didn’t want to be an art teacher although it is a great way to stay connected with the art world. Sales of my work have been very small as it’s largely been ephemeral and site specific.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Both the narratives of the place and the narratives of my family in those places have had a major influence on my work.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
You are making art.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
This is an interesting area to think about. I tend to think it’s more an obsession with neatness rather than good or bad craftwork that interferes with my reading of a work.

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?
Yes it’s a great way to make sure you see the work and support other artists.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
I’ve realised over the years one of the major benefits of the way I work is the rate of rejection is so much lower than for artists who work by the more traditional way of approaching galleries or entering prizes etc. I think I would find the rate of rejection many young artists experience difficult to handle as it appears a lot is delivered thoughtlessly.

Fundamentally I don’t believe in any objective value system to say one artist’s work is always better than another’s so the use of ranking systems like say the Australia Council where the grants applicants are ranked in ‘order” or galleries which rank proposals, This probably says more about the host institution than about the art they are looking at.

I had the experience once of travelling a fair way to show my work to a curator. Unluckily they had just discovered a small part of the funding of their overseas work trip was not going to be forthcoming. They wanted to keep going with the meeting but interspersed it with phone calls frothing about the money. If this had happened to me early on I would have thought it was about me instead I enjoyed it as a performance piece but abandoned any hopes of working with that curator.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
Often they are the most interesting in the longer term. I know that sounds really glib but thinking through how it doesn’t work in depth gives you more knowledge about how you think the world works. When you see other art that you think doesn’t work you don’t tend to spend as much time thinking about what to learn from that than with your own work.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
My work as it is often about the constructs of history, relies on the use of archives, oral histories and other historical material. I think it’s an important process as I don’t want to rely on the dominant stories of history or use stereotypes when I’m thinking about what happened.

Over time I’ve realised the importance of getting out of the way in allowing viewer’s to read a work by having what you can, consistent with an historical record.

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 like a level of ambiguity when I’m looking at works so I like to do that in my work. As I work so much in non art spaces I’ve focused on really clear and short artist statements. I tend to locate them not next to the work but say in a central traffic path where the viewer can read them if required.

I had the experience recently of being with the installation in the church in Aberdeen NSW on the opening day. Luckily it was the same day as the opening of the Pumpkin Festival in the town ( by accident not my foresight) so people could come to the installation in the church without it being a big deal, just as part of their day’s activities. So a large number came through.  I spent most of the day talking with people, swapping stories of being with people in intensive care or in hospital. There are so many car accidents in rural NSW that it was a common experience. These viewers really ‘got’ the work and ‘got’ it in terms of their own experiences. This experience has made me think about how I can do this in future.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
There’s a study somewhere that says that the average amount of time each work of art is looked at in a gallery is 4 seconds. I’ve always been interested in using spaces that are stopping places in viewer’s  traffic paths e.g waiting areas or congregating areas such as just outside toilets in museums where groups of people meet up again. These spaces are really good opportunities as people are looking to engage with something as they have to be there anyway.

I always like to reward people who look closely or are a bit naughty by say lifting something up to reveal something else underneath.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Artist