Sara Freeman – Artist

Sara Freeman lives in Canberra Australia and is currently represented by Anita Traverso in Albert St Richmond, and was represented by Charles Hewitt in Sydney until they closed just recently. Her website is www.sarafreeman.cc

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What interests do you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
I work as a Paper Conservator, which is interesting, and involves looking at things in great detail, and examining the backs of things as well as the front. Some very inspiring accidental marks are found. Looking through a microscope can make something ordinary into something totally amazing. Somehow this all correlates with a meditation practice. Slowing down, looking deeper into the present moment…

What are the main medium/s you work in…
I paint on board, first priming with traditional rabbit skin glue gesso, and use paints I make from bees wax, pigments and egg tempera.

How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?
I guess it is abstract. I build up layers of colour to make big immersive fields, with transparent layers that can create a sense of depth. I then spend many hours carving back into the surface to create webs of fine lines or patterns that shimmer over the surface. I like the meditative nature of repetition in mark making, and am interested to see if the space I get into while making the work is transmitted to the viewer. And it seems that it does come across. People find the work very peaceful. It’s hard to see it on the computer screen, as the subtleties of the surface are lost.

What fascinates you?
I am not sure why, but webs of white lines, as fine as spider webs, rippling and shimmering, have fascinated me for the last 15 years. It’s been interesting finding different ways to make a white line.

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Why are you an artist?
I always made things and enjoyed drawing and painting. My father is a painter and the smell of turpentine is a smell of home to me. I think in colours and feelings easily, and painting is more expressive than words.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
That it needs no words, or can reach beyond words, straight into the heart of the viewer – if it’s good.

Your art education was…?
Art was my favourite subject all through high school, but it took till my late thirties to feel courageous enough to go to Art School and lay my work out for critique. It’s always been very close to my heart, which makes it tender to criticism. I am lucky to have a family that encourages me to be an artist. We have writers and painters in the family so it’s normal to live an erratic creative life.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
Before I went to art school I painted in oils a lot, and lived and painted in the same large room. I think I overdosed in Damar varnish and solvent fumes, as I became quite intolerant of the smells and ill for a couple of years. It did however lead me to find less toxic paints and eventually I fell in love with egg tempera. It has a lovely subtley luminous quality unlike any other paint – hovering somewhere between oils and watercolours. It is interesting how different the nature is of different paints. I don’t think many artists really think about this. They just reach for the most convenient paint type perhaps. But the quality of each is slightly different, and I think it changes the way you paint.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Personally I am attracted to work that shows craftsmanship. Even if the work has a ‘slapped together’ aesthetic, this can be done with a certain quality that somehow makes the work have more strength, more reason to give it time looking. I am interested in the skilful use of materials. It may be out of fashion at the moment, but I think art is as much about skill as it is about concepts and ideas.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
I went on a kind of pilgrimage to the Morandi Museum in Bologna in 2008. He is an artist who painted still life and landscapes, often the same scene from the window of the house he lived in most of his life, or the same bottles, jugs and vases, over and over. Turning them into beautiful serene pictures, using creamy paint made from earth pigments. His drawings are amazing. The museum has a room made out like his studio, very plain, with an easel and with all the bottles and vases that he collected and painted white, so he could study the shapes without being distracted by reflection. I think I admire his monastic devotion to painting, in its simplest, purified form. My studio and my life, by contrast, are filled with all the things I keep saying yes to.

 

Alexandre Prado – Artist

Alexandre Prado lives in Castlemaine VIC and has been making Visual Art professionally for the past 10 years. You can check out his website here.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
I work across different mediums and I am always curious about experimenting with new, often organic, materials. My main mediums are digital photography, video, sculpture (object based), and installation art.

Artist’s statement…
My practice explores themes that are concerned with the human condition and relationships with the natural and built environment. My work deals with micro-macro relationships that occur in nature. By removing objects from the natural environment and displaying them in constructed spaces, the work questions the status of these objects and our perceptions of the natural world. I work across a variety of media including video, photography, sculpture and installation art and I am influenced by ecology, sustainability and Zen Buddhism.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
Well, I wouldn’t call them messages, but there are issues that I am passionate about which inspire me and inform my practice. If I had to narrow down to a key issue or concept, what I am most interested is how people in western industrialized countries have increasingly become separate from nature – which to me is a fundamental problem. Perhaps a problem that has led to where we are at, at this point in time and the challenges this planet is facing. Having said that, I don’t believe my art is all that serious and certainly not only about convening concepts, but also about exploring new ideas, materials and different mediums in a playful and experimental manner. I hope viewers are able to identify the playfulness in my practice.

What are you currently working on?
A series of drawings as well as continue to build “The Smallest of Things” series, creating landscape images with photographs of recent installations with moss.

What fascinates you?
Everything in this planet is interconnected and I am very interested in how small things play a part on the big picture. Lets look at bees for example; one third of all our food—fruits and vegetables—would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers. While there might be “survival of the fittest” within a given species, each species depends on the services provided by other species to ensure survival. It is a type of cooperation based on mutual survival and is often what a “balanced ecosystem” refers to.

There is a famous ancient zen saying that goes like this: “There is nothing bigger in this world than the tip of an autumn hair”. Apparently, hair grows thinner in autumn and the tip of an autumn hair was refereed in ancient Japan as being the smallest thing you could find.

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
A friend once told me that the line left on the sand when waves recede echoes the shape of its coastline.  Though I questioned its veracity, it was a good story that ignited curiosity, then research.  My attention, once held by macro landscape views, was now captured by the earth’s minutiae.  In micro soil patterns I saw aerial photos of landscapes and Google earth images. This led to an obsession with documenting, photographing, carving out and collecting these small squares of nature. In the gallery space, framed and contained, nature is positioned perpendicular to itself.

Your art education was…?
I have done a Bachelor of Fine Arts at RMIT, majoring in Sculpture. But I am also qualified Social Worker and I work part time in the community sector with refugee communities.


Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
It was helpful because I was a mature age student and a practicing artist, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of the course.

Have you always been interested in art?
Yes, since I was a child I have always been interested in seeing and making art. Creativity has always been part of my life.

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
I am originally from Brazil, Sao Paulo but I was living, working and studying in Europe in my early 20s. I lived initially in England and then Holland, and Scandinavia; and I also did a lot of traveling whilst in Europe.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Going to the Sao Paulo Biennale as a child. I was fascinated by the installations and remembering ‘entering’ what to me felt like dreaming worlds.

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Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
I think that my past in Brazil will always influence who I am and the art that I make. Culture is a very powerful and complex framework that can shape who we are and how we interact with the outside world. And certainly growing up in a concrete jungle like Sao Paulo where earth is so far removed from people’s realities, has influenced my practice and choices of materials.

Having said that, I am also a firm believer that we are all individuals and gender, class, ethnicity, political and spiritual beliefs – to name a few – also influence who I am and what I make. I have been fortunate to live in different countries and experience different cultures; which has made me question some of the values from where I come from as well as values from Australia. In a way, it has been a great and rich process that enabled me to embrace the values I agree with, and let go of others that I don’t want in my life. This is an ongoing process by the way.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Absolutely. When I was at university even though I was experimenting and creating interesting and challenging works, there was an element of trying to please my lecturers and show them how “clever” I was. I think now I am much more true to concepts that I am interested , the process and materials I chose. I feel that my art is more grounded now, and hopefully there is less of an attention seeking element there.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
You are happy with what you are making, know who is your audience, what are your motives for making art, and your art challenges who you are and continually pushes you to reinvent what you do. But most important, you haven’t lost the key ingredient (in my opinion) in art making – playfulness.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Ideas come up easily since I don’t feel like I am reinventing the wheel. One work leads to another and I try not to steer away from the ideas that inspire and motivate me. Having said that, the actual process of developing and resolving a body of work is far from easy, but incredibly challenging, demanding and consuming – but very exciting!

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
No, they are always there. But time to explore these creative streaks come in waves, since I am not able to fully support myself through art, have another profession as well as a family to support.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
To me that’s absolutely critical. I have lots of ideas, materials and techniques that I would like to explore, but since, as I mentioned above, my time is limited, I feel that I have to be very clear and strategic about why and what I am exploring.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
Yes, contact with other artist is very important to me. I chose to live in Castlemaine because it has a large community of artists, writers and musicians. Also, because it’s not too far from Melbourne where I have another community of artists/friends. It is crucial for me to be surrounded and supported by people who are committed and engaged in the creative process. Not only in terms of discussing ideas and getting and giving feedback, but also in terms of validating my entire existence. An existence that is often uncertain and with financial constraints.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Not daunting exactly, but the pressure can be very demanding, challenging and energy consuming. However, I get a buzz from deadlines and the pressure of putting yourself out there, coming up with work that’s interesting and engaging and being mindful of the self that wants to be acknowledged and hopes for some financial gain. Not that there is anything wrong with financial gain, quite the opposite, but you don’t want that to be driving the work.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
Well, hopefully they won’t get exhibited! But they are very important pieces of the puzzle. I have to monitor constantly the Alexandre that wants to always come up with works that “work out”, and constantly try to bring myself back to a state of play and to be process driven rather than driven by outcomes.

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 try to stay away from prescriptive work or “didactic” work. I often find it hard to write about my work and even resent to some extend that we have to do that nowadays. In my opinion a “good” work of art is multilayered, subjective and engages the viewers in various ways.

Kim Anderson – Artist

Kim Anderson lives in Ballarat, Victoria (when she’s not in a residency somewhere…) not currently represented by a gallery but is looking for one… here’s her web site. www.kim-anderson.com.au

Kim has done some residencies, here is a diary of some time spent in Japan, interesting reading…

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How long have you been making art?

For as long as I can remember I was always drawing, writing and working on various little creative projects of one kind or another.  It’s not something I really even thought about, it was more automatic in the sense that I just did it and assumed that everyone else did too.  I guess I’ve always felt compelled to express myself visually.

I’m not exactly sure whether you would consider it “art”, but I even went through a phase of making crafty objects for a while, setting up a little card table on our corner block, and attempting to sell my creations to passers-by – unfortunately on a bush block in the sleepy town of Buninyong there were not all that many customers.  Apart from a few sympathetic neighbours offering 20 cents for a decorated toilet roll (excellent pencil holders!), the “business” didn’t really take off.  In hindsight, my drawings were probably a lot better…

I don’t remember how old I was when I first received a tinned set of 36 Derwent pencils for Christmas, but they were extremely precious to me and I took them everywhere along with a sketchbook.  I always wanted the 72-set in the wooden box, but these were still pretty special.  They were lovingly kept in perfect colour order, and not shared with anyone else.  I still have them now, although a rubber band has taken the place of the tin and certain colours have been worn down to stubs.  I don’t work so much with coloured pencils now, but they still remain sitting in an old lolly tin in my studio like some kind of symbolic reminder of a lifetime of drawing, one way or another.

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Artist’s statement…

The age-old theme of the body inspires my work in drawing and installation. Often using my own body as subject, I am continually fascinated by the expressive potential of the hands, feet and skin, as well as the delicate structures and hidden processes taking place internally. I believe that the physical self must surely be considered the starting point for all psychological understanding: it is the vehicle for the emotions, the tangible presence by which we are known to others, and the most immediate tool through which our invisible inner psyche is able to manifest itself and act upon the world.

A recent development in my practice has been to take this interest in the body much further and explore the parallels to be found in both the built and natural world, whether it be an overt bodily reference, inferred likeness, or merely a trace left behind by a hand or foot. In essence, I am interested in the notion that a physical space can take on the characteristics and evoke the same emotions as a human body. Through constant wear our bodies bear the inscriptions of our life experience, our passions and fears and memories layered over one another like a palimpsest, and so too does the surface of place function in the same way.

In constantly wanting to challenge the capacity of my drawing, my practice has evolved from the production of more traditional works on paper to working ephemerally with installation. Using techniques such as projection and drawing directly onto the walls and floor, I explore the use of alternative surfaces and spaces. My original drawings on paper become transformed by light, scale and the distortions produced by using a three-dimensional space as my working surface. I am continually seeking ways in which to combine these ideas and bridge the gap between my work in two and three dimensions.

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What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a new series of work that represents an experimental foray into the area between my two-dimensional drawings on paper and my spatial installations: it is a playful attempt to bridge the gap between the “white page” and the “white cube”.  By folding, curling and cutting holes in the paper, I am aiming to transform the flat page into a miniature three-dimensional architectural space with which the figures appear to interact.  A fold becomes the perfect hiding place; a hole becomes a window for a quick escape route.  Partially hidden, figures tumble over curves and hide around corners, with the potential to disappear from sight at any moment.  I’m hoping to exhibit these new works sometime next year, so stay tuned…

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Artist… got into art because… and your education?

I honestly don´t know why I am an artist.  I guess there was some element of choice in it somewhere, but I often feel that no matter what I would have attempted to do with my life, I would always have come back to art somehow.  A friend of mine once made the comment: “I didn´t choose art, it chose me” – and I really feel that’s true.  I don´t want to sound too mystical about it all, but it’s like people of a religious order responding to what they describe as a “higher calling”.  As I said earlier, it’s something that I´ve always done without really questioning it until about the age I’m at now (grand old 31).

As well as maintaining a passion for dance for about 17 years and being determined I was going to be a ballerina, I also remember telling my parents that I was going to be an artist at a fairly tender age.  I do recall a passing interest in architecture when my father informed me that architects make more money, but that didn’t last all that long.  In high school, possibly influenced by the Patricia Cornwell novels I was voraciously reading at the time, I thought I was going to be a forensic pathologist and covered a wide range of subjects from art to drama to chemistry and biology.  At the end of year 12 I was really unsure what I wanted to do and so decided to pursue my love of writing with a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.  But – somehow – art called me back, and I then completed my Honours Degree in Fine Art at the University of Ballarat.

After that I was dabbling a little bit here and there whilst working some part time jobs, then in 2005 I went to Japan to teach English.  During that time I went through a fairly traumatic relationship breakup and became seriously ill, and it was that experience that made me realise that I only have one chance in life and it made me determined to pursue the thing I loved most, which was my art.  Since then I´ve also done a Postgraduate Certificate in Art Conservation Studies (although discovered that I much preferred making the art to fixing it), and was also awarded a scholarship that enabled me to undertake my Master of Fine Art at the University of Dundee in Scotland.  From there it just seems to have taken off and, while sometimes I wish I lived a more stable existence, I can´t imagine doing anything else.  I wouldn´t be being true to myself if I wasn´t making my art – it’s like my most fundamental means of expression.  I guess part of the beauty of being an “artist” is that under that umbrella title, you can explore anything.

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Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

I think my education was definitely helpful, and I always feel that I want to do more – a PhD is in the offing someday when I’m ready…  Particularly with my post-grad education I’ve relished that opportunity to research, write, question and really interrogate my art practice – in fact I miss that intensity when I’m out in the “real world”.  My education has helped me to develop the capacity to think critically about my work (perhaps too critically sometimes), and to question where it fits within a contemporary context.  It’s perhaps clichéd to say, but you can never stop learning or questioning – especially not as an artist.

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

I think art was mildly appreciated, but my family never really went out of their way to participate in or view it – only ever if I dragged them to it or was directly participating in something myself.  Of course they’ve never actively prevented me from pursuing my artistic activities – no doubt in the hope that I would get it out my system one day – but it was definitely not encouraged or even accepted as a viable career.  I’ve had to really struggle with my immediate and particularly my extended family for them to actually take me seriously and realise that I’m not a “dole bludger” – and I still find myself up against that prejudiced view on occasions.  It’s only recently, after having received a few really big grants and had some overseas residencies, that they’ve actually come to terms with the fact that this is essentially my job and it’s a lot of hard work.

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I’ve always primarily been a drawer – I find it to be the most simple and direct interaction between mind and body.  Perhaps also it’s the control, although sometimes I wish I could be more spontaneous and just throw paint (and anything else) at a canvas.  I suspect I was permanently scarred by the unfortunate explosion of a clay Easter bunny in the school kiln at about age 5, and by almost cutting off my finger while trying to build a canvas in about year 10 at school – therefore ceramics and oil painting were out!

On a practical level drawing is portable and doesn’t require much space or mess – it can be done virtually anywhere.  On most of my travels I’ve only ever had to take a sketchbook and a pencil case full of pencils, charcoal and drawing pens – easy!    Which leads me to my Master of Fine Art degree undertaken at the University of Dundee in Scotland…  I turned up with little more than my pencil case, but with the opportunity to “play” in a project space it opened up the possibilities of actually creating installations with my drawing and working more ephemerally.  Ever since then, I have continually tried to challenge the capacity of drawing as a medium, exploring the myriad of ways it can be used and combined with other techniques.

The idea of cross-disciplinary research and collaboration is something that really excites me, having been opened up to these possibilities when I was in Scotland.  I’d like to pursue this further at some point, perhaps even incorporating various forms of performance and/or technology into my work, and even collaborate with people outside the visual arts – the possibilities are endless…  I think I’m too restless to keep on doing the same thing all the time, and I’d find it really unsatisfying artistically.

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Does the creative process happen easily for you or perhaps does it come in waves for you?

I find myself constantly struggling with the creative process – it’s always a roller coaster and definitely happens in waves.  Unfortunately you can’t just switch it on and off, and the creative streaks probably flow much more easily when I have a deadline to work towards such as an exhibition.  I always struggle with the motivation to work in a vacuum as I often feel like I’m lacking in purpose – that’s when I find myself easily distracted by other things.  Funnily enough, when I’m in that intensive state before a show I always yearn for some time and space to simply play and explore, and yet when I do have that time the playing and exploring just doesn’t seem to happen – the grass is always greener on the other side!

I am starting to learn that you can’t just be making work all the time, and really there are very few artists who are able to do that.  The process of creation is somewhat exhausting because you pull all of these things out from the very depths of your soul, often kicking and screaming, into the light and ultimately for public view – it takes a huge amount of energy to do that.  Once I’ve reached my limit to the point of feeling empty I need to allow myself time to “fill up” again.  It’s much more difficult to do than it sounds – I often feel guilty if I’m not working all the time.  I’ve recently been going through just such an “empty” phase after a really intense residency in Japan where I had to pull together a solo exhibition of new work in a little over two weeks – nothing like pressure!!!  It was exhilarating but exhausting, and I’ve been feeling completely physically, emotionally and creatively drained to the point of paralysis.  Slowly slowly I’m managing to crawl out of that black hole and rejoin the world again, even to the point of being able to make some work – and damn it feels good! Nothing like a majorly overdue deadline to get me going again – but hey, whatever works.

I’m just starting to learn that it’s okay to take time out to read, watch films, listen to music, visit galleries and go to theatres – or just sit in the sun and breathe and take in my surroundings.  It will all inform my art practice and trigger another creative streak somehow…

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Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

I am determined to prove this statement wrong – so far so good, although it’s definitely not easy.  It’s really only been three years since I finished my Master of Fine Art so I’ve got a bit of a way to go, although I seem to have done a hell of a lot in that time and things seem to be just starting to take off – which is why I’m absolutely NOT about to let go and give up just now…  I’ve managed to pursue my art practice virtually full-time, but it’s a constant struggle and I feel like I’ve sacrificed a more “normal” and stable existence for the sake of my art.  I guess, to my advantage, I’m in a situation where I can do so – it’s just me, my pencil case and a suitcase!  In a way the experiences I’ve had through travelling for my art are worth so much more than a house, car, possessions etc – at least that’s what I try to keep telling myself…

Despite the personal benefits I mentioned earlier, art school education doesn’t really teach you how to survive as a professional artist and I don’t think there’s really any clearly defined career path you can take.  It’s all about seeking out opportunities as well as creating your own.  No one’s going to know you exist unless you get yourself and your work out there and make yourself known – they’re certainly not going to come knocking on your door looking for the next amazing talent (I wish…!!!)  I find a large amount of my time involves writing applications and proposals for grants, residencies, funding etc. – it’s the only way I’ve been able to survive over the last couple of years.  And that’s not something I learnt about in art school – I only really became aware of such things through the wonderful supervisor I had in Scotland.  I think of this whole art business as a 30-year apprenticeship – you’re basically learning on the job.  You’re an “emerging artist” until you’re about 60, and famous when you’re dead!

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Have you had any ¨big breaks¨ in your career?

I don´t know about ¨big breaks¨ – in fact I’m still waiting for the really BIG one that sets me up for life (yeah right!) – but I do have a great determination to seek out every opportunity I can.  I don´t believe so much in luck, I think a person makes their own luck – it’s simply a matter of keeping your eyes and ears open for anything and everything that comes along.  As mentioned, I spend an awful lot of time researching opportunities and writing applications, with perhaps a 5-10 percent success rate at best.  I am collecting a folder of rejection letters that I’m planning to use for a project some day…  I’ve no doubt I’ll have enough to cover the Great Wall of China!

The best thing for my career so far was, after writing God knows how many applications, being awarded that scholarship to study my Masters in Scotland – it opened so many doors for me and expanded my knowledge of the “art world” and the opportunities that are out there.  I was lucky to have a wonderful supervisor who really introduced me to the notion of writing applications and applying for residencies and funding – before that I had very little knowledge that such things existed or that even little old nobody me could apply.

Since graduating I’ve undertaken a curatorial internship for a contemporary arts organisation called Deveron Arts in Scotland, had an Australia Council International Studio Residency in Rome, had two residencies in Hill End (NSW), and one in Echigo-Tsumari, Japan.  Last year I was extremely fortunate to receive an ArtStart Grant from the Australia Council, which has really helped me to establish some of the business aspects of my art practice such as a website, portfolio, and some basic equipment etc.  I spent weeks agonising over every single word of that application (as I do with most), but it paid off and I would not have been able to establish any of those essential marketing tools without that financial assistance – I guess being able to do that has been a “big break” in a way.

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Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

I SHOULD be more diligent about keeping a journal all the time, but never seem to be able to do so when I’m in my usual routine, apart from using it to make thumbnails of various compositions (or scribble various “notes to self” and shopping lists…)  I kept journals all the way through art school which contained my research, notes, sketches, thumbnails etc., and whenever I’ve been away on a residency I’ve also had the discipline and the urge to write and draw almost every day.  When I’m away somewhere “special” I feel much more compelled to record my experiences and draw anything and everything, whereas at home I don’t set aside the time to do so.  I feel forever guilty about this and keep promising myself I’ll start using my journal more often…

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

I suppose what I really hope for is that my work moves the viewer at some level, even if they can’t articulate exactly what it makes them feel or think in words.  I do try to explain my work to a certain extent with artist’s statements etc, partly because writing about it helps me to understand it better, but I’m not particularly concerned if despite all that people still just don’t “get it”.  Many of them probably never will, and that’s absolutely fine for me – you can’t please everyone.  One thing that I can’t stand is when my grandmother, a diligent and dutiful attendee at all of my exhibitions, takes a quick walk around to glance at the work and announces “very nice Kimberlee, but I don’t understand it”, and then waits for me to explain.  I don’t expect her to, and perhaps it’s rather contrary of me to deliberately ignore such statements but to be honest I couldn’t care less!

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What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

In September/October last year I had a solo exhibition at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, Melbourne, titled “Soul/Skin/Space”, which had been inspired by a residency I did in Rome in 2009.  It involved a combination of elements including a digital projection (my first attempt to do such a thing), some smaller drawings on very fine conservation tissue, and two large-scale wall drawings which I actually worked on continually throughout the 3-week duration of the show.  One day towards the end of the exhibition when I had almost completed the second wall drawing (I was up on a ladder by this point), I noticed a lady come in and spend quite a lot of time looking closely at my smaller drawings.  They were images of little broken fragments of statues which I had photographed in the Villa Giula Etruscan Museum in Rome, all looking rather sad and abandoned.  The lady came over to me and asked if I was the artist that had drawn them – I said that I was.  She then put her hand on her heart and said that they were so beautiful they´d made her cry.  I was so taken aback I almost fell to my knees and cried myself.  She was so genuine because I could see it in her face and hear it in her voice, and it meant so much to me that I had affected just one person so much with my artwork – to know I´d moved someone so emotionally made me feel that what I do is possibly worthwhile.  That exhibition was a really interesting experience to actually be working in the space and meeting the people who came to see it – usually artists don´t get that opportunity when we just hang our work on the walls and hope for the best.  If I hadn’t been there working that day I would never have known the power of my own artwork.

Perhaps a less inspiring but more amusing response occurred when I was showing my brother around an exhibition I had at the Art Gallery of Ballarat last year.  While Ryan (my brother) was looking at the drawings and I was loitering anonymously in the corner, another group of people came in and were looking at my drawing titled “The Permanent Teeth” when one of them gasped and exclaimed “Oh it’s horrible, just horrible!”.  Obviously they didn’t know I was the artist and I could only laugh at such a strong reaction – I guess anatomy doesn’t appeal to everyone!

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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?

Oh god, the rollercoaster, the mood swings…  I’m sure it’s exhausting to witness – I swear they think I’m bipolar (probably not far from the truth…)  I just need them to be understanding when I’m paralysed with depression, and to help me celebrate when I reach the heights of elation, and that’s about as much as they can offer.

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

I pretty much work mostly from photographs these days, although sometimes from life depending upon the subject matter.  Often I collect things to draw – my series “A Natural Comparison” is the perfect example featuring natural objects I collected during my first residency in Hill End.  The only problem with this method is that my studio is becoming more and more crammed with random collections of things – leaving less room to actually make the work!

I wish I could draw from my imagination and I really admire people who can, but unfortunately I don’t seem to have that skill.  In my mind’s eye I can visualise the composition, but that’s about as far as it goes.  Sometimes the composition or idea comes first and then I take photographs to suit it, other times the photographs inspire the idea.  Either way, I only ever work from photographs I’ve taken myself – appropriating other peoples’ images, even anonymous ones from the internet, is not something I feel comfortable with.  The photography itself also becomes part of the whole process of making my work.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a series of drawings that incorporates images of my own body which has involved a lot of contorted positions, mirrors placed at strategic angles, and my camera on self-timing mode.  If anyone were to peer into my studio at times like these they’d probably be rather concerned as to what on earth was going on!  Being rather a control freak and a perfectionist I can’t quite bring myself to ask someone else to take the pictures for me.

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When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?

More and more my work is becoming about the process of making rather than the finished product.  In fact, quite often I become so immersed in the work – in “the zone” so to speak (which is a fantastic place to be!) – I often feel rather empty when it’s completed.  Part of the reason for this has been my recent progression towards installation projects and making more ephemeral artworks.  Knowing from the first inception that these works are not going to last means that from the very beginning I am fully aware that they will cease to exist and therefore I can avoid becoming too attached to them.  It’s a different way of working, and of thinking about my work – in some ways I think it makes it even more unique because it has been created specifically for a particular space in a particular time.  Some of these works can be thought of as “events” rather than “exhibitions” – in fact, some of the really large-scale wall drawings I’ve done are extremely physical and gestural, and could almost be thought of as a performance in their creation.  I would like to pursue this idea someday, pulling upon my dance background (of 17 years no less!) in creating some kind of performance / artwork.  Sometimes, I have to admit, I do feel a little sorry that my wall drawing of approximately 70-80 hours’ work is to be scrubbed off in the space of an afternoon…

Of course, what’s really important for these works is the documentation – as long as it has been documented, and/or witnessed by an audience, then I believe it still has had a valid existence.   Actually – this really raises so many theoretical questions about what constitutes an artwork and whether it is actually “completed” when and only when it is witnessed by an audience…  Perhaps we can save that discussion for a rainy evening and a few glasses of red…?!

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Would you say your works reveal something private about yourself?

All of my work is a self portrait in some sense, it is a way of expressing something deep inside myself that cannot really be put into words – I guess most artists would probably say the same thing.  I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between the body and the mind, and the fact that quite often there is very little correlation between external appearance and internal experience – that human predicament of being a consciousness trapped inside a physical, decaying and often unpredictable body.

Maybe it sounds a little self-obsessed, but my work has often involved an intensely personal journey of close bodily scrutiny – partly in an attempt to try and scrutinise the psychology that lies behind that.  During my undergraduate years I spent many hours drawing myself in front of the mirror, trying to get the folds around my eyes exactly right, erasing and redrawing my nose and mouth a hundred times.  But I always felt that the end result was somewhat untruthful, merely a portrait of the mirror and not a true representation of what I felt on the inside.  What became apparent to me was that the face can mask more than reveal true emotion.

So I began to search for expressive potential in other parts of the body, and was particularly drawn to the hands and feet.  They are tough yet sensitive, dexterous and yet somehow vulnerable, and can be highly demonstrative of complex emotions.  In closely examining the lines and creases in my skin, and the patterns and scars that are unique to me, I guess I’m continually searching for some inner truth about myself.

Even my interest in anatomy (apart from that previous desire to be a forensic pathologist) is in many ways a search for some physical indication of the inner psyche, or soul, and what it might look like.  In many ways I feel that my work is a somewhat “safe” medium through which to lay bare my passions, fears and memories for the viewer.

I don’t know if I’ve explained that very well…?

What is an indulgence for you?

On a Sunday afternoon (my only “non-jogging” day), whenever I can, I like to go for a walk, then find a quiet café or bar where I can be completely anonymous and sit with my Art Almanac or Art Monthly and a glass of wine.  It seems to be the only time I ever allow myself the luxury to read my art magazines as I never do so at home, which makes me wonder why I subscribe…  But then if I keep getting them, I can keep on treating myself to this little indulgence!

What is your work space like?

My current work space is my brother’s old bedroom in my parents’ house – which I am desperate to get out of.  It’s not ideal – the light isn’t great and no matter how sunny it is outside it’s always cold in there.  It’s full of clutter at the moment which is totally distracting and driving me crazy!  The admin stuff just takes over and suddenly I find myself with no place to work on my drawings – plus the things I collect and my own unsold works mean that the space is becoming increasingly smaller.  I find if my physical space is messy then my headspace is definitely a mess…  Hopefully, fingers crossed, I will have a better living and working space soon – I’m definitely looking…  I’m starting to realize that having a good working space provides the motivation to work more – it’s so much more pleasurable having a studio that you actually want to spend time in.

I can’t complain too much though – I’ve been really lucky to have had some amazing working spaces around the world.  The Australia Council studio at the British School of Rome was a highlight – huge high ceiling, amazing light, a tiny mezzanine bedroom with bathroom underneath, and the rest was just wonderful open space.  Maybe the fact it was in Rome made it all the more amazing…

What has encouraged you to keep working as an artist?

I don’t really know why I keep going, other than an utter compulsion that this is absolutely what I have to do with my life.  I guess it is that feeling that I’ve only got one chance in life and I do not want to spend it feeling dissatisfied and somehow empty – I’d rather be completely destitute and in a situation where I can keep making my work than let a full-time job take over only because I feel like that’s what I should do in order to satisfy everyone else’s expectations.

It’s a long hard road and there’s no guarantee that I’m actually ever going to “make it”, but there have been some small glimmers of hope recently that things might continue to progress upwards – which is why I’m not ready to let it all go just yet.  To be truthful I really do have a love-hate relationship with my art, but in the end when I really question it, I couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything else.  For me it is a rather personal journey, and any financial gain is simply a bonus, but at the very least I hope that I can move people in some small way – whether it be purely aesthetically, or on a much deeper level emotionally or psychologically.  When there is the slightest evidence of this it is highly rewarding.

Exhibition – Leonie Ryan – Australian Made

Leonies exhibition should show an interesting progression from her earlier works, I look forward to seeing it at the Yarra Sculpture Gallery 117 Vere St Abbotsford.

Be sure and check out Leonies interview right here.

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Stephanie Beck – Artist

Stephanie Beck is a Contemporary Visual Artist from Brooklyn, NY

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Artist’s statement…
I am inspired by images of archaeological sites, architectural history, aerial photos and my own explorations through various cities. My work plays with the manipulation of space and architectural structures; exploring patterns of settlement and structural design within real and imagined cities, in two and three-dimensional forms. I am interested in the formal qualities of architecture and also in how architecture reflects, or, alternatively, forms the lives and beliefs of the people who construct it. I see buildings and structures as surrogates for ourselves and use them to investigate and illustrate our human frailties.

But secretly I am most driven by a sense of wonder and play.

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What are you currently working on
A piece inspired by the complex compression of space in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn, where I am attending a studio residency.

Why are you an artist?
Because it’s usually fun, often exciting, sometimes scary and always interesting. I feel it is where my greatest talent lies and it is the most authentic and meaningful work that I can do—it is the way I can live my fullest life.

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How important is art for you?
Making, viewing, thinking about and discussing art is how I have chosen to live my life, so it’s fundamental to me and how I see the world. But I also am aware of its importance to humanity—art is one way we learn about history and religion and is one of the ways in which a society defines itself. Unfortunately funding for the arts in the U.S., and many places, is being cut, which denies the vital role it plays in the creation and examination of culture and the importance of encouraging creative thought and expression.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
The sheer creativity of it and the ability to make an emotional, experiential or conceptual connection with another person. But perhaps most importantly, it reminds me that despite the horrible things people are capable of, we are also capable of amazing, beautiful, powerful works of art. All of the arts are humanity at its best.

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Your art education was…?
I studied Art History as an undergraduate and worked in various art museums within Education and Curatorial departments, so studying, viewing and talking about art from throughout history and around the world is a huge part of my art education. My formal studio education consists of classes in college and later in continuing education programs, a one-year post-baccalaureate certificate and two years of graduate school. And now as a working artist I am constantly looking at and reading and talking about art, so the education never ends.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
Both my background in art history and my studio classes were extremely helpful to me. However I do think that a crucial point in my career was really questioning everything I had learned and all the assumptions I had made and ultimately throwing a lot of it out to start on my own authentic work. But I don’t think I would I be making my current work if I did not have that background to question and rebel against.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
Before graduate school I worked in art museums within Education and Curatorial departments. My first full-time job was as with Public Programs at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, where I assisted in presenting films, concerts and lectures focused on the arts of Asia. Later I worked as a Curatorial Assistant for Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard Art Museums, where I learned an enormous amount about Persian, Turkish and Indian art. At the same time I was teaching painting and drawing classes at a local community education center. Since graduate school I have taught art at various levels and held various part-time office jobs at a performing arts organization, a law firm, temp agencies, etc, etc…..

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
The most exciting moments in my art career so far have been my recent projects in which I have set my work out into the world and allowed it to interact with a natural or urban environment on its own. It was very freeing to literally let the work go and just see what would happen. I also loved the social aspect of it—it was fun to create work that spurred me to work with other people —some were friends, some were volunteers, some were complete strangers. It was also so rewarding to see the public watch and interact with the work. Usually it has been kids who physically interact with the work—they are much more curious and open than adults.

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Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
I think my family’s moving from place to place has had more influence on my work than one particular place. We moved about every three years, so I had to orient myself within a lot of new houses and places. This made me very sensitive to issues of space and architecture.

What or who inspires your art?
Daily life inspires my art—I’m becoming more reactive to my environment and making more site-inspired work, so place plays a big part in what I make. I’m also often inspired by history, especially how structures and places change over time.

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I used to paint in oil, but during graduate school I deeply questioned why I was painting and what type of art I wanted to make. I realized I just didn’t love the medium of oil paint enough to pursue it so I went back to what felt most natural and authentic to me, and that was drawing. I created a lot of drawings of lace, which began to look like maps to me. I started cutting the lace/maps out and discovered a whole new world of sculptural drawing with the paper itself. This has since led to more 3-dimensional, sculptural constructions.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Yes, radically, thank goodness! But I love to look back at my older work—it’s an amazing record to have of your own development.

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Have your artistic influences altered over time?
I entered graduate school as a traditional oil painter focused on the figure, so my influences at the time were artists such as Degas, Lucien Freud, Alice Neel—a wide range of figurative painters. However I had been working in an Islamic and Indian art department for 3 years prior and looking very closely at gorgeous, delicate drawings and paintings and text and this attention to line and different considerations of the representation of space began to come out in my work once I stopped painting. I really questioned my interests and inspirations and realized they were much larger than simply painters, and often outside the “fine art” world—I’m inspired by a wide variety of artists, but also by literature, poetry, design, crafts, and just the physicality of the world itself.

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You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
You are still making art when you’re 80.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I have learned that I need to just start working, even if I don’t really know what I’m working on. I rarely fully plan things ahead of time. I think through doing, and pieces will often become something other than what I originally intended. I think we each have a unique creative process and need to trust it.

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Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening and how do you work with these?
I often have a lot of ideas floating around and can get a bit distracted since I’d like to try them all! I try to write them down so I at least have a note to come back to when the time is right. Of course most of them don’t come to anything, but you never know when an idea will ripen over time and reappear. And you also end up with a fascinating journal of thoughts.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
For me it’s impossible to define. I like to keep it open—it allows for more freedom and various points of view. I’m very interested in questioning traditional Western definitions of “Art” and how that determined what was seen or not seen throughout history, and the impact those definitions still have on how the Western world views art today. Of course contemporary art, especially conceptual art, has been questioning these ideas for years, which is why artists today have so much freedom to make their own definition (or non-definition) of art.

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Does the sale of your work support you?
Not yet. I’m currently teaching and do temporary office work.

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?
Yes, openings are the best time to catch up with friends and meet new people. And I will definitely go if the artist is a friend–I fully believe in artists supporting each other in every way possible, whether it’s through attending openings, sharing exhibition/grant/job opportunities, giving each other critiques, or just talking about life as an artist. I also enjoy viewing shows, although openings are usually not the best time to really see the work. If I’m interested in the show I’ll come back when the gallery is quieter.

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Do you have much contact with other artists?
Yes, and it’s important to me. I love seeing what other people are doing and hearing about their ideas and inspiration. Some of the best things about being an artist are all the amazing people you get to meet and the amazing art you get to see behind the scenes. I have learned a tremendous amount from other artists.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
It’s certainly a difficult career to maintain, especially if you have to support yourself with one (or two or three) other jobs. Other aspects of life are also important; relationships, family, travel, and unexpected realities of employment, health, etc, can strain or cease your work altogether. However I think we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the idea that being an artist or having a “successful” career means constant exhibitions, reviews, etc. Just continuing to think about and make art, at whatever level, in the midst of the rest of life, and drawing from the rest of life, is a huge achievement.

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Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
I have a few phrases that I think about from time to time, but one of my favorites is “It’s all invented”. This reminds me that everything in our society and all our ideas about art, have literally been made up, and are still being made up. It takes the pressure off to conform to someone else’s arbitrary definition of “art” or “good” or “right” and allows me to take things a little less seriously. Of course I’m still very serious, but I’m enjoying letting my art become more playful.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
As my work has become more site-specific/inspired I’ve been doing more research into the history of the places in which I’m working. I’ll also create sketches or take photos of buildings that inspire me.

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Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
Some of my work is more literal than others, although I hope I’m not totally spelling things out. I don’t want my work to be too obvious—I feel that can shut down the experience for the viewer. For the most part I like keeping things fairly open so that viewer can draw from her own experiences to react to the work and create her own meaning from it. I enjoy hearing different interpretations of my work—sometimes it’s exactly what I was thinking, which is rewarding, and other times it’s a completely unique and surprising reading of my work, which can also be gratifying in a different way. I think our work often has more in it than we think, which I find exciting.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
I think it depends on what kind of career you want. I think it is incredibly important for schools to offer some sort of “Business of Art” class to help prepare students for the realities of being a working artist. If you are trying to make it a viable career, then you are essentially your own business. The business aspect is not easy, and for most of us not fun, but it’s not impossible and there are skills and tools that everyone can learn.

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Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
It always comes back to working, working, working. Eventually you will work your way out of it. I just came across a great quote by Chuck Close, “ Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work.” That about sums it up.

Is your work process fast or slow?
It’s pretty slow, so I like to break it up by also working on small pieces that I can complete quickly—lately these have been collages and small prints. It can be very rewarding to create a finished piece in an hour or two.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
To learn as much as possible about art from around the world and throughout history. Don’t limit yourself to contemporary art, or Western art, or art you are immediately attracted to—stretch your boundaries. If possible, travel! I would also encourage everyone to find her or his own authentic voice—of course we are all influenced by each other, but don’t let someone else (an artist, curator, critic, teacher) define you or your work.

How often do you work in the studio?
It depends on my situation, but generally as much as possible. Now that I’m working day jobs again I have less time in the studio, but I get in almost everyday, even if just for a couple of hours. However I think it’s also important to take time off from the studio once a week or once every two weeks to regroup and come back with fresh eyes and enthusiasm.

How did you manage to survive financially at the beginning of your art career?
I had full-time jobs in museums before graduate school, but since then have been able to get by on part-time work (for the time being; New York is a very expensive city!). I was also fortunate to get a grant after graduate school, which paid for a studio for a year.

Did you have an inspirational teacher, and how did that affect you?
I’ve been lucky to have some great teachers who have left me with ideas and phrases that still echo in my head. A sculpture teacher I had would often say: “Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions” (not his quote), which is a concept I rely on a lot. An English teacher taught us to “slaughter our darlings”, ie .to get ride of whatever isn’t helping the overall piece, even if it’s a detail that we absolutely love. But the most inspirational teachers have been those who are still working on their own art. And then some of the most inspirational people in my life are not teachers but friends, family, and people (not necessarily visual artists) whose work I admire.

What is your work space like?
Usually quite messy, which may be surprising given the somewhat pristine quality of my work. I’m often working on more than one thing at a time, and often in more than one medium and I’m not very good at putting things away. However this can lead to exciting connections between things.

Do you collect anything?”
Experiences.

What has encouraged you to keep working as an artist?
I ask myself what kind of life I want to look back on when I’m 80.


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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Sage Dawson – Artist

Sage Dawson is a printmaker and painter, from Augusta, Georgia in the US and has been a professional Contemporary Visual Artist for the past 11 years. She has a blog at www.MapMint.blogspot.com

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Artist’s statement…

Historically maps have been used as tools to represent space: to make large things smaller or abstract things more concrete, as well as to consult for travel. Maps document not only literal representations of land—distinct identities of spaces, imperialistic expressions of power, and scientific understanding, but also abstract organizational systems, historical development models, states of mind, and world views. They may be in a sense the largest portraits of communities that we have. To this rich history I contribute my of bodies of work Timelines & Itinerary Maps, in which I draw from community histories, forgotten landscapes, and architectural research to create maps which explore memory & imagination.

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What are you currently working on?

Cartographies of Ruin aims to document and present lost, abandoned, and forgotten sites. These  works emphasize the momentariness of time and memory that is suggested by the nature of these spaces. In the case of abandoned sites, their gradual destruction implies a history which unfolds from past to present, and on to their precarious survival in the future. In this way, the work aims to begin to better understand how the production and destruction of spaces affects people collectively.

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Your art education was…?

A BFA in Painting & Printmaking from Missouri State University, MFA in Printmaking with a Museum Studies minor from the University of New Mexico.

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Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

My education was incredibly helpful. I was fortunate to work with a number of faculty members who helped me grow as an artist. I appreciate that they were incredibly honest and challenged my process and concepts to press me to develop further.

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Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?

My piece Timeline was included in the book From Here to There written by Kris Harzinski and published by Princeton Architectural Press this past year.

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Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

I grew up in Missouri. Since a lot of my work hovers between maps and landscapes, elements of the Missouri landscape often show up.

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What or who inspires your art?

I am deeply influenced by the landscape of experiences, observations and literature around me. To explore these ideas, I began to familiarize myself with the history of maps within the broad contexts of art history, social sciences, and cross-disciplinary studies, as well as current trends in specialized areas of study such as the land art movement, environmental studies, Byzantine and Islamic architecture, and experimental or radical cartography projects (writing on the subject can be found in Nato Thompson’s recent book Experimental Geography).

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I usually mix printmaking and painting. I go back to these two processes because I like the contrast between an indirect and direct process.

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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?

Since I often work at a large scale, it’s necessary for me to have a detailed plan before I begin the work. Since the work is often bigger than the conventional printmaking press bed size, it’s important that I determine how to construct matrices before I start. Generally this means I begin a new project with small scale sketches, then create a number of small scale studies or models which represent the final piece. I’ll work on these studies until I land on one which best represents how I want the large scale piece to look.

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Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task for you?

I have an exhibition coming up in January at Pratt MWP School of Art in New York. I’ve been working on the pieces for this show for the last year. The process isn’t daunting as long as I plan ahead. Having a set of written goals with deadlines helps me stay motivated. I also have a calendar designed by Laurel Denise. It’s perfect for me and and keeps deadlines, dates, and projects manageable.

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Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

I like Alex Villar’s work in which he explores how the production of space affects movement and experiences. I go back to Kanarinka (aka Catherine D’Ignazio) because her performances are incredibly compelling. I will always be a huge fan of Caravaggio. His use of tenebrism has influence my use of color & light.

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What happens to works that “don’t work out”?

I destroy them, then throw them away. I’m a minimalist, in that I don’t want art I make to exist if it isn’t successful.

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What about the role of titles with your work?

I think titles are important. Whenever possible I select titles for my work. I use them to provide an overview of the work. I feel responsible to my viewers to be as clear and honest as possible. A title can be helpful in this way.

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

It has to be clean.

How often do you work in the studio?

I get into my studio four to five days a week in between teaching and taking my pup for a walk.

How long does your work usually take to complete?

It often depends on the scale of the piece. I’ve worked anywhere from a couple days to a year and a half on pieces.


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Mary Tonkin – Artist

I get the chance to have a look at exhibitions in galleries across Melbourne from time to time and sometimes I am delighted, other times I am underwhelmed… sometimes I drive by a gallery window, have a glance and move on.
Well to my surprise one sunny Saturday afternoon a few years back it was hot and I was enjoying the airconditioned comfort of the car… but then it hit me. I drove by the Works on Paper Gallery of Australian Galleries in Collingwood and was visually ‘hit’ by one of Mary’s works through a glimpse through the window.
I pulled up in a hurry and to my amazement, here was an exhibition dealing with the Australian landscape which begged me to look, I was drawn into the gallery by intoxicating colours, masterful drawing skills and a sense of arriving (not sure what that really means but it fits).
I said to the attendant in the gallery that “I have now seen a contemporary Masterpiece or three!” (She probably thought I was nuts…) As a person who grew up in the country and had camped and played about in the bush I immediately thought Mary’s works had hit the spot.
It looked as if she had gone “up to the top paddock”, found a dam surrounded with ugly messy scrub, found the beauty in it and bought the essence of that beauty and her depth of that experience to life. The scale, the colours the earthiness of it all, was, and still is so compelling and such a rich experience for me personally.
When I read she was to give a talk about her work it was more than I could hope for. It was a special experience I will not forget in a hurry. Readers I hope you enjoy Mary’s Interview as much as I have and seek out her works ‘in the flesh’ so you too can experience some of the raw essence and beauty of the Australian Landscape.
A HUGE Thank you to Caroline Field from Australian Galleries for allowing me access to one of their premier Visual Artists and organising the interview.

– Steve Gray…

Mary Tonkin is represented by Australian Galleries in Melbourne and Sydney.

Mary works on a flower and bulb farm at Kalorama in the Dandenong Ranges to the east of Melbourne. The farm has a fair bit of bush and is surrounded by National Park – In Mary’s words “it is paradise”.

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How long have you been making art?

I went from high school to art school and have continued since then. I first used oil paint in year 11; it felt like a homecoming, a deeply familiar action and intoxication.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…

At the moment I mostly draw in pencil/graphite, and paint in oils.

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How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?

Currently it is mostly figurative landscape painting that employs local form (often encompassing multiple points of view) but generally not local colour. I work on site, en plein air and assess what I’m doing in the studio of an evening as the larger work (up to about five metres wide) is made in panels and is impossible to see on site.

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What fascinates you?

I find the natural world an endless source of fascination and peace. The pulse of life that inhabits things is very moving.

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Why are you an artist?

I need to make work to make sense of the world, of what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling. It makes me feel alive and attached to the world, a part of things. I love the capacity to draw the seen into oneself, to open oneself upon the seen – a kind of inherence of the seer in the seen. I love the opportunity simply doing this thing  (drawing or painting) affords to make sense of my interior life as I enjoy the presence of the exterior world.

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How important is art for you?

Seeing great art intoxicates me, making it is both deeply frustrating and satisfying – it is also necessary.

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What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?

The capacity of it to shake your heart and mind, to be far more than the sum of its parts, far more than the rendering of a thing or application of paint. For instance, those scruffily painted little Morandi paintings of dusty bottles are poems about time and exquisite beauty. And I’ll never forget seeing the Rothko room at the Tate for the first time, the charge they have, the powerful sense of being deeply rooted by gravity yet soaring, ones soul soaring with them. Who can explain that, the capacity of a few blocks of colour or muddy smears to generate those powerful bodily sensations and say so much about life?

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Your art education was…?

Incredibly privileged. I studied painting at Monash at a time when there were staff sympathetic to painting and one or two who could actually teach it. After honours I went to do a summer school in New York at the New York Studio School. I went back the next year and stayed seven months on a scholarship. My teacher was Graham Nickson and his educational lineage was similar to the helpful stuff from Monash  (from Geoff Dupree) essentially English Formalist Modernist.

Nickson had been taught by Euan Uglow and was a great advocate of the French moderns I love: Cezanne, Bonnard and Matisse. It was a very intense few months that I’ve often wished I could have over again with the foresight to stay longer. I cannot explain just how thrilling it is to be in a place where the language of painting, its potency and potential is daily parlance. I struggled to make use of it because I had no sense of what content I wanted to convey. I could not make paintings without that question answered. Aside from which I dreamt of our bush and farm, ached for it and silence and solitude. New York’s art collections and small ramblings in galleries in the UK and Europe were just as edifying.

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What is your earliest memory of art?

We had a jigsaw of Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom painting as children. It haunted me, but I didn’t know it was a Vincent until the first year of Uni.  I just remembered it as a powerful, warm image that radiated love and familiarity.

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Do you remember your first artwork?

Yes, after the Ash Wednesday bushfires I made little before and after images of the bush. It was hardly original, but a very instinctive response to the need to express the horror of it. I was ten. I knew no artists, had little concept of what art was.

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

Yes and no. I think my Dad felt it was a suitably ladylike pursuit. Both my parents were immensely proud of anything I made, without understanding why I needed it so much I think. We went to no galleries and had very little art in the home.

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Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Absolutely, but more important was the manner in which we were raised in that place. My father taught us to pay attention to the world around us, to its mysteries, to enjoy it sensually and to wonder at the glory of it. He was a horticulturalist who asked us to identify the best forms or colours in a row of seedling tulips, to enjoy mud in our toes, the smell of the bush after rain, the marvel of migratory birds – he taught us to see, to question and to wonder. There is no better art education.

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What or who inspires your art?

I think I’d prefer to say my work is compelled by my life, by my need to make sense of or process emotion. It is also a great daily joy to be scribbling or slopping paint around.

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I currently draw a lot in pencil/graphite as it is a fast and precise medium, and paint in oils because I love the smell and the mess of them and need the accuracy (I hate acrylic for instance which drops back in luminosity and darkens in tone as it dries).

If you mean more broadly why paint, simply because it best conveys the content I want. Painting is an inherently visceral process and medium – certainly compared to photography, it has the capacity to be a record of elapsing time, of sensations and associations that arise during the process. For me it is also an incredibly present medium – when everything is working well it records my state of being.

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Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).

I think the content has not changed greatly, its just that I’m vastly more aware of what I think it is and want it to be and have a great deal more experience with the vocabulary of painting. Through undergraduate at Uni I painted a lot of portraits and still life images. I was intent on making the image look like the thing I was painting, now I am concerned with making it feel like a relationship between the thing I am seeing and my internal state. I think I have much more control of what I’m doing now, I can at least make better guesses about how controlling the tonal values, narrowing the colour range, shifting scale of some parts or combining multiple points of view might effect how the image reads. Very simply, it is possible to make poems naively, but they’re far more likely to have the desired impact if one has a greater grasp of the language. I’m still learning.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

Not as much as I’d like, but probably as much as my need to work obsessively and be something of a hermit allows. I find it hard to get a conversation about painting at a level beyond what medium you use or what you paint. That dearth, and I think it is an educational want, makes me feel lonely at times.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

My ‘teachers’, the great touchstones are Cezanne, Bonnard and Matisse. Cezanne because I am there, I feel the air, smell the fruit and sense the deep honesty of his being. Bonnard because he makes me wonder and delight, because he gets to the internal radiance of things – the shimmer each and everything has. Matisse because he is so thoroughly sensuous, his colour is subtle and exquisite and frankly, he turns me on. My favourite Australian artists are Clarice Beckett, Elizabeth Cummings, Emily Kngwarreye, Sally Gabori and Penny Coss.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

I am the luckiest person I know.  Having an honours year painting acquired by the NGV (development collection), an Elizabeth Greenshield’s grant to travel, a fees grant for the New York Studio School, the Dobell Drawing prize and a sale to build a studio were all crucially important lucky breaks.

Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?

Mostly the length of daylight is a large factor. I’m constantly frustrated at the lack of time in winter, just not enough daylight hours. The weather is also a problem, as I can’t often work when it is wet – occasionally the site allows me to set up a tarp.

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?

Absolutely. When I learn to paint, I want them to be utterly unforgettable. I want them to dwell within a viewer’s somatic memory, as clearly as though they had been there and felt similar sensations.

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

Draw, draw and draw. Drawing is the bones, it will tell you why you are looking at something, what interests and compels you about the thing or the nature of your looking. Drawing is largely free of the baggage of ‘art’ making, it is quite pure and raw; more directly related to a persons unconscious gestures, it almost cannot help but be of the persons mind body as they respond to the seen. A student should draw until they understand what content it is that they wish to convey and then master the medium or mediums that best communicates that content – if it isn’t simply drawing.

By content I do not mean the thing that can be easily articulated, the social or political subtext that will satisfy your lecturers, I mean the thing that will not go away, the thing about looking, about the way you live your life and make sense of things that is consistently present. A student should be deeply stubborn, clever enough to both listen and ignore advice that doesn’t feel right, mostly they must come to know, trust and be true to themselves. No one will tell you it is a ‘real’ job, few will value what you do and there will be few if any pecuniary rewards. Good Luck!

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Christine Polowyj – Artist

Christine Polowyj is represented by, Anthea Polson Art in Southport, Queensland Her website site is http://www.christinepolowyj.com . Christine works in Acrylic, acrylic crayon, chinagraph pencil, ink and more recently, oils. She describes her work as Figurative Expressionism with psycho-social musings on truth and honesty with one’s self.

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Artist’s statement…
The depths and highs of human emotion, uncomfortable situations and challenging human behaviours inspire me in embracing the awkward, the difficult, the strange, the vibrant and the irrational. Reflexively, this goes some way to accepting the self and becomes the main motivation for communicating such emotional display/acceptance on canvas.

If an artwork can inspire a viewer to contemplate challenging aspects of their own inner lives, the purpose of each work is further fulfilled.
Painting is the positive outcome in my adult life of a difficult adolescence. The eventual suicide by my mother was the catalyst for self-examination to healthily accept such a deep loss and desire to continue my interest in art on my own terms.

I have been more comfortable developing my art in tandem with the deeper understanding borne from experience and a lateral approach to practicing art and life: most recently, motherhood.

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What are you currently working on?
Getting a studio built so I can have some room to work in! Then a solo show at Anthea Polson Art in May 2012.

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What fascinates you?
More than anything right now, my daughter.

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One word or statement to describe your current works?
In limbo.

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Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
Nothing is defined. I see flashes of shapes, colour and movement across the canvas in my mind. Big, bold shapes and bright contrasting colours; lots of energy. What will actually materialise on canvas in reality is something I’ll discover once I begin painting. Every painting unfolds in real time – so I don’t know the outcome until it gradually emerges from all the experiments and mistakes that take place on the canvas.

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Why are you an artist?
To connect with and communicate my inner self, my actual thoughts and feelings, without fear to a wider audience, with the hope that others can find the courage to accept themselves. Charades can be toxic when we lose touch with our reality. I suppose I’m trying to diffuse the toxicity through my artwork.

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Your art education was…?
Largely self-taught, but I did a Diploma of Graphic Design which I think helped a lot with my understanding of colour.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
Admin assistant, waitress, office cleaner, graphic designer, farm hand and now I work at a supermarket.

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Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
Winning a place at the Independent Artists Showcase at Art Sydney in 2007. Without that, I would not be with Anthea Polson Art. Without Anthea Polson Art, my work would not be in some major art collections in Australia.

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What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
Becoming a mother has been a huge turning point: my time and room to paint have disappeared! The emotional energy I have available for artwork has changed also: there still is a charge of energy there, but it is coming from a different place now, which means that my work will change because of that. The time constraint will also influence my technique and the finished product. The experience I have will be the thread to my works pre-baby. I have no idea what it will look like. I’ll have to wait and see! I do feel calm and positive about the upcoming process of painting for my next show, which is a good sign.

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What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
Every painting of mine contains at least one. I just paint over them – but usually not completely. There may be a part of that ‘layer’ that contributes to the final piece, or leads to the next ‘layer’.

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Musical influences?
I enjoy music and my partner has a fantastic record collection. Sadly though, when I’m painting it’s not convenient to shift mental gears (and wash hands etc) and put on another record or CD. You may think, ‘what about an iPod?’, which is a valid point now that records all come with a free download. When my studio is built I may just have to organise that. Until then, it’s ABC Classic all the way, it’s wonderfully relaxing.

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Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Yes, I find I become a social hermit. It’s a difficult thing to balance up because once I’m in work mode, I’m definitely not in social mode.

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Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
No, I feel it pretty clearly. Usually towards the end of a painting, a resonant title will also emerge.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
I find that the title is the cherry on the top of the work. It’s what ties the meaning of the painting to the initial inspiration of the painting – sort of like the afterbirth of my subconscious.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
It’s great to sell paintings, but I don’t make paintings to sell. I’ve had buyers ask if I will change part of the painting to suit them, but I don’t. I also don’t enjoy doing ‘second versions’ of popular works. The energy just isn’t the same.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Fast, I usually take a week to complete each work. Any longer than that and the impetus for that work has gone.

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…
There’s definitely a dredging of my subconscious in each work. Each work reveals a little more about what’s going on in my mind, and on further musing tells me more about myself. It’s a good opportunity to purge, but the purging doesn’t all have to be tragic and dramatic.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Ask yourself: would still create artwork if nobody else was interested in it? If you would, then anything that happens along the way is a bonus.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Video – Maggie Brown

Check out this interview with Maggie on the tube… then go and do a search in here for the written one. :)

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Susan Buret

Susan Buret lives in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and is currently represented by Anita Traverso Gallery.

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Susan returned to her art practice after a long break in 2000. She has been working full time as an artist since 2003.

Her blog is http://sburet.blogspot.com

Susan works in the mediums of painting, collage, installation and video.

Artist Statement

More stolen geometry from the gardens of love.

Maps are often very beautiful. A combination of the cartographer’s art and military conquest reveals a pattern of fragments put together to create a whole much like a mosaic or a quilt. The result provides an indication of not only where one might go but also where one is not welcome.

Working with map fragments and the geometric patterns used across cultures to decorate and claim home and places of worship these works explore ideas of diaspora, displacement and the search for refuge.

Susan Buret

November 2010

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What can  you tell us about your work?

My work is predominantly non-objective. I am interested in pattern and occasionally include objective elements in the patterns. Other things which are of interest include; issues of immigration, diaspora, the civilian victims of war and the rights of the individual to have a safe home …a refuge.

What are you currently working on?

I am just finishing a body of work for a solo exhibition at loft gallery, a new contemporary art space in Bowral, NSW.

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What fascinates you?

I love the patterns with which we decorate our homes and buildings. Oriental rugs, mosaic patterns, quilt patterns, china patterns and the geometry that underlies these patterns. For me these patterns symbolize the claiming of place as one’s own. I find it particularly interesting that some patterns occurs in many different cultures: that the Amish and the nomadic tribes of the middle east might chose the same patterns to decorate their textiles and that these patterns also occur in Christian Churches.

Why are you an Artist?

I am an artist because I have the need to create work. I try to work in my studio every day. It took a few years to find my ‘voice’ but I now produce prolifically.

When I was at school I wanted to go to Art College but was encouraged to get a more ‘traditional’ education and graduated with a degree majoring in Psychology and Art History. After selling a business in 2002 I knew that I had to be an artist.

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Before becoming an artist…

I worked as a statistician and a restaurateur.

Big Buzz points in  your career thus far.

There are two things. In 2005 I was a finalist in the Blake Prize. It was the first time I saw my work hung alongside the work of ‘established’ artists who I admired and respected. In 2008 I had my first residency at Bundanon. It is a magical place and gave me the space to think and expand my ideas. It was an extraordinary gift.

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How do you define success?

In Visual Art this is very subjective. For some it is money or fame which are indicators of success. For me success is measured by the respect of my peers.

Creative streaks do they come in waves?

I am lucky in that the creative process does come relatively easily for me.

Several years ago I gave myself permission to make work without the expectations of success or even producing a finished work. If something doesn’t work for me I throw it away and stretch fresh linen on the stretcher.

Despite the repetitive nature of my work, I work fairly intuitively without a fixed vision of the finished work.

The other ‘epiphany’ came when I decided to respect the opinions of those who don’t like my work. I just accept that my work doesn’t appeal to everyone and I make work for myself rather than for an audience.

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Do you have any special descriptions of Art?

Clarity of concept is very important to me, more important than the appearance of the work. I have been making work about the same issues for the past 6 years refining my ideas about issues of identity and developing my knowledge of pattern.

Do you have much contact with other Artists?

I am fortunate to live in an area where there are lots of other artists. I socialise predominantly with other artists. I also have a long term collaborative relationship with Nicola Moss, a Queensland Artist. We have been working on a project about weather for several years. We have a residency at Montsalvat coming up in October this year and contact one another several times a week.

When we began the project I liked the idea of using serial observation as a tool in my practice and the opportunity it provided to interact with other artists. Recent events have meant that the project ties in with the ideas of home and refuge that from the basis of my individual practice.

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Is exhibiting a daunting task?

Yes, there is not only the work but the deadlines associated with mail outs, media releases etc. Also the logistics of packing and sending work can take up several days. The other difficult part of my practice is dealing with the fact that exhibitions and opportunities tend to cluster. It is very easy to be over committed as one tries to take up all the opportunities to advance one’s career.

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Messages in  your work?

While my work obviously has a political message and, I would like the viewer to think about it. I try to produce work that is not ‘in your face’. I hope that the repetition and persistence in my work will cause the viewer to think more about the ideas behind the work. However if the viewer only engages with the patterned surface I respect their choice.

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Do you think Art can change peoples perceptions?

I am moved by the plight of refugees and the civilian victims of war. I had an idyllic childhood and was brought up to believe I could achieve anything I wanted. I was fortunate to have parents who believed that women should have the same opportunities as men. My work strives to draw attention to wide gap between the security of my home environment and the plight of those living in war zones.

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Any particular time you like to work?

I like to work during the day. I have a studio with north facing windows and skylights in the southern slope of the roof. I like to work using natural light. I very rarely work at night.

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Any Awards you want to tell us about?

I was the winner of the 2006 Conrad Jupiter’s art Award and the 2008 Pine Rivers Art Award

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Nicola Moss

Name: Nicola Moss

Web: www.nicolamoss.com.au

Blog: http://nicolamoss.blogspot.com/

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The area where you live… Gold Coast

Are you currently represented by a gallery?

Yes, I am represented by Salt Contemporary Art in Queenscliff, Victoria; Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne and Woollahra, Sydney. I also currently show works with Costello-Childs Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

How long have you been making art?

Since I was quite young. I’ve had a studio space for making art since I moved to Sydney in 1989.

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What are you currently working on?

I’m currently completing works for my upcoming solo exhibition ‘Diamonds in my eyes’ which will be on show at Salt Contemporary Art Gallery from 16th April to 5th May 2011. The exhibition features paintings on canvas and plein air inspired work on paper.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

A celebration of the magical, teaming with life landscapes that capture my imagination. With diamonds and trees both essentially being carbon, I wonder if stately trees could be the bling of the future?

The landscape is alive. And I feel alive when I’m in it.

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Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

My art practice is based on observing and interpreting the ecologies of environments. Through exploration of connected relationships of co-habitation and dependency, I have become increasingly interested in the role plants play as the foundation of life for other species.

Current works continue to be inspired by site visits to conservation areas within Redlands shire [in Qld]. This research began with my exhibition last year, Plant-Life, shown at Redland Art Gallery. My current series features several wetland, coastal heath and island environments on Coochiemudlo, Russell and North Stradbroke Islands. I have found at times that some people think of the ‘bush’ as being monotonous or boring, but I find a wonderful diversity of unique forms – small, large, beautiful and ugly. I reflect on and try to attribute a sense of value to native flora, by recognizing the individual qualities of species. Nothing is superfluous in a natural environment; each plant life is unique and at the same time plays a role in the surrounding ecosystem.

My works are based on direct observation, I only paint things I have seen or experienced, so these trips are very important for the development and inspiration. I have continued to join in outings with Redlands bushcare groups through the seed collection and bird watching groups. Involvement with bushcare groups in Redlands has resulted in works that explore the role people play in shaping habitat. Some ideas reflected in works include migration in South-east Queensland, the value of hollow trees within an environment, volunteer work to stabilize creek edges, water quality testing and seed collection.

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Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming exhibition at Salt Contemporary “Diamonds in my eyes”?

“Diamonds in my eyes” was the title of one painting in my last show; I liked the ideas behind this work and decided to focus a show on them. Essentially my current paintings feature species and environments that are treasures to me, places that in my eyes are very valuable and special.

This is the statement for the original painting titled ‘Diamonds in my eyes’:

Diamonds in my eyes’.

This painting tries to capture some of the features I find incredibly beautiful in stately mature trees. It is one of several works developed with the intention of reflecting or attributing a sense of value to the subject, the subject being plants, and more specifically native flora.

Titles for works come from many ideas and experiences. When I started thinking about concepts for this exhibition, one thought was how to represent plants in a way that reflected a sense that they are valuable. I thought about what is considered valuable today, some images of advertising in glossy magazines and marketing of ‘desirable’ or must-have items came to mind. Could stately trees be the bling of the future?

Thinking of trees in terms of diamonds brought back memories of my first job after leaving school. I worked in a large family run jewellers upstairs in Bourke Street, Melbourne. With around thirty staff it wasn’t your everyday chain store type jeweller. I can still recall my amazement at the volume of jewellery sold. Were diamonds really rare? I am drawing a large loop of thoughts here, but diamonds are basically carbon compressed over millennium. I guess I’m more a tree person these days.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…and, what caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I have worked with many mediums over the years but find painting in acrylics on canvas, incorporating pigmented inks and natural ochres in some works suits my painting style.

I work on canvas in the studio and on paper when outdoors on site. In the last year or two I have taken silhouette forms from my paintings and developed these in hand cut paper works, often layered with overlapping elements. I enjoy working with acrylics because drying times are reasonably fast allowing layers to be built up without too much waiting time. I find I can achieve all the effects I am looking for with acrylics. From glazes and transparent washes to calligraphic chinese brush work and opaque solid patterns and silhouettes. I don’t graduate or modulate colour for natural lighting effects so working wet in wet or the need for slow drying times is not something I am looking for in a medium.

Why are you an artist?

I wonder if I had a choice. I feel compelled to respond to the world around me through visual language.

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…”?

Yes, in 2004. I had been painting and exhibiting what I would describe now as ‘pictures’ for many years, but the process had become a bit of a formula. I wasn’t inspired by the work I was making and it lacked purpose or meaning for me. I stopped painting completely for a year and asked myself a few questions. ‘What is the purpose of art?’ “What is the purpose of being an artist?’ Answering these questions for myself was a huge turning point in my art journey. I had been writing in my visual diaries for years about layering images and the works I would like to make, but I hadn’t been making them. It was very challenging at the time to make work that I didn’t know what it should look like (challenging in a good way, exciting, unknown). I had to trust in my instinct and just make it. These early works featured the ecology of my garden and were inspired by direct observations of the various life forms and seasonal changes in it. They were the beginning of my current practice, they were the beginning of painting with purpose or meaning, my art had something to say.

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Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

There have been many stepping stones, I think each one along the way has been important and contributed to my journey, and it would be hard to single out just one.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

I have kept art journals since I began making art; I find them a great resource of ideas and inspiration. They include images of all kinds that for some reason have caught my eye. Colour notes, writings of impressions from site visits. Thumbnail sketches of ideas for works, ideas for titles of works, layouts of shows, etc. I try to put pretty much all my ideas in these for reference. They can be great to look back on when beginning work/research for a new show; I can pick up on a trail of ideas or see a focal point to develop further.

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

Daylight for painting.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day?

There are studio days, admin days, site visit days, delivery days… Studio days begin around 8am with emails, blogs, etc. then I start painting at 9am, lunch is at 12 noon and then I will stop work around 5pm. It can depend on daylight hours as I like to work in natural light, so longer in summer and shorter in winter. I will often do paper cutting work at night as this is not daylight dependant for me. Some days are just spent in front of the computer all day. Newsletters, website updates, proposals, exhibition statements, etc. It just depends what needs doing most. I work Monday to Friday throughout the year, in the couple of months leading up to a solo exhibition it is often 7 days a week.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

No. Now that I have a better idea about it I try not to think about it.

Aside from making art works for exhibition, are there other things that you do to earn a living (eg teaching, workshops, other?)

I worked on my first public art project in 2008 and have had two subsequent projects. These projects take artwork into industrial materials and built environments. It’s a challenging and rewarding experience to work on projects like these. I enjoy them because it takes artwork outside of the traditional gallery space and places them in public spaces where many people can interact and respond to them.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Contemporary Australian art in general, I’m always excited to see new work. Artists I like include Fiona Hall, Janet Laurence, John Wolseley, Jenny Orchard, Sally Smart, Shane Cotton and Belinda Fox. Fiona Hall makes incredibly intelligent and sophisticated artworks that are also aesthetically beautiful. I heard Janet Laurence speak about her art practice at FEHVA one year; it was very inspiring and left me thinking wow that is what art can be. John Wolseley’s direct works from observation of environments is inspiring and enthralling to view I think. He immerses himself in the places that feature in his works.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

We, humans, are completely connected to the world around us. If I could achieve one thing from my art it would be to encourage people to value life in all its forms and perhaps recognise that we are not superior but rather dependant on life around us.


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Compiled and edited by Amanda van Gils © 2011+

Hannah Haworth – Contemporary Visual Artist

Hannah Haworth is a Contemporary Visual Artist from Queens, NYC www.hannahhaworth.com She has agreed to share some of her art and ideas with us. So here are her responses to the questions I posed recently. Enjoy…


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Hannah with “The hunt”

What are you currently working on

I am currently working on a life size (10ft) beluga whale constructed from a very basic armature on the interior and a hand knitted exterior using purely natural fibres. This will be shown at the Vogue knitting LIVE event in the Manhattan Hilton from January 21-23, and I am exhibiting it shortly after from February 5 along with a range of other works at my upcoming solo show in Gitana Rosa gallery, Williamsburg.

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What or who inspires your art?

Folk art has had quite an influence. The first time I visited in the US I found out about folk or ‘outsider’ art and got into it in a big way I was completely intrigued by these off beat monuments such as The Corn Palace in South Dakota, the home of the real Rhinestone Cowboy, Grandma Prisby’s bottle village, etc. At the time, it really felt like I was discovering these almost spiritual hearts of America. I really admire the sheer passion that goes into these often-unintentional attractions, and the total honesty present in the work. I think it’s very pure, and that is such an inspiration to me.

Animals are clearly an inspiration too, they are also such a symbol of purity. They act solely on basic instinct, and that is a beautiful thing to consider.

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I think at the root of my choice to knit my work is from my childhood. I grew up in a minute tribal community on an island in the Philippines, craft was a real core to the culture, and so it became an important part of my life too. I did a lot of beadwork with the girls mainly as a social thing but also because I loved making wee bits and pieces.  After moving back to Scotland as a teen I lost interest in craft, but maintained my artistic side mostly with cringy drawings of rockstars!

I wound up in art school down in Edinburgh and my creative tendencies slowly veered back towards craft, I started doing a little weaving, casting textiles and some bronze work too. Towards my final year I met Ysolda (www.ysolda.com), who was (and still does) run her own knitwear business. She really got me interested in knitting and I liked that it was very traditional to Scotland, I did bits of knitting related work for her here and there then I really got the bug and wanted to do nothing but, so I spent the rest of my time at ECA trying to include knitting into my various briefs and make it look like sculpture as was necessary to complete my degree! This turned out to be more fun than I had expected and I haven’t looked back since.

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“Uqualik”

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

It’s horrible! When I first get the news that someone wants to show my work I feel fantastic, I really celebrate and start coming up with all kinds of insane things I want to make, then I get started and I often lose momentum here and there and then the deadline really gets its teeth into me and I find myself knitting in a cold sweat as fast as possible (often with techno on, this really makes my needles fly) right up to the moment before the opening. It really is not a pleasant feeling knowing that you can’t take any shortcuts and you have to submit a sled-full of larger than life dogs in 2 weeks, or else….

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

I used to work a lot from sketching and painting and doing the kinds of things I thought I should be doing as artistic research. But eventually the boredom kind of got to me and I started being a little more intuitive with it. Now I play with/watch animals constantly, read a lot, take too many photographs, blog, travel and watch films. I really Google a lot too.

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“The Sleep of Reason”

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

This I change my mind about a lot. Usually when I am making something I think a lot about the viewer, I want people to be able to get a kick out of my work, not in a deep or edgy way just in a simple appreciation, like you would feel trying on a perfect dress. Sometimes I like to try and make people laugh too. But once my work is finished and on display, I stop thinking about how people feel towards it so much, I think because I also disconnect from it once it’s away from my hands. And then, very occasionally I’m completely the other way around, and I spend my entire show chatting to people 24/7 about their thoughts on my work.


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“Krearnartok”

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

It can be, recently I had a bit of a slump, I just lost interest in knitting completely, I was bored with it. So with a looming deadline, I decided to knit the first thing I ever knitted, which was this fake fox stole. It made me remember why I took it up and enjoy it all over again.

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Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

I recently read Leviathan by Phillip Hoare, it is a non-fiction text on whales, and I would really recommend it to anyone, even those that aren’t into whales. The information and the great use of illustration and photographs throughout really helped inspire my current beluga project.

Other than that, I really enjoy National Geographic magazine, it’s something I’ve read since I was a child, and how I learned about the arctic in the first place. I used to save all the cold animal pictures and make scrapbooks dedicated to specific species, full of notes I had picked up from the article. And technically, I think Alice Starmore’s ‘Fair Isle Knitting’ is one of the best texts out there on its subject.

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“Kentauroi”

Is your work process fast or slow?

So slow! There are really no valid shortcuts with knitting, and most of the time I knit something about 4 or 5 times over before I’m happy with it. This can get frustrating but most of the time I kind of appreciate the slowness and monotony, its something I enjoy about knitting as opposed to many other forms of sculpture. I can really let my mind wander while I’m doing it; I can watch films, listen to audio books, I often work on the subway too. It’s mostly relaxing, kind of therapeutic; except for when I have to rip back weeks of work.

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“Kentauroi”

Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?

Winter makes me knit more because it just feels right. Knitting is really a wintery hobby, and I love the cold, its so invigorating to me, it keeps my mind awake and ticking with ideas and subsequently my needles start clicking. Also, I think advertising has a lot to do with it. During the winter all these ads pop up all over the place packed with knitwear, snowy scenes, arctic animals, etc. These definitely seep in to my subconscious and make me want to be around yarn all day making my own snow-scapes and working on my responses to the cold.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you, which might be connected to your art?

Animals, always. Growing up I spent a lot of time following cats, exploring the lives they live parallel to us and examining their relationships with their environments. This encouraged me to examine my own also and the core of my work is based around my thoughts on what being a human is and my connections with other species and the land itself. When I build a large scale installation, I want it to feel similar (for the viewer) to following a cat in some ways. I try to encourage curiosity and also a little healthy introspection. Nowadays, I often go exploring with my dog Cocoa to stay in touch with that.

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

Occasionally from life, but mostly from my imagination, I use photographs sometimes when I need to check out a certain detail of some animal or other. When I was building the Qamutiq (Inuit sled) for The Hunt, I wrote to a lot of mushers and sled makers to ask about how I should make it, everyone was so kind and some sent me plans and how-to’s I totally Frankensteined my favourite parts from each to make my final with my brother (he is a carpenter), I was pleased with how that one turned out.

I like to make miniatures too before I make the real thing too, this helps me visualise the final and make any adjustments early before it becomes a huge job to change anything.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?

The money: you have none then you have loads and then this repeats and repeats until you stop being an artist. You need to be able to deal with that. I cant, I am terrible with money, when I get it I spend it too fast and its gone again. Then of course it’s starvation until the next sale.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?

I visit places and travel a lot of the time for my work, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe those trips as pilgrimages. I’d say I have only had one true pilgrimage; it was a few years ago, I think 2007, I became really fascinated by the mythological Centaur. They started appearing in my dreams, then they began to pop up in my art too and as I tried to read more and more about these strange creatures it kind of grew into an obsession. After months of studying I decided I needed to go back to Greece and visit Mount Pelion, which according to mythology is the home of the centaur.

I was living in Scotland at the time so it wasn’t so far to go; it all seemed perfectly reasonable. I had a project lined up for when I was there I was planning to carve parts of fossilized centaur remains into the numerous rock faces on the mountain. So after 3 weeks (of many detours and stops) of travelling by train, bus, ferry, hitchhiking and walking I arrived at Mt Pelion with not much other than a set of chisels, my passport, a book called ‘A geological companion to the Agean’ and a tent. Of course the first day I spent on the beautiful beaches at the foot of the mountain and had a much-needed shower at a kind local farm. Then the second day I started to climb, I was there a week in total and I never did finish that project!

It just didn’t feel like the right thing to do while I was there, and when I did force myself to start carving I got bitten by a wee snake about 30 mins in. I took that as a sign to stop and instead I spent the time hiking, riding a mule (ha! pretending I was a centaur) taking photos and interviewing locals on centaurs (‘eh…? Why you care about such things? Lets go to bar’). That was the first and last artistic pilgrimage I went on, I think it might be difficult for me to top…

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Dr Gillian Turner – Artist

When I walk into an exhibition, I fully expect to be there for a few minutes, have a glance and move on. When I walked in to Dr Turners exhibition I was captivated for much longer than usual. Perhaps because of the way it was presented, the connection I felt between my own work and hers, or the way the exhibition captured something special about her residency in Ireland.

Come to think of it it was probably all those things. It didn’t take long to track her down (Thanks to her business cards on a podium at the exhibition) and invite her to be interviewed.

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Your exhibition is the result of an artist in residency you undertook in Ireland. How did that come about?
The Residencies happened by sheer chance! I met an Irish artist working in the local art supply shop and we got chatting. She mentioned the Burren College of Art and suggested I check the website. The college is affiliated to the Royal College of Art, London and Johns Hopkins University, USA.
I was delighted by what I saw and decided to apply online. The first response within 24 hours was favourable and I was asked to send a detailed proposal and CD of recent images. About 6 weeks later I received notification in the mail that I’d been offered a Residency for May/June 2009.

I had already completed two residencies in Australia at the Arthur Boyd Studios, Bundanon, NSW in 2001 and 2004, and I knew just how valuable the experience could be. This opportunity to take up a residency overseas was amazing. The residency at Burren College of Art this year was an absolute joy.

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Is the work produced for that different to your usual works?
The work produced in Ireland is, in many ways, radically different from work I have done previously, but I can see connections with the body of work I did during the 2004 residency at Bundanon.
My approach to creating works is always to be open to what the landscape demands. For this reason, my ‘style’ or ‘usual work’ is more difficult to explain. The constant in my work is a response to landscape and ways in which the land offers itself as part of my image making.

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Can you give us a brief history of your art career.
I have always had an interest in drawing and painting from a very young age, and most of my teenage works were about landscape, flowers, trees and the sea. I completed a Diploma of Fine Art before deciding to teach art at secondary level.

In 1986, I returned to study at Deakin University majoring in Visual Art and Literature. Post Graduate study moved me towards Literature and research into the realisation of landscape in written texts. In 1996, I graduated with a PhD., but I was never far from the visual arts because one part of my thesis discussed the connections between the visual and performing arts in our understanding of space and the realisation of landscape.

This research informs much of my current art practice and my interest in the use of text in my works.

My first major solo exhibition was held at the Geelong Gallery in 2006 as part of the Shell Regional Arts Program.
The current exhibition at Deakin is part of the Alumni exhibition program, and is the largest I have done. I have been offered two exhibitions in Ireland in 2011.

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The works in the exhibition look very influenced by the environment, water and rocks especially, what can you tell us.
For me, the landscape is fundamental to every aspect of my work. I try to intervene as little as possible in such processes as rain works – where ink is applied to a surface and exposed to the elements for periods of time. Movement generated by wind creates the land’s marks, and my role is to decide the extent of that process.

Some works in the exhibition were created by the movement of a single wave over the paper surface. Other images emerged from the flow of ink on various surfaces in containers on the sea. The undulations of the swell and swaying clumps of seaweed create extraordinary imagery. My role is to select the location and the timing.

Exposing paper and ink to the weather for extended periods of time can create fascinating textures and ‘found’ marks such as snail attack or sea lice! The rain works are created by the action of drops on an inked surface place horizontally or vertically.

The ephemera of shadows is also part of my image making. Photographing a drawing in the location where it was created but adding shadows of grasses or other plants, generates a fleeting possibility for the land to offer its own marks to the final image.

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In studying art, was there any one style of art which interested you?
There are two major influences in my work: Japanese brush drawing and the landscape works of Australian artist John Wolseley.

The simple yet immensely complex use of brush marks in Japanese calligraphy, and the sparse beauty of art forms such as the raked stone gardens, are powerful forces for me. I have been to Japan twice and connected with the place.

John Wolseley’s approach to landscape is as a journey that encompasses all aspects of the space through which he moves. My interest in rain works was inspired by one of his works in which is noted beside a mark on one of the sheets that comprise his large scale works, that it started to rain.

Performance arts are also an important influence for me: contemporary dance, improvisation and sound sculpture, the work of Philip Glass and pop singer Mika.

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Interests you have other than art you believe are of value to mention.
Both writing and music are important to me and are part of my art practice.  In 2011,  I shall be taking up a residency at Cill Railaig in Co. Kerry. The focus of that residency will be writing as well as visual art.
Music has been part of my life since childhood and I am drawing on that now as another dimension in my response to landscapes. An experimental musical composition drawing is part of the showcase in the exhibition; it draws on fragments of overheard conversations and the structure of the traditional framed view.

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Have you been on the Bellarine Peninsula long, and has it had an influence on your work?
I have been living on the Bellarine since 2003 and in Clifton Springs since 2007. Before that, I spent a number of years in the Geelong region and then Sydney for two years… I walk to The Dell beach each day and find it a source of quiet, a place to think and be near sea.  The Bellarine is a great place for photography, and there is a vibrant arts community. My involvement in Life Drawing at Springdale, Drysdale, is a very important aspect of my drawing practice.

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In the exhibition you used a lot of ink, (which is stunning by the way…) is that your usual medium? if not why the choice?
I have always used inks as part of my practice, but in the exhibition works the technique is something new. It emerged from experimental drawing in Ireland last year. Applying, moving and layering the ink is a challenge. The entire process is extremely physical and takes longer than the results suggest! Most of the drawings have three to four layers or reworking of the ink surface.  The visual connection with the geological layering of the rocks in the Burren made it an exciting new process.

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How important is art for you?
Vital! I have always been involved with art either as an educator or practising artist.
I still teach from time to time but have given up regular work to focus on my studio. Being involved with the arts is life giving and spiritually uplifting.

Was the residency a turning point in your career thus far or have there been others?
The residencies in Ireland have without doubt been a turning point in my career! Prior to my time in Ireland, the first residency at Bundanon was a hugely influential experience; it was the first time I had the opportunity to work in an intensive studio environment with other artists.  The connections made with artists and galleries in Ireland have opened up so many possibilities.

Do you keep a visual diary of some kind?
I draw everyday, which I guess is a visual diary. During each of my residencies I have kept a journal  (the two Ireland ones are in the exhibition showcase). When I am researching a particular project, I keep a journal that documents ideas and processes, comments and reflections on the works.

Do you have a personal philosophy which underpins your work?

My personal philosophy centres on the spiritual dimension of the environment. The presence of the past in the landscape is fragile but extremely powerful.

What can you say about your work, which might not be evident to the viewer?
The direct action of the environment can be seen in my work. The assumption that all marks in drawings are made by me, is best avoided!

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Motivation is not really an issue for me now I’m no longer involved in full time teaching.  I love drawing and being in my studio. I am also highly motivated by working with other artists, so the Ireland residencies and the local drawing group are important to me.

Tell us about your studio environment?

My studio is a large upstairs room in my home; it is my first studio space and was the feature that sold the property. There is good light, a view across Corio Bay to the You Yangs and enough space for me to work.
Being within easy walking distance of a beach is important for me, and I have a growing collection of found rope fragments ready to inspire a series of drawings and an installation.
The walls are covered in drawings, notes and other items relating to whatever I’m working on. Right now it’s all about Ireland with photos of cattle, artist friends and a detailed map of the Burren region in County Clare.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?
The most important aspect of my work is the concept being explored, and for me that always comes back to realisation of landscape. Therefore, the techniques and materials employed are fundamental to exploring that concept.

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Exhibition – Kerrie Warren and Dragi Jankovic

In the West Gippsland art centre at Warragul Vic, two Contemporary Artists came together to produce a stunning show recently, I was fortunate enough to interview Kerrie Warren about the exhibition she shares with Dragi Jankovic. Enjoy…

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Kerrie this exhibition is awesome… what was the inspiration for it?
A couple of things came together to create this opportunity, our Arts and Cultural Officer Karen Whitaker-Taylor moved into the West Gippsland Arts Centre to manage incoming exhibitions.  When I heard that she was calling for proposals, I quickly put one in as it has been a number of years since exhibiting major works in my own region.  Later in the year I’ll be busy with Art Sydney, so the timing worked beautifully!

Due to the open space, I asked ceramic artist Dragi Jankovic to exhibit with me in a joint show.  Dragi was just about to take off to Korea on a ceramic arts project and the timing worked well for him too.

You and Dragi go a long way back is this the first time you have exhibited together on this scale (or any scale for that matter.)
Many years ago (approx 17) Dragi was my teacher when I studied for my Diploma of Art in Ceramics but we connected again a few years ago when I invited Dragi to share a space at Art Melbourne with me.  We could clearly see a harmony between our pieces and so did the public.  We received so many positive comments about how it worked together.

Is the work interconnected in some obvious way the viewer will pick up?
No.  Dragi and myself didn’t sit down and plan the concept of the show.  We are both dedicated passionate artists however and I think it connects on that level.  When we installed the work it was truly an amazing experience and we had onlookers…. I would hang a painting and Dragi would place a plinth and a piece of his work…. it seemed every piece had been planned to sit beside my work and vice versa!

The pieces actually sing in ‘harmony’ and the staff at the Arts Centre stood back quite amazed.  To be honest I think we were too, it really appears to be carefully ‘thought out’!  It is a very powerful experience to walk into.

You have done Ceramics yourself, I hear you are getting back into it is that right?
Yes!  I’ve just finished renovating my studio and now I have another area where I’ve set up ceramics.  I wondered if after more than 10 years I could still ‘throw a pot’ and I can!  Years ago as a young artist I had to make a decision to go one way or the other as I had a lack of space and money.  I was becoming quite engrossed in my works on canvas and decided to sell my kiln and clear the space in order to expand my ideas.  I’ve missed ceramics and sculpture being a part of my life and now I am in a position where I can integrate them back into my practise.

Your style has altered a bit over the years from strict borders and masking taped lines to what I will call a “fully organic” open slather approach. Within that, have you seen an evolution of your style?
Yes, I had to grow to where I am now through experience.  I began life as a ‘traditional’ artist and therefore had many blocks to break through to ‘abstract expressionism’.  I followed instincts and felt the pull over time.  Thus there was my geometric period (approx 2001 – 2004) where I explored straight lines and ‘abstract expressionism’ contained within lines (blocks).  It was as if I would allow myself to play within a designated area only.

Well playing within the blocks became the most interesting and fascinating experience, originally seeded by my previous studies in Transpersonal Art Therapy where we would work on the floor.  In early 2005 I looked back at my work and vowed I would never put another straight line on my canvas again, I was ready to indulge myself completely!  It was only through other people referring to my work as ‘Pollock’ style did I then begin to study him myself.  I became intrigued because he had ‘grown’ to that place of abstract expressionism from his own roots, and I had experienced the same.

I have only seen your old studio, the new one you recently completed, does it make a difference to the way you work?
Oh yes!  My new studio is just amazing!  I have a separate ‘splatter studio’ which you can imagine is a necessity… I have a clean area where I stretch canvas, varnish, photograph etc… and a ceramic studio, kiln shed and carport for loading.  It is like a promotion really!  It allows me to operate in a more professional sense and is not connected to our home.  The studio has a separate driveway and parking area and we are now landscaping and building paths…  I think I have a fishpond on the way too!

Your energy and enthusiasm for your work and the promotion thereof is incredible, to me you are a shining light for very active marketing. Is there a reason for that? and does it come easily…

Steve, I’m really happy you feel that coming through.  I suppose I feel absolutely ‘driven’, I always have.  There is always so much to do and so little time…  The energy and excitement is initiated through my work and extends through all things.  While the paint is drying I’m busy with promotions because the energy is always there.  That is partly why I’ve brought ceramics back into my practice, I simply have so much energy for my work and I experience the same in various materials.  I don’t work with a preconceived idea and I think this creates an ongoing excitement for what I do.  Every day is like Christmas in the studio.  It must seem crazy I suppose but I’m always expecting the unexpected… and that is damn exciting!

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Michelle Lee

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Your work seems to be from another era, similar to the work of Paul Outerbridge, is this deliberate or by chance?
Definitely by chance but I really appreciate how well he uses colors in his images. Colors are very important to me and I try to make full use of it in my work. I do believe that colors play a big role in expressing emotions and thoughts.
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Have you explored other art mediums or was photography a simple choice for you?
When I was younger, I made handcrafts to be sold in school and was interested in graphic/ packaging design. I took a diploma course in interactive media, worked for 1 year and realized that it really wasn’t me at all. I didn’t like being stuck behind the computer the whole time. I left the company and worked in a commercial photography studio and that’s when I realized that photography was my true calling.
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What highlights have you had in your artistic career so far?
I would say that winning an award during the graduation night was a big surprise. It was gratifying because I was so terrified during my first year of university. I didn’t know what aperture and shutter meant and thought I wasn’t going to make it through the first year.
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Photography is a medium which has been slow to be accepted as an artistic medium by collectors in Australia, has that been the case for you?
To be honest, I have lived and grown up in Malaysia my whole life except for my studies at RMIT so I cannot answer this question but this is the case in my country. It’s an up and coming medium accepted by fine art collectors in Malaysia but it’s happening slowly. Over here, commercial photography is much bigger than fine art photography.
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Is your work purely artistic or do you do more “commercial work” too?
At university, we had the opportunity to work on personal work so I took the chance to work on purely artistic work; work I felt was ‘me’. But at the same time, I tried to inject a little commercial finishing to my work. I like the finish of commercial work but I like the conceptual part of artistic work. So, it’s a little bit of both but I definitely lean more towards fine art work and would like to pursue it as a career.
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You have a website, has this added to the interest in your work?
It definitely helps when I’m talking to people who want to take a look at my work there and then. I think having a website is very important even if you are just a student. It shows people you are very focused and passionate about what you do. When people see that, they have a stronger inclination to want to work with you. With the digital era now, a website is a very important marketing tool. It reaches places where the ‘physical you’ can’t and that could open up some windows of opportunity. You never know!
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Do you have gallery representation in a number of galleries or just one?
I am going to be exhibiting at Obscura Gallery for a month but I would love to be represented by fine art galleries. I’m an Artist and I value other people who are experts in that area of art.
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What can you tell us about your time as a student, were you an “arty” creative type or a ”technical” type?
I think I was more technical than arty, but I was only technical when it came to lighting. I had no interest in fancy gear at the time. I majored in studio photography and it usually required a lot of concentration on technical lighting. I also majored in portraiture, which mainly evolves around a concept or a story. It was a good balance to have majored in both subjects because collectively, it taught me photography is about lighting but the essence of a photograph is in the concept. It’s very important to balance both art and technique.
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Who have been the most influential artists or photographers for you?
I like artists/ photographers who use surrealism or have really strong aesthetics (composition and color) in their work. I also tend to get drawn to people who produce work, which is very ‘gentle’ and ‘quiet’. For photographers, these are a few of my favourites: Andre Kertesz, Sarah Moon, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Julie Blackmon, Helen Blomqvist and Namiko Kitaura. I like female illustrators who emphasise the female form and beauty like Audrey Kawasaki and Eriko Yamashiro. I absolutely love Mark Ryden’s use of colours.
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Is there anything you would like to tell readers about your influences or environmental factors (like where you live) you believe are important to know?
I think my parents’ influences rubbed off on me from a very young age because unconsciously, I was probably absorbing the artwork they hung on the walls and the design-based objects they had at home. That kind of environment teaches one to appreciate art in all forms. Coming from an Asian country and being an Asian myself, we are taught it’s important to work hard. Also, it’s essential to remain inspired and positive; something,which is very important to new artists. It’s hard to create when the soul is broken.
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What do you hope a viewer will “get” from looking at your work?
I want them to be attracted to the particular piece of work. ‘Attraction’ is just unexplainable but absolutely fantastic. You see something and you go, “oh” and then you get attracted and sometimes you don’t know why, then comes the “what, why, how, when, who” questions and it’s fine if they decide they don’t like it very much after all. I am hoping for them to experience this kind of process. Besides, my work is very much about how I feel so it’s always interesting to find out if the viewers are able to sense the particular emotions I felt through a piece of work because interpretation is often subjective.
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What advice would you give to an Art Student starting out after University?
You must know what you want in life. Leaving university, a lot of us fall into this “what should I do now?” scenario because all of a sudden after 3 years in university, we don’t have time tabled classes and no assessment criteria to fulfil. From there, it’s all up to ourselves. We have to know what we want in life and work towards that goal with a short term and long term goal. Even if the plans don’t work out, it’s okay as long as you tried your best and remained focused.
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Artists Statement
“My work explores the feelings of frustrations, conformity, eccentricity, dreams and ideals of everyday living by using allegorical narratives. Emotions and thoughts are very important. These two elements are the fundamentals of our everyday lives. Sometimes, they are over-consuming and complex, temporarily blinding the conscious state of mind. My work acts like a journal, projecting existing strong emotions I am feeling during the time of conceptualisation. I visually express myself with my work, unconsciously creating a contradictory state of complex emotions and simple aesthetics.”
Regards,
Michelle Lee.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Kathryn Ryan – Artist

Are you currently represented by a gallery?

Yes I am currently represented by Tim Olsen Gallery in Sydney, since 2006, and by Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne since 2000.

kathryn-at-work

What are you currently working on?

I am about to have a solo exhibition at Tim Olsen Gallery, so I have just completed all the work for this show. In this exhibition I have worked on a new series of large oil paintings inspired by the Scottish Highlands, Glencoe region in the snow. It is the first time I have attempted to paint landscapes in snow and also the first time I have diverged from painting the Australian landscape. Painting snow landscapes was a bit daunting at first and required some trial & error and change in the painting techniques that I have been used to. So currently I am in the pre exhibition phase of having the paintings photographed/ organising the invitations/ mailing list/artist statement, advertising and publicity with the gallery.

Once the exhibition opens, I will be starting another body of work for my next solo show in Melbourne in 11 months time.

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Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Absolutely. I grew up on a dairy farm in Western Victoria, constantly surrounded by the landscape. Huge skies, vast space and distances, directly affected by the changing seasons and weather conditions. Farm life, repetition and ritual, isolation, the space and light of always being surrounded by nature has had an enduring effect on me as a person and how I approach my artwork and its subject matter.

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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?

In more recent years, my approach to my studio practice has become fairly structured. I have always been methodical in my approach, however in earlier years, there was probably a lot more searching and investigation of processes and ideas and exploring concerns. Over time, my ideas and knowledge of my painting process has been refined and focused on more concise ways of working.

I am always looking, thinking and photographing. I tend to work in a yearly cycle for my solo exhibitions, which means I usually focus on work for one exhibition at a time. This body of work may contain 12 – 20 paintings, depending on size, and will take most of the year to complete. I like to spend time brewing the ideas for this work in the beginning, often sifting back through my library of relevant photos, to consolidate ideas.

I work out the feel/concerns/ objectives of the work first, then decide on the imagery for the paintings and work out sizes & scale of the work, usually to fit the particular gallery space. So a lot is worked out before hand, the overall feel of the exhibition…. then it is a matter of organising my time and  planning the workload for the year in time for the exhibition.

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Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

It is a very big task, but no longer daunting. I work on one solo exhibition each year, so I am usually planning my workload in a 12 month cycle. I usually spend time in the beginning working out how I see the paintings for the upcoming show. Once I have arrived at a ‘theme’ or visual idea/feel for the paintings I want to do, then I set about planning out the size and amount of paintings in relation to the gallery size. I then usually plan out my workload spread out over the year or time frame I have to complete the work, ie I may work on 5 paintings in a 3 month period. So really there is a lot of planning in the beginning, then it is just get on with the work!

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Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc

For some time now, I have been referencing the landscapes of Western Victoria. I decided it was crucial for me to go back to my source/ my personal background, of growing up on a dairy farm, to paint about something I knew so well. How it felt to be living on the land, surrounded by all that space and changing light and weather conditions. It was something I had an intimate personal knowledge of and connection to. Even though I am now living it the city, I feel my farm upbringing is instilled strongly in my memory source and with my family still on our farm, I have regular visits back there.

I am always photographing, carrying my camera everywhere, recording ideas and what I see, building a library of reference photos to draw upon. In the past I used to do more studies and exploring of ideas and processes on paper before I worked on large canvases. However, in recent years I tend to work only on my big canvases, straight to finished works for exhibition. This is mostly due to time constraints, I don’t seem to have the time to just ‘play’ or experiment in the studio, but I am also not sure I always want to anyway. I find when I work solely on big pieces for exhibitions, you are forced to resolve issues, technical and ideas, so that the painting works out, there is not a lot of room for error. This can be a pressure, but also a good pressure to bring out the best results.

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Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Yes I have always kept an art journal since my first day at art school, so that is going back 26 years now! I have kept them all, and often refer  back to previous ones . Initially they were full of sketches and ideas and articles or pictures that had inspired me. Over the years they became more analytical, writing about the concerns in my work and investigating various themes. In recent years, they are more a practical diary of my studio days…listing what paintings I work on each day, their progress, sometimes which colours I mix, and planning my workload.

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Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

I do at times struggle with staying motivated. Often this is after working on a large body of work, and I am most likely very drained and tired. I am a big believer in taking breaks from the studio when possible. For many years, I worked without breaks, but now I try and schedule a break in after each exhibition to recharge before the next onslaught of yearly work on an exhibition. For the times that come up during the year when I feel less motivated, often it is a matter of needing a day off and do something different, or watch some art docos and browse through art books or art magazines, often to see how other artists work in their studios.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

I have had many studios over the years, from garages, spare rooms, stables, to open warehouses. My current studio is the best I have had. It is my own private space in an old building in the heart of the city. It is large with several windows of indirect light and a much needed sink. I have an area for painting, a desk/clean area and a large work table area. It could probably do with more storage area and natural light, but really it is a great space in the middle of the city. It is very quiet and private; I lock myself away there all day apart from my morning coffee in the bustling laneways below and sometimes out for lunch.

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From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?

In the beginning there was a lot more struggle with the work, both with ideas and technically in exploring different ways of working. A lot of soul searching went into the concerns behind and in the work…. This has now given way to a more assured feeling of knowledge of both what I am trying to achieve in my work and also technically how I go about achieving it.

There was more isolation in the beginning, leaving art school, looking for studios, trying to find a gallery and entering art prizes. Not knowing a lot of artists in a new city, not being part of any ‘art scene’… It seemed a long way away to be an exhibiting artist, let alone painting full-time.

So a lot has changed, but it has been over a 24 year period of working in the studio… it took a long time for anything significant to happen. The first 14 years out of art school were very slow in terms of exhibiting or selling work. However, when it did start to fall in to place, it happened quickly and escalated at a good pace. Since then, I have had solo shows most years and have sold everything I do, which enabled me to paint fulltime.

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What is your working routine? Do you listen to music while you work, or stay up late for instance?

I tend to work Mon-Fri business hours. Painting fulltime, I find it is crucial to have a structure and routine in place to help keep me motivated and also to monitor my energy levels. I find if I work back too late it only leaves me with less energy and exhausted the next day to paint. So I find it is better to leave the studio about 6pm or so… home to eat and rest for the next day!

After a morning coffee in a nearby cafe, I am upstairs to my own locked away studio. I tend to start painting almost immediately. After changing into my paint clothes, a quick check of emails, I make a quick decision on which painting to work on for the day… quick decisions on what needs to be done to the painting that day… then it is just painting time. Mostly I play music on my I-Pod speakers… depending on my mood what type of music, sometimes I just want it quiet. The odd cup of tea while I am working.. but I try and stay at the easel until I have achieved what I set out to do for the day.

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Did you intend to become a professional artist?

Yes , from my late teen years I knew I was driven and inspired to be an artist. My intention was to strive to be an exhibiting artist. Although it was a long road to be represented by a commercial gallery, I always believed it would happen and that I just had to work hard and concentrate on making the best work I could and developing it to a higher standard.

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Was there a point where you decided : Ok I can live off my art?

Yes. My 2003 solo exhibition had sold out and with the prices having gradually increased I took the plunge to live fulltime off my artwork. Prior to this I had already reduced my part time working hours, with the sales of my art work supplementing my income. My previous shows in the last few years had all sold out, so I felt more confident to take the risk. I hoped that by being able to give all my time to my studio practice I would also be able to produce more work and give it all my full attention and energy.

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Matthew Rose – Artist

Matthew Rose is in Paris France and is represented by

Janet Miller (Soma Art Gallery), Cape May, NJ;  - Keep Calm Gallery, London, UK; - Orange Dot Gallery, London, UK.

An active web person here are his web addresses

http://matthewrosestudio.net/

http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/

http://matthewrosestudio.blogspot.com/

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Matthew With Second Hand Clock Paris France.

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

I am an art and culture writer – The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, theartblog.org, entrée magazine, Art & Antiques magazine among many others; I’ve also written a black comic novel, PLAN B. And I occasionally write music.  My song, I HAVE A CAR, is currently on YouTube (arranged and performed by Hens Breet, Monosopace).

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HOW TO FALL IN LOVE FOREVER, 2009. Collage on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.

What are the main medium/s you work in…

Collage, text, unusual objects. I slap paint around too.

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BREATHLESS, 2010. Collage on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.

Artist’s statement…

I mainly spell with scissors. My installations, massive 1000-piece wall-to-wall displays of individual collage works attempt to reinvent the process of reading. The all-over exhibitions such as Planting Cut Flowers, Spelling With Scissors, The Whole Truth and Confessions – bring together the immense visual and textural vocabulary I find about me in what several critics cited as a “dadaist exploration of sense and nonsense.” While another critic added, my “works are secrets wrapped in riddles that are visually exhaustive and often French-fried.”  These installations and individual works are my theory of everything…a handbook for the 21st century.

I’ve launched a brand of surrealism and touches upon text works, needlepoints, altered objects, silkscreen and glicée prints and books. My next exhibition, Scared But Fresh, takes place at Orange Dot Gallery, London, from October 6 thru October 31. And the project I launched in early 2009, the ongoing global exhibition, A Book About Death, is in the collections of MoMA New York and LACMA. My prints, PAINTINGS, are on permanent exhibition at The Boca Raton Museum of Fine Art, Boca Raton, Florida

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IMMACULATE PERCEPTION, 2009. 80 cm x 60 cm (31.5 x 23.75 in).
Giclée print; edition: 50.

How do you describe your work?

My work is often described as surreal, dada, strange, funny, expensive.

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LES AFFAIRES, 2009. Collage on board, 1.3 x 1.5 meters.

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

My works concern the end of the world, which as one might imagine, includes all of the above. I’m mainly interested in consciousness and its aesthetic, ethical and moral dimensions, but also its innate abilities and weaknesses.

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Je n’aime que toi, poster, 2009. Photo: Danielle Voirin

What are you currently working on?

For the last few weeks I’ve produced two series for Keep Calm Gallery’s ORIGINALS series.  Small collage works (9 x 12 inches).  One is called: A Strange Meeting and the other America.  I’ve also completed some larger collage works like Breathless and How To Fall In Love Forever and Null-Null You Can’t See (50 x 50 cm square on canvas) concern the impossibility of remembering everything that’s ever happened.

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Spelling With Scissors, 2006, Installation, Capsule Gallery, Denver, Colorado.

What did your prices start off at?

I sold my first piece for $50; the last piece was sold for $5000. I’m relatively inexpensive considering today’s market.

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A Book About Death, 2009, Installation,
Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery, New York City, NY .

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

About a dozen at once, but sometimes more.

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A Perfect Friend, 2003. Giclée print (after collage, from the book, A Perfect Friend).
76 x 56 cm. Edition: 3.

Do you have difficulties getting into galleries?

More and more galleries approach me to exhibit with them, but I find myself saying no to galleries that do not have a strong vision or worse, don’t even attempt to engage me or my work on an intellectual level. Communication is key to any collaboration with a dealer and if I find they are dishonest, lie, and/or don’t make an effort to get to know me, I’ll say no. I’m always working – 24 hours a day – and I expect dealers to be at least aware of this.  Better if they too are working like me.

What fascinates you?

The streets, walls, decay and printed paper blowing in the wind. People who drop things as they walk; radio programs from the 1940s.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

How everything and nothing often seem to be the same thing.

Why are you an artist?

I like the hours. Every since I studied semiotics at Brown University, I’ve taken advantage of my obsession with the visual in a larger more formal way as a way to organize and make sense out of my impossible life.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?

Several things, actually – books, publications, major purchases – but the launch of the global project, A Book About Death in New York at the Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery marked a distinct change in my orientation towards the world, art and art making.  See: http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/.  In addition, the inclusion of my work in MASTERS: COLLAGE, a large book recently published by Sterling Publishing/Lark Books has generated enormous interest in my work.

I’ve won an extremely big award at the MUFI stamp art museum in Mexico for my stamp art sheet Rubens Rounding Third.  Taking first prize and a large cash award enabled me to print up 1000 large format stamp sheets and, after signing and numbering the works, put them onto Keep Calm Gallery where we’ve been very successful in creating a buzz and finding an interesting market of stamp art folks, baseball fans and art collectors interested in this very sexually provocative work.  Winning the prize was a complete shock to me (and my father) but … I was pleased the folks down in Mexico liked it enough to give it top honors in the global competition.

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…”?

I’ve always worked in collage and paint, but meeting (and writing about) Ray Johnson had a distinct effect on my work.  I “got” my own work. It made sense to me; I understood that making art was a highly focused way of thinking.  A kind of aesthetic breathing.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I realized that with collage I could steal bits of the universe and make them my own; each tear or cut of a piece of paper became my signature.  The combinations, often surreal, became not just my way of seeing the world but seeing the world.  Plus, I’m very good with scissors and glue. And I’m able to work my vision rapidly, and this speed enables me to work more coherently with the incoherence of my own consciousness.  It’s truer, in a way.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

People you’ve never met come over to your house and buy your art work for whatever price you say.  Or they try to steal little pieces of paper I’ve scribbled on.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?

I often make work in series of a dozen, 50, or 100 works at a time.  Once I sit down with a stack of paper or old magazines, I work like a  machine (with heart) until all the paper is consumed.  It’s more like a tornado than a tsunami (wave).  Then I sweep up and start again.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?

I don’t worry about clarity.  I trust myself. The whole point of making art is to see how I think; the process of making something is the process of thinking, reading, writing and understanding.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

Craft is in the end, subjective.  Poorly crafted work is now a craft in-itself.  But you can tell what is conscious and what is not; editing is more important, in my opinion, than craft alone.

Does the sale of your work support you?

Now yes.  I sell my prints at Keep Calm Gallery in London, and collage works with a number of galleries as well as directly to collectors (even over the internet).  People e mail me all the time and come to visit my studio here in Paris to see and purchase my work.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

Through the global project, A Book About Death, and its subsequent restagings around the world, I’ve come in contact with artists in about 100 countries – about 2000 artists in the last year and a half.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

As part of the recent book publication of MASTERS: COLLAGE (Sterling Publishing/Lark Books; 2010), Randel Plowman has organized a massive exhibition at Northern Kentucky University of the artists’ works.  I’m very happy to participate in the show that opens August 23 and runs thru September, 2010.

My solo show, SCARED BUT FRESH, at London’s Orange Dot Gallery is scheduled to open on October 6, 2010. My first one person exhibition in London.  I am preparing several prints for this show, including a hand pulled silkscreen print (edition: 100) of You-Me, with Michel Hosszù, and a large edition of my enormous collage work, Les Affaires; the latter will be a giclée print produced here in Paris through Burning Boy Press (http://burningboypress.blogspot.com/)

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

Well, I’ve hung several exhibitions with more than 1000 pieces, so yes, it is daunting and time consuming – roughly three to four days to hang the entire exhibition – but almost as much a part of the works as making them in the first place.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Ray Johnson, Jasper Johns and all the surrealists.  Not only did I gain a real understanding of materials and execution from both Johnson and Johns, but also a way to think about my work.  Clearly a sense of reading and writing impregnates my work, and these artists, as well as the surrealists, guided me by freeing me from classical perspective.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

Titles are very important to me, regardless if I end up changing them over time. There is a distinct literary quality to my work and titles tend to indicate a direction to take in unpacking the visual puzzles. I’ve often taken long walks in the streets of Paris to find the right title for a piece; and those titles sometimes come from an overheard conversation, like “Les Affaires” which I plucked from two people discussing either business or their attire. Many titles are in German or in a kind of clipped English, because, for me words are images in and of themselves.  I just simply have to open myself up to this dimension of language to grasp the phrases that literally pour out of the sky.  Then once home, the titles and visual texts, are fused and cut and glued and applied in some way to the works, another aspect of the collage medium.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

Early on my career, I showed a series of seven collage works combining Chinese-English flash cards at a friend’s apartment on Lafayette Street.  It was a large group show of sorts, and my friend Russell Steinert who was then working at Leo Castelli managed to co-opt a narrow wooden shelf, I believe from a Richard Serra installation.  The works, aligned on a wall, were simple word/image plays.  A card of a chicken and an an eye yielded : UNTITLED COCK EYE.  Well, that evening some intrepid art critic scribbled on the wall next to my works: C’est pas l’art! Ouch! It was curious that this was in French, and Russell said to me afterwards: Congratulations, Matthew, you had the best response to any of the works all night. From then on, I knew what I was doing was correct in each and every way.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?

Yes, collectors come back again and again and want to see new works, revisit older pieces I’ve sold them and discuss how I’m working.  It’s extremely rewarding because a sale isn’t just a monetary connection but one that’s both intellectual and social.  I’m grateful for those collectors who really have something to say and to teach me about what my work and methods mean to them. It’s a true gift.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

The art bio books like those about Pollock, de Kooning and Cornell (Utopia Parkway) are among those I’m always referencing.  But also criticism of all sorts interests me.  Some films like How To Draw A Bunny I’ve seen five – six times.  That film brought Ray Johnson’s work to a greater audience.  I think I learned how to remove surfaces from my work by thinking about these artists’ methods.  Sandpaper, knives, water, steel wool allowed me to scrape; subtraction rather than addition, is often a key way of working.

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

Well, honey, then I guess it should be more expensive.

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 rarely find that people are bored by my work, and I think this is because I live full on in an aesthetic frame of mind.  I am intensely visual and creating things for me is a way to see what they look like. I believe that process is for others part of what they experience in my work. The eye reads the various passages – often again and again – and the mind consumes again and again if the pieces are successful. By looking at the piece, I’m trying to create a situation where the viewer “makes” the work and hears its strange song by singing it himself.

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

My mind. But a piece of paper and my No. 2 Big Ticonderoga pencil helps.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?

I actually get that a lot from people who don’t know me, hate my politics and hate my work without ever having experienced it. I don’t mind it.  If I weren’t starving, I don’t think I’d have much reason to make art.

E: MATTHEW.ROSE.PARIS@GMAIL.COM


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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Annie Taylor – Artist

Annie Taylor is currently represented by  Courcoux & Courcoux in Stockbridge, UK and has been making art full time for the last 5 years. Her web details are here…

http://www.annie-taylor.comhttp://creativerollercoaster.blogspot.com

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Annie in the studio © Annie Taylor 2010+

What are the main medium/s you work in…
I work in oil on canvas, mostly large format 1 metre +, although I am trying to control this urge! Smaller paintings definitely get more house room.

Artist’s statement…
I have been passionate about the natural world since I was very small. My work is about that passion: not just the silence, the peace, the nurture for the spirit that the countryside can provide, but also its opposite face which can be harsh, threatening and wild.

Patterns in different landscapes have also intrigued me and guided my work, from the gentle, rolling patchwork downs and fields of Dorset in England, to the rugged, harsh mountains of the countryside where I live in France, these patterns have helped me to find my painter’s ‘voice’.


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Red Mountain, oil on canvas 60 x 76 © Annie Taylor 2010+

What are you currently working on?
I am working on a series of paintings looking at mountain summits. I have lived surrounded by mountains for the last three years and it is only now that I am beginning to find what I want to say about them.

How important is art for you?
Art has always been essential and central to my life and since becoming a full time professional artist I find that painting is actually vital to my daily existence.


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Le Canigou, 100 x 100, oil on canvas © Annie Taylor 2010+

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
I started painting when I lived in America for three years. Together with a friend, I opened a studio and art gallery on the North Shore of Long Island. The studio enabled me to study and work alongside established professional painters. When I returned to the UK with a daughter to raise, the financial pressure was on and so the brushes had to be put aside. I started a PR and event management company in London and specialised in film, theatre and television representing clients at the Cannes Film Festival for a number of years.

In 1990 I moved out of London, back to my roots in the West of England and started producing large outdoor festivals.

Finally, when daughter Beth went off to Art School, I was really envious! The temptation to get back to painting was overwhelming and in 2003 I took the decision to work at it full time. Initially I studied with Dorset artist Clare Shepherd, receiving a grant from Arts Matrix to work with her in a mentoring scheme. I have now been working full time as a painter since 2005 and have exhibited in one woman and group shows in London and the South West of England.


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Giant’s Head, Oil on canvas 102 x 76 © Annie Taylor 2010+

Is there any one thing, which has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
My first exhibition was a three woman show in a gallery near Bath and to my amazement I sold 9 canvasses, all for pretty good prices. Invitations from other galleries followed. Since that time I get a huge buzz from the letters and emails I get from people who buy my work and contact me to tell me how much they are enjoying it.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
I grew up in the countryside in the south west of England, a place surrounded by woods and fields where my childhood was spent building tree houses and splashing about in streams. Even now I find I am most at peace outside and trees in particular continue to hold a very special place in my heart, they feature in a lot of my work.

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Blithe Spirit, Oil on Canvas, 90 x 60 © Annie Taylor 2010+

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…”?

Actually, I think if you aspire to be a really good artist I wonder whether you ever really arrive at that point? I think it is a never-ending journey. I suppose there have been a number of paintings along the way that I call my ‘gateway’ pieces where I have found something that seemed to move me on, but I am always hoping the next painting will be the ‘really good one’ and I hope I will always feel that way!

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Yes my work has changed a great deal – that is inevitable if you are painting nearly every day. The work has a much more confident feel to it now and I am ready to hold my head up among my peers. I know I exhibited far too early in London when I was offered a solo show right at the start and I do hope people who saw it then will come back for a second look now I have moved on so much.

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Morning on Breeze Hill, oil on canvas 102 x 76 © Annie Taylor 2010+

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
No, not always and I suspect there are very few artists for whom it does. But I discipline myself to get into the studio every day, no matter how I am feeling and if necessary I will spend days just drawing until something occurs.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
I think it is very important. It saddens me every time I see young artists who feel that sensational art is all that is necessary. I can’t help feeling they are missing out on one of life’s huge pleasures – perfecting and honing a skill, training the eye, knowing that you are getting better and better as time goes by.

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Meditation, 100 x 75 © Annie Taylor 2010+

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
No I love it. I really work well if I have a deadline or a goal in sight.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists”, post educationally, is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Rubbish! I could cite many examples among the artists hall of fame, but frankly if I thought that was the case, why would I be driven to work at getting better?

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Edge of the Downs, 102 x 76 © Annie Taylor 2010+

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
I did have a really bad few months last year. I simply could not get inspired and everything I tried seemed to fail dismally. I just kept at it, drawing, re-working old canvasses, returning to familiar subjects to see if I could find a new approach, but above all I kept up with other artist friends and arranged to meet two of them on a monthly basis for a joint studio session. We looked at the work of different artists and at each other’s work, painted together and went out sketching. Then I tried a number of new approaches to how I was working and that gave me the impetus to get out of the slump.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?
I am just beginning to look at this area. I feel ready to put my work forward for competition now and I think that selection for a recognised show should be part of the marketing mix which will hopefully lead to opening more gallery doors.

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.

The internet is obviously an essential marketing tool these days and huge numbers of artists now have websites, facebook pages, blogs, etc., I have had my website from the start 5 years ago and have largely used it as an instant ‘portfolio’ of my work and I have also managed to sell a few paintings via the site as well. However, there are issues around the easy infringement of copyright that are beginning to concern me more now.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?
I work from life and imagination. I may start a landscape en plein aire, but prefer to take it back to the studio to allow my imagination to come into play as I am not particularly interested in photo realism. As I am exploring the use of glazing I often work on several canvasses at the same time in the studio.

How do you establish your art work prices?

I’ve written two blogs on this very subject and have had some interesting contributions from fellow artists: http://creativerollercoaster.blogspot.com

Tough and resilient, soft and fragile?

Nature has these opposite qualities, which, as I have said, is what attracts me to trying to capture that in my work. It is what has driven me to paint, but it is no good just stacking up finished canvasses in the studio, they have to be sold. The art marketplace is vastly over subscribed which means that trying to make any sort of impact requires dedication and persistence. I have had to be tough and resilient in my life, but this career as an artist is different in one important respect, it exposes the soft and fragile side of me: every time I show my work I am vulnerable. Exhibiting exposes your soul and puts the ego at risk – it is like dancing in public in the nude!

All Annies works are Copyright 2010+

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Tony Curran – Artist

Tony Curran is an Australian Contemporary Visual Artist  who has a website, a blog www.tonycurran.com.au www.tonycurran.blogspot.com and a long list of credits to his name, from a Bachelor of Science to a Masters of Art (Drawing). Tony specializes in “neuro-aesthetics”, stereoscopy, visual design and psychoacoustic research.

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Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
My work has a philosophical message about the fine line separating the personal world and the “real” world

What are you currently working on…
I’m currently working on a project titled Aural Dynamics for an residency at Fraser Studios in Chippendale. It involves inviting the public to my studio and modelling their left ear for me while I draw it. I’m hoping to reach 300 ears by the end of my residency in August. These ears will hopefully be on exhibition after that.

I am offering a free ear portrait after the show to anyone who sits for AuralDynamics. People can contact me on my website to arrange a time.

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Why are you an artist?
I was finishing up my Psychology degree at Macquarie University and studying Perception Psychology at the time. I began to draw certain concepts in perception theory and this started to take on a wider role of the intricate layers of image making and reading from the realistic to the abstract. Now I’m working quite cross-disciplinary and the spectrum from abstract to realistic is intuitively blurry.

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How important is art for you?
Art is my profession and everyone needs a profession. Art also tells us people are trying to improve, whether it is to improve the world by making beautiful objects or even just improving their own ability or craftsmanship. Art gives me focus and self expression, but it can be addictive.

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Your art education was…?
I completed my Masters of Art (Drawing) from the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. There I studied anatomy, life drawing, animation, sound design and really expanded my practice immensely. In my last semester I was awarded a travelling scholarship to participate in a residency in Edinburgh with Richard Goodwin’s Porosity Studio and the British Council. There were a bunch of other students from all kinds of disciplines including Fine Art, Architecture, Design, and Landscape Architecture, Photo-media, and New Media.

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Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
Definitely helpful. It pushed me in all kinds of directions and really showed me there is always a way to make the work, which is in your head.

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Is there any one thing, which has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
Finishing my degree and seeing my work as a Finalist in the Mosman Art Prize a few weeks later was a big rush.

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You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
When you have a visual art.

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Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening and how do you work with these?
These happen all the time and unfortunately I can’t develop all the creative ideas. I try to write them down or blog about them as much as possible but sometimes I just have to let them go and think about what I’m working on now. They’re often powerful and make me want to can everything else.

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Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
Art is something you develop over a long period of time. The art can be traced through the works you make but is not a painting per se. Art lives within the art object but is not the object.

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Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?
I try but I find it difficult to maintain my own ideas and thoughts when I do. It’s best for my artistic development to stay away from other art exhibitions unless they are a friend of mine.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Yes and no. Working toward an exhibition tells you, you have a lot of work ahead of you but the end of the show tells you, you can slack off for a little while and recover.  In some cases a long recovery is warranted

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
A rolling stone gathers no moss. I wonder if it’s the same in another profession. I finished my Psych degree in a cohort of hundreds but I wonder how many of those have fallen into a similar lifespan. I’ve always thought any career you choose is going to be a hard one – that’s life. After Uni you start at the lowest rung of the industry and try and make sense of whatever life you’ve chosen. With art it might even be easier because secretly everyone wants to be creative but not everyone has a secret wish they were more into finance. Maybe that’s just me.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
I initially set up my blog to do this but I never find the time to use it in that way. Also I discovered my blog gets a small audience, so I decided to develop it with the audience in mind. I kind of have a visual diary but I usually have about 5 going at one time. They are all different sizes and I work on them based on where they are in my proximity and how easily I can carry them around at the time.

What happens to works, which “don’t work out”?
They hang around my house gathering dust.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
I have a very intuitive process at the beginning and if I don’t like the work I determine whether its compositional or not and look through all the rules. At this stage it can always be edited or remade. Sometimes I love what I’m painting so much and it turns out it’s because I’ve broken a rule.

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…?
The suicide of a relative was the kick up my ass to go out and make the most of my life and do what I wanted to do. The suicide of a different relative was a kick in the heart for me which killed me artistically for a bit but then ultimately defined my practice around levels of awareness as measured through sensation and sanity.

Is your Art, “Art for art sake…” or a matter of “Art for commercial viability?”
Both, I think Art can be pushed around in lots of directions from the commercial world most of those directions are probably destructive. It is the role of the artist to fine a good middle ground between artistic integrity and commercial viability because if you can develop it like that, then your art will be better than it ever was.

How has your mind-set changed from struggling to find your own style to solidifying what you are doing today?
Makes me less impressionable with other artists’ work but it also makes me able to appreciate good work when I see it. Once you have your own art practice you are happy with then you can become an audience of other art practices and not a student or critic so much.

Was there a point where you decided: OK I can live off of my art?
In 2006 I had a dream where I took off to Barcelona with no money and drew things and sold them like a busker to get food etc. When I woke up I went to work in a very crappy retail job and decided screw this: Somehow it will work.

Our Artists love to see comments on their interviews, so feel free to add comments in… Note they are moderated and so may take a little while before they are seen on the site.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

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John McLaughlin – Artist

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John McLaughlin Painter, you can check out his website at www.drawinghermit.com

John is currently listed with online galleries: Busacca Fine Art Gallery, San Francisco The Brigham Galleries, Nantucket Ma. and The Robert Kidd Gallery, Birmingham Mi.

What fascinates you? I always have been fascinated by the way sunlight strikes objects. Both indoors and out. How quickly it moves and changes. The different colours of light from the early morning until late evening right before sunset. I am enthralled by the different emotional response it evokes. I can watch the sunlight like most people watch TV. I guess I’m easily entertained.

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Your art education was…? None. I am a completely self taught artist. I’m not proud of this, it’s just I never had any desire to take art classes. I don’t know how art can be taught. All one could do is give support and supply materials, otherwise it would just be to encourage someone to be themselves.

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What or who inspires your art? I get my inspiration most from nature. I love hiking and observing all the flowers and trees. What we do best here in Michigan is grow things so we have an abundance of trees and plant life. I also am inspired by other artists work that I see in museums, books, magazines and on-line art sites. I learn from and study many artists but some of my favourites are Matisse, Twombly, Doig, Klee, DeKooning.

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Creative streaks do they come in waves for you? Creative streaks do come in waves for me. Although I make my small drawing/collages everyday, my larger work can take longer time periods between applications. Suddenly I get this creative flow and energy, then go at three or four canvases at a time for hours. Four or five hours seems to go by like twenty minutes. When I am done I feel completely exhausted, like I’ve just run a marathon or something. It sometimes takes a day to recover. Working like this from my subconscious, I often don’t remember making parts of my paintings.

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How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation? I think craftsmanship is needed only to the extent of what the artist has to “say”. If stick figures suffice for the meaning you want to convey, then that’s all it takes. If your portrait needs to look like a Rembrandt then you must do a little more practice drawing.

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Do you have much contact with other artists? I have almost no contact with other artists. I have a severe hearing loss so I spend much time alone. Hence the web name drawing hermit.

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Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that? I don’t know who came up with that but it’s totally wrong. Artists can make good art for 1 year or 100 years. Some masterpieces where made when an artist was 20 and some at 90. We’re all different.

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If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why? I would take “The Window” by Henri Matisse. And this so happens to be at the Detroit Institute of Arts so every few months I go to visit it and regain inspiration. The incredible thing about this piece is that it is technically “wrong” in every way—color, perspective, composition, the furniture is even missing some pieces. But this masterpiece works perfectly.

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All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had. I struggled the most with finally getting my work “out there” for people to see. Being a self taught artist I lacked the confidence until a friend of mine finally convinced me to quit throwing work away and start submitting it to shows. I’m better now.

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What happens to works that “don’t work out”? Many of the works that don’t work out go to the trash bin. But I believe I do learn something from each piece I do. I’m by far my own toughest critic.

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Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create? I often try to break the traditional rules of composition. I don’t know if it can be done successfully. I believe I ignore most of the rules—I don’t think I even know most of them.

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Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you? I love free form jazz. It makes my mind think differently. I often listen to this while I’m working although after, I never remember hearing any of it.

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What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer? I would say (or hope) my work needs to be studied over a period of time, long looking. Because the drawings and marks are small my work doesn’t photograph very well. They are better appreciated in person, up close.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished? I have a constant challenge knowing when work is finished. Sometimes even before I send out a sold painting I am adding marks. I often see sold work years later that I wish I could change. It’s just the nature of the way I work.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you? I don’t like titles but I use them for identification, it gets too confusing otherwise. Some of my titles refer to the art work while others have nothing to do with it. The name just pops into my head. It’s funny that some people will have a whole different idea about a work of mine than what I do but that’s ok, I would never tell them differently.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work? The best compliment I ever got about my work was overhearing a woman at an exhibit say about one of my pieces, “I really like this painting but I don’t know why”. I thought that was perfect.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works? I sell a lot of work each week to gain more recognition and the response from my collectors is incredible. To correspond with people all over the world like this makes it all worthwhile.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist? “Art and Fear” by Ted Orland and David Bayles is required reading for any beginning artist.

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? This is absolutely so with my work. If not then I have failed. The longer you live with my work the more you will like it.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”? I think art and artist are the most misunderstood subject of our time. I really wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Almost everything is going against you right from the beginning. From rejection to no income to criticism to being overly sensitive, when do the good times come? Artists have to do what we do, it’s who we are. I have a theory as to why many artists succumb to drugs, alcohol, etc. It’s because the sensitive antenna is always on—it’s great for creative making but there is no way to turn it off. This harmfully helps to turn it off awhile. To the general public the last thing we need is misunderstood art and strange acting artists.

Sociable and out there, or withdrawn or intense? Sociably withdrawn, shy and definetly out there would describe me quite well. I can’t help it.

Our Artists love to see comments on their interviews, so feel free to add comments in… Note they are moderated and so may take a little while before they are seen on the site.

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au Loaded with creativity boosters, professional development strategies, investing/collecting art and activities for Artists and Students…

Contemporary Visual Artist Interviews

How many Contemporary Visual Artist Interviews have there been to date… Heaps! With more to come thanks.. but for now here are some to check out.

Teachers and students, remember there are worksheets you can use with each of these and other interviews on the site check out some here. If you make some of your own please, send me a copy so I can share them here.

Beth Nicholas

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Kelly Feil

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Stefan Gevers

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Kendall Nordin

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Sophia Hewson

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Leisa Rich

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Amanda Boekhout

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Paul Lorenz

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Chris Sedgwick

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Peter Tudhope

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Pete Nawara

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Ursula Theinert

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Connie Noyes

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Dan Wollmering

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Kerrie Warren

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Werner Theinert

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Peter Biram

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Margaret Zox Brown

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Annie Taylor

Tony Curran

John Mc Laughlin

Beth Nicholas – Artist in Residence

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Beth Nicholas is working in an Artist In Residents position in England and is allowing us to get an inside view of the role, and her part in it. I thinks it’s a great chance for us to all learn more about ways artists can interact with various communities and in this case a secondary school environment. lets look into whats, taking place. Oh and do you have a question for beth? add it in the comments section at the end of the article so she, I we can respond… perhaps with some encouragement she will add more info over time in other posts, both on her blog and here in other articles.

www.beth-nicholas.blogspot.com

www.beth-nicholas.com

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Beth, where is the residency based?
Wycombe Abbey School - High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire is a private all girls boarding school is considered to be one of the best schools in England.

How did they select you?
To be honest I’m not entirely sure, I think it was a mixture of things. I really like interviews, because I like people and when I met the deputy head she and I immediately got on and I did something I have never done before… I sang in my interview! When asked what my teaching style was I sang “make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh do do doo do do dooo do do”- I think that clinched it with her!

With Frances the head of the art department I had found the garment that has been the inspiration for this years work a few days before the interview and cleaned it up. I had also been given a book on the Japanese aesthetic Wabi-Sabi. I think showing her this garment, which was basically disintegrating in front of our eyes and having the concept to talk to her about was a really good thing. I had the very beginning of something and it was something unconventional and exciting. I think one of the things, which might also have pushed her buttons was the idea of the girls being encouraged to find the beauty in something rotting.

However I do know one of the other candidates called the girls “brats”… Not a good idea at an interview for a school!

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What is expected of you in this role?
I am expected to be involved with six lessons a week lasting 1hr 20 mins. I have four different groups of girls working with me through my own scheme of work and two classes where I go in under another teacher and encourage and inspire the girls on their own work. I also have a four hour workshop on a Sunday. However saying that at the moment I am “off timetable” so that I can prepare for the exhibition. My studio is supposed to be open to the girls to come and talk to me if they need to. The final part of the job is the exhibition of my own work and the pieces produced by the girls I’ve worked with during the year.

What sort of guidelines do you have to adhere to?
I don’t really have guidelines. The school hasn’t had an artist in residence for years and when they had one before it was worked in a completely different way – The artist had the studio and to pay for it they worked part time as an art department technician. So it’s a learning curve for both of us.

How did you apply for it?
I found the advert for it on a teaching website called TES, there was a long online form to fill out – being a dyslexic it was exactly the kind of thing I dread.

What sort of hours do you have to put in and what’s the reality! (Usually I hear it’s much more than they ask…)
Well, yes, if you counted up all the lesson time as well as the weekend workshop it would work out at 12 hours. However I think its important for the work I do with the girls that I give them examples at nearly every stage, and having gone through a variety of different textiles techniques with them they needed examples to understand how the technique worked.

I take a long time designing the scheme of work, finding links to my own stuff and images of other artists- mainly because these girls are so bright they absorb everything extremely quickly and I don’t want them to get bored, so it has to be an exciting and challenging project. The other thing I find a nightmare is popping into the department to pick up art materials or use some equipment, I ALWAYS get stopped! Especially by the 6th form whom I have got to know pretty well, and their work is exciting and they are fun to bounce ideas around with so I end up staying for ages giving advice even on the days I’m supposed to be in the studio. So it is much more, but also I am a procrastinator so any distractions and I’m up for it!

At the end of the residency do you have one exhibition or…
Part of my remuneration is an exhibition at the end of the year of my work and the work I have done with the girls. At the moment it is due to run for a week but there is talk of it staying up till the end of the academic year.

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What are some of the surprises you have encountered along the way?
I think probably the artist I am becoming is the biggest surprise for me. Working now the way I do – exploring what self-expression means to me and the work I am producing is so far removed from anything I have done in the past.

The girls have also been a surprise; it has been such a pleasure learning to teach. Being the Artist in Residence means I’m not really a teacher – the girls have a chance to get to know me on a bit of a different level and it challenges their perceptions of an artist. They are excited and interested in what I do, which is lovely. I think sometimes students at schools forget the teachers around them are people too…

Apparently they have extended the term of the residency, tell us about what it might mean…
I’ve been very lucky here and loved it for many reasons, the space, the freedom and the free food!
What will be a change next year is my lesson time will double, it’s been a bit of a struggle financially surviving on the stipend and more teaching will definitely help, although it will hinder the time I have in the studio, however the other good thing is there will be another exhibition at the end of next year and I have to produce the work for it, so there is a deadline and a goal.

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Your website shows beautiful scarves how does that fit… is it “bread and butter” income to feed a starving artist or???
My degree was in textile design with a very strong commercial aspect to the course. When I graduated I produced the two ranges of scarves, which I loved but the roll hemming by hand I hated! I sold a commission and exhibited in a couple of galleries with them but basically earned enough to eat maybe half a packet of crisps a week. Selling myself has never been a strong point for me and when I was offered work in the television industry I jumped at the chance, content at the time to leave behind the pain of the sell.

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As an emerging artist getting a “gig” like a residency must be a huge bonus…
It’s fantastic! Teaching these girls has been extremely rewarding, seeing them getting inspired. But also having the time as well for my own practice and not having to worry about the bills is such a weight off my shoulders. With the exhibition I have access to all the parents of the girls and so a wide and diverse database of people in interesting industries.

How would you describe your work?
My work has changed so much this year, at the moment I would describe it as deeply personal self-expression, my subject matter is myself and my inspiration the rotten garment.

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Tell us about how things may have changed for you from before the residency to after, influences motivation etc…
I’ve changed immensely as a person, I had a really tough year in 2009 and escaping to Buckinghamshire, to the school gave me space to rebuild what was left of me, my work has helped me do that.

My work has also changed hugely, it’s deeper now, more personal, it flows from me more readily, sometimes I feel like I haven’t even been involved in the making of it. Before everything was a struggle, racking my brain for the next idea, rather than accepting the ebbs and the flows and perhaps understanding the fact my brain isn’t working that day and I should take some time off!

Initially I would have called myself a textiles artist but for me that was extremely limiting, it boxed me in when all I really want and wanted to do was let everything out in whatever way I saw fit at the time, so I went from textiles to canvas. I don’t think I will ever not work in textiles but thinking outside that box gives me the freedom I want.

Influences and motivation wise, hmmm… motivationally I don’t have a choice anymore, if I haven’t worked for a while something will pop into my head at some point and I can’t sleep till I have started to work on the idea. I get a panicky knot in my stomach and an itch in my feet. Influences? I am influenced all the time, I read quite a lot and this sparks me off, an example of this was “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, her morning pages (three pages of long hand every morning of a stream of consciousness) influenced me to produce the “Letters to my past, my present and my future” series which spurred “Letters in landscapes”. So I guess I’m influenced by myself, things around me and my reactions as well as my initial studies, I constantly return to them to find new paths.

Your works on the blog feature a lot of figures, has this always been the case?
Figure/life drawing has never really shown itself in my work before now, I’ve taken life drawing classes, but the work is different, its self-portraiture really. When I actually put the garment on the work became about me, my empathy with it and exploring that relationship, so I haven’t really had a choice, the work is extremely personal and has become very cathartic.

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Where to from here with your work?
To be honest I’m not entirely sure, my work seems to progress pretty organically meaning the next phase is always a little bit of a surprise. However I generally look back to my initial studies to spur me on to the next stage, which is why I like to have a big store of drawings and I always work in mixed media with those, just having a play with the media I suppose. I really enjoy progressing and working this way, because it keeps the work fresh and surprising, especially with using different media as much as possible.

However I have a little suspicion the “Letters to my past, my present and my future” need to find a way to sit within the “Lost and alone” pieces, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but haven’t yet found the right piece.

For me I agree an artist’s job is “Learning to work on your work” which is a phrase from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland and for me that is my constant goal.

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Our Artists love to see comments on their interviews, so feel free to add comments in… Note they are moderated and so may take a little while before they are seen on the site.

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au Loaded with creativity boosters, professional development strategies, investing/collecting art and activities for Artists and Students…


Kelly Feil – Artist

Kelly Feil is a West Australian Photographic Artist and I spotted her and had a chat about her work while she was exhibiting as part of Art Melbourne In April 2010. She has a web presence at http://www.labyrinthart.com.au

Kelly has been involved in photography for over 10 years. She was fascinated by the dark room at a young age and marvelled at the image appearing on the page as the chemicals reacted with the paper. These days she works in a very different dark room and creates her images with digital manipulation.

Her surroundings have always been of interest to her and are often featured in her work. Influenced by the Surrealists and the more recent work of Australia’s own Jeffrey Smart. Kelly’s work varies from semi real to the very surreal or somewhat magical. It is this surreal sense she wants to portray to the world. For the audience to take a little piece of magic into their reality.

Kelly’s photography has won awards over the years and continues to be widely acclaimed. In 2009 she earned her Master of Photography ribbon through the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. One of her prints received a Gold Award in the Australian Professional Photographer of the Year Awards, this is one of the highest honours a print can achieve at a national level.

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Who or what fascinates you?
Salvador Dali

How did you get into art?
I’ve been interested in photography since I studied it in high school. I worked in the photographic field for 10 years but always pushed for more than the everyday print. In pushing for something different I experimented with my style and started producing art pieces. It wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I decided to test the waters and make the transition to the art field.

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Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
It was helpful. I think any information is helpful, if u decide to take the positives from any education or seminar you will always learn something.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
My family have always been encouraging and supportive. I am the only art buff in my family and whilst they wonder where it comes from, they have always been supportive and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

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Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).
Absolutely, as I have matured so has my work. There is always so much of me in my work so when I am influenced my things so is my work.

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?
As much as I can. I think its important to be aware of what is around you.

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Do you have much contact with other artists?
Again as much as I can. I believe that’s how you learn and I never want to stop learning. I am a member of the AIPP and I attend as many events as I can.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Of course it is. Other than the fact there is so much to organise, you are putting your heart and soul on a wall for people to fall in love with. There is nothing more daunting!

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Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that? I think no matter what industry you are in, you should never stop learning and you should never stop marketing and selling. If you never give up I believe you can go on as long as you want.

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Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Yes and it goes with me to most places. You never know when you might be inspired with ideas.

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Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
No, I think every piece speaks to you and relates to you. You know in your gut when it will go too far.

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What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
I hate titling my work because I like the audience to take from it what they feel. I don’t like to guide the audience to think, I want them to think for themselves.

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Have you won any awards?
Yes, I enter the Australian Professional Photographic Awards every year. In 2009 I received a gold award for on of my prints which aided in my receiving my masters.

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Stefan Gevers – Artist

Stefan Gevers is from Newport, Melbourne, Australia and is represented by one of my favourite galleries, Anita Traverso Gallery in Richmond, Melbourne.

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How long have you been making art?
Since I was 17 after deciding I would enjoy making art more the working in a Laboratory.

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
I have an interest in Botanic Art and it’s history.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…
I work with Acrylic on canvas and watercolour on paper. In my sculptures I do use Felt, thread and leather.

How do you describe your work?
While there is a sense of lingering melancholy in my images, their graphic nature reflects a particular artistic practice. The landscapes have been abstracted, rendered in flat solid blocks in a limited and muted range of colours. The landscape has been stripped back to bare essentials in a process of abstraction which is close to screen-printing or contemporary stencil art.

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Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
I would like the viewers to realise the beauty of the Australian landscape. The history it comes with and the care it needs.

What are you currently working on:
An Exhibition “Forgotten Places” which opens May the 5th at Anita Traverso Gallery in Richmond Victoria. It’s a selection of acrylics on canvas and works on watercolour.

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What fascinates you?
The power of nature.

Artist Statement for the exhibition:
“Forgotten Places”. May 2010, Anita Traverso Gallery

There is something about abandoned places, which is very intriguing.

A place that was once a centre piece in a few people’s lives, is now all but forgotten.

Those places are left in silence, surrounded by a sense of stillness that makes us reflect on our selves. Depicting moments in time, present and past, taking us on a journey of silhouettes and horizons of the Australian landscape.

These abstracted landscapes are the results of many road trips, scanning the fields searching for Forgotten Places. Capturing the essential elements of a visual and spiritual experience, eliminating unnecessary details.

The absence of Human presence intensifies the stillness and abandonment.

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Why are you an artist?
I Ask my self that at stages! I think people should really follow their instinct and try to do in their life what they would love to do. Something, which keeps you happy and throws challenges at you, in my case it’s Visual Arts.

How did you get into art?
I got really bored with studying Science when I was 17 years of Age and started doodling to fill up time. I noticed I did okay and decided I would have more satisfaction at School of Arts.

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How important is art for you?
Without it, life wouldn’t be as meaningful.

Your art education was…?
The best change I ever made. I loved every bit of it. It changed my life from being a withdrawn teenager into a person who started to discover things in life.

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The craziest thing you did at art school was…
I always felt I was the only one not crazy at Art School!

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
It was helpful but only the beginning of what was to come. In terms of skills the school wasn’t spending much time developing that. You had to work out by your self outside school. In terms of creativity it was excellent though.

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Have you always been interested in art?
No, but I did always loved to work with my hands. At the age of 17 I became interested and never looked back since.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Going to the Dali Museum in Spain and thinking what is all this weird stuff about!

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Do you remember your first painting or artwork?
Yes, It was a portrait of Jim Morrison, The Doors. Taken from one of their Albums.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
I grew up in a small town in The Dutch country side. We were always outside playing in the Forest or fields. I used to show a lot of interest in nature and as a young boy would get up at 4am to record bird songs and photographing them. I still love nature which is one biggest source of inspiration for my Art.

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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…”?
After I finished the Jim Morrison portrait I remember having this absolutely clear feeling of which direction to take my life and from that moment having the energy, dedication and drive to make Art.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I work in 3D as well as 2 D. Sometimes they go together but usually I need to focus on either one. At the moment it’s painting on canvas.

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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?
Usually new work stems from the previous show. I will schedule road trips and plan the months ahead to get the new show together. The paintings are time consuming these day’s as apposed to my earlier years.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
I have no trouble in setting a specific time to create and work on Art. I don’t wait for ideas to come to me and believe I need to be actively searching for them.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
They come when I plan them and otherwise I record ideas whenever they come to mind.

Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening and how do you work with these?
I keep sketch books and surround myself in the studio with ideas. Write on the wall, collect colours, etc.. It feels a bit like a personal library.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
I would like to know what my goal, direction is before starting, but are not afraid to take a side road here or there. My paintings and sculptures are very structured and planned but the water colours are free and loose.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Very important. “ what ever you do, do it well”. When people by your art and pay a lot of money for it and expect it to last, you need to make sure you have done the best you can for every piece you make..

Do you have much contact with other artists?
Not on a daily basis. I am part of the “thelittlestforum” which is great for artist working from home, to share information. But really it is pretty solitary most of the times.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
I am not sure about Post Educational but from 30 students starting School of Arts in my year, only 5 finished. I think it is important to keep challenging yourself and dive into projects, which are interesting. Keeping balance in life, between Art, family and work is important not to burn out.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
I think my turning point came in 1998, when working in Holland. My work started to sell and I felt I was doing something I absolutely loved. I started to look more seriously about making it my career.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
One of Eduardo Chilida’s works. He has always been a great inspiration.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
Eduardo Chilida, he changed my direction into Art. I started working with Felt after seeing shows in Spain.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
I am not trying to change the world with my work but I do hope to create more appreciation for the landscape we live in.

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 try to use my Titles so the viewer will be guided in a certain direction. The Artist talks I do explain my work in more detail.

What discourages you from doing art?
Seeing people spending money on copied digital art while they should be spending money on Emerging artists.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Motivation has never been an issue. I have to many ideas and the problem is which one to take on and do well.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?
Every show is of value as it adds up everything’s you worked on so hard. It’s the best time to analyse and start planning ahead for the new work.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
It’s necessary and it’s the reason why I am being represented by a Gallery.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
My children come up with good ones, like “ why do you always paint?” Can I help you?, which I usually allow and then spending the next hour retouching. They are very honest.

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Kendall Nordin – Artist

Kendall Nordin is a Washington DC based Contemporary Artist who recently had an exhibition at ARS upstairs @ the Napier (the Napier Hotel in Fitzroy). I recently caught up with Kendall for a quick chat.

Why did you choose this venue?
I did my masters at RMIT with some of the folks who began the ARS Upstairs @ the Napier so it seemed a natural place to apply for a show.  When I heard about the space and saw images, I thought it would work well with my work– a space that has been repurposed.  I hadn’t seen it in person before I arrived to get ready for the exhibition and it was a very pleasant surprise.  The pressed tin along the wall and some of the ceiling textures work very well with some of the textures in the paper pieces I make.  And the big windows really allow the pieces to change with the day.  It’s a beautiful, quirky, and large space.  And I couldn’t be happier with how my art sits in it.

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Why these works?
These works represent the major pieces I’ve been working on for the last year and a half to two years.  Though the approaches are different, it has been a pleasure to see them finally hanging all together and commenting on each other, reflecting some common ideas and spinning off on their own tacks.

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What’s your methodology/philosophy with this show?
In my work I am chasing after the circumstances of being human—the topography of skin, the accidents of our origins and evolution, our ability to symbolize and find meaning, play, the desire for relationship, the fact of dissolution, and the constant of the unknown.

Because of this my art involves a lot of incidental pieces—created moments of randomness that then get built upon—or layers and layers of meaning that might be obfuscated—or multiples that are completely different but arranged in a way to suggest connection.  I use paper, ink, watercolor, thread, cutting, sewing, drawing, pouring, ball bearings, letting things do what they do and reacting with attention to spontaneity, precariousness, organic form, and transparency. Some pieces disappear entirely from certain angles and only reappear when the angle of view changes or the available light moves.

My forms are all raw data, it is up to the viewers to come up with narratives.  I want people to find something familiar, something plausibly organic, in my work but a something that is not quite comfortable nor completely recognizable.  The result, I hope, is a shift in the quality of attention that someone brings to the space.  People approach my work and get drawn into the small details, the subtle shifts in tone and walk away with slower, quieter eyes.

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You’re in the USA? then how come Melbourne?
I came to Melbourne to do my MFA in 2005 for many reasons– and couldn’t have anticipated what a good fit it was for me as cities go.  The sheer quantity of art and music being produced and shown on a daily basis here is stunning– and a wonderful experience coming from a place like Washington DC where we have a lot of beautiful big museums with important historical art but not a great deal of local galleries who are showing Contemporary Art– particularly non-commercial spaces.  I had never heard of an “Artist Run Space” until I arrived here.  They simply don’t exist in the model back home.  Beyond the amount of work that’s out to be seen, there is work that really challenges me and engages with the International art scene– which is where I’d really like to be located rather than chasing after the US/New York art scene.  I’m not so interested in that world.  So Melbourne feels like a productive place, a place where boundaries can be pushed and dialogue is readily had.

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Your history is interesting tell us a little…
I’m a bit all over the place with my “history”.  I’ve played music, tour managed a band, helped produce documentary film, worked in a 4 star restaurant, lobbied for Low Power FM Radio, taught preschool, written/performed/published/taught poetry, studied Religion.  I’ve lived in DC, Portland Oregon, Costa Rica, Glasgow, Nanjing, Melbourne and did a long residency in Tallinn, Estonia this past summer.  In terms of art making I really started with a focus on photography, then did some drawing, then painting, now this– whatever it is you might call it.  Usually I call it “installation work with paper”.  I think I use different modes of making things in order to do really different things.

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How about your method of working?
Sometimes a material grabs me, sometimes I just have an idea that needs to get worked out, sometimes I let a pen and paper react to what’s around me.  I think like all artists I get stimulation from a lot of different avenues and its a matter of following up on those impulses, pushing them to where they need to be and then seeing how that might fit or not.  I have pieces that are ongoing, which will take many years to complete.  I have a list of pieces that I keep for when I have some serious funding to make big ambitious work.  And then there are the pieces, which just seem to appear and I put my head down, I work at it, and they often surprise me at the end.

What’s next?
The week after the show comes down I’ll be doing a Skype “Studio-to-Studio conversation from 16 hours in the future” from my studio in Melbourne to the big annual open studios event at my building in DC.  It’s going to be part performance, part serious conversation about making art, the difference between DC and Melbourne, and what art is anyway.  After that I’m looking forward to making some new work.  Seeing this body of work hang together makes me have some good sense of where I might go from here and where I might decide to pick up and go in a different direction.  My colleague here, Hannah Bertram, and I will be doing a 24-hour drawing project (the 6th one we’ve done) in May.  It looks like there might be a 22 piece all girl rock orchestra PANIC might get a show while I’m here as well.  That’s all before June.

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Sophia Hewson – Artist

Sophia Hewson from Melbourne is an up and coming artist in the Melbourne scene, here is her website sophiahewson.com and interview… Feel free to comment on the work, interview and or Artist.

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Are you currently represented by a gallery?
Yes, Lindberg Gallery in Melbourne. They are great. Last year they let me paint the entire gallery space black.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Oil paint with resin on either board or canvas.

african-migrant

African migrant

Oil and resin on board

108 cm  x  76 cm

What are you currently working on?
I’m working towards a joint show this September at Lindberg Gallery with artist Mia Salsjo. I’lI be doing some paintings and some sculptural work. I’m feeling very free at the moment within my practice. I hope the paintings in September will relay this sense. It’s a sense that began around the time I started the dolphin painting (There should be a book written on Italian men).

Why are you an artist?
It seems to me artists need to get something out of themselves, I suppose they call it expression, but I don’t think it’s as pleasant a process as that, perhaps it is like that quote, a kind of exorcism. I think also for me there is a need to try and get down to the core of things, and there is a freedom I associate with being an artist or at least the possibility of a freedom.

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There should be a book written on Italian men

Oil and resin on board

140 cm  x  180 cm

Your art education was…? I studied an undergraduate and an Honours Degree at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, it was a very conceptual school. There are so many ways to approach understanding your own work, this was the focus of the degree, it could be disorienting, but the teachers at the VCA are remarkable, they’re artists too and they were lateral minded, they were very receptive and talented.

What is your earliest memory of art?
My earliest memory of anything actually is drawing with coloured chalk on the pavement down at Lorne, I was about 3.

the-armour

The Armour

Oil and resin on board

133 cm  x  133 cm

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
For me There is an incomplete concept present before a painting, which develops during the process of making the work (photo-shoot, painting etc). It develops further after I have finished the work (when I can step back and gain a more detached understanding). So I think the concept of a work gathers momentum as it materialises, it changes and develops throughout this process. But also each painting is different, some do just seem to appear out of nowhere, and others are mulling, completed and understood in my head for a year before I make them.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Despite my own use of a refined technique I don’t think craftsmanship is necessarily important at all, it can be a beautiful way to lure someone into the conceptual space of a work, but there are many other ways to do this. I just saw Miroslaw Balka’s “How it is” instillation at the Tate. It was a huge elevated metal box, well ‘box’… it was bigger than a warehouse, and pitch black inside, approaching it and eventually venturing inside was like death and birth all at once, like an alien contact, absolutely overwhelming, and those sensations had little to do with craftsmanship.

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Tailed emperor

Oil and resin on board

58 cm  x  52 cm

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post education is about five years, any thoughts on that?
The only people as broke as artist are poets, and artist work hard, most of my peers work long days 3 or 4 times a week in arbitrary jobs, with every skerrick of the rest of their time spent in the studio. Doing well in the first 5 years out of study for an artist is breaking even. What recognition there is, is dealt out in bursts, never evenly distributed. So its unlikely you’ll get anyone but yourself to assure you that you should be doing this. A lot of good artists are dealing with frequent rejection.

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In my language. There are no rules. There is no need to know, anything.

Oil and resin on board

109 cm  x  140 cm

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why? It would be a Van Gogh, and then I would sell it and buy a house, and a studio. I would make my work uninterrupted.

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Hero and Leander

Oil and resin on board

105 cm  x  138 cm

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work? Its very diverse, some people are very unaffected, some people cry, a few have admitted to arousal, once a work was destroyed. I like the tears best, I could always have more tears.

goodnight-atala

Goodnight Atala

Oil and resin on canvas

216 cm  x  216cm

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
I need to have an uninterrupted 10 hours of day light. That’s best but once I’ve started an arm or a leg I have to finish it before the paint dries, so I often end up in the evenings with a torch in one hand. I can angle a torch so that it wont give off a reflection.

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Before Atala was born I was her

Oil and resin on board

185 cm   x  99 cm

How many artworks do you produce in a year?
I make about 6 large works. So that’s about 2 months a painting, but really a lot of that 2 months is spent conceiving an idea, doing a photo shoot for the painting, editing, writing applications and artist statements, documenting my work etc.

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Leisa Rich – Artist

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Imagine an Artist making art for 35 years with a fine range of qualifications, a seemingly ebullient personality and a fascinating portfolio of works, and you have Leisa Rich from Atlanta, Georgia. A fibre Artist with a blog and a website. www.monaleisa.com www.richmade.etsy.com http://monaleisa.posterous.com

I read Leisa’s responses with deep interest, clearly a highly motivated Artist and a person who seems to have had many challenges and yet “bounces back” with ease. I feel sure there will be many people in awe of her tenacity as an Artist… It has taken a lot of work to edit this interview to keep it at a reasonable length, as Leisa had so much great value to add!

I hope the reader gets just some of Leisa’s energy, angst, brutal honesty, passion etc… I certainly felt she had so much to share. Thanks Leisa

Steve Gray

So Leisa, can you give us an overview of where your art is coming from or what it’s about?
I feel an increasing lack of control inherent to living life today.

Social issues of global uncertainty, unsettling politics, medical challenges, environmental woes, the insistent ways in which human interaction is being forced to morph due to technology, lack of human connection on a personal face-to-face level, and the accelerated, frenetic pace of a humanity trying to deal with the fallout of it all informs my recent work.

In addition, there is also my more personal interest in the on-going dialogue of the relationship (or often, lack thereof) between craft and art; society is finally recognizing fibers as a valid art form…how can I leave a foot in the traditional world of fiber art I love so well and also embrace and access the general mainstream art worlds’ love affair with expression through painting?

In an effort to create the arena for such dialogue and give it a voice of expression, as well as continue in my tradition as a fiber artist, I am creating Neo-surrealist, stitched, narrative “paintings” as well as 3 dimensional pieces – often in installation format and that utilize recycled media- that hint at or actually create, an alternate reality. In addition, I am seeking a tactile and visual way to control and shape outcome.

What are you currently working on?
A massive, viewer interactive, constructed and stitched alter- reality installation.

Why are you an artist?
Compelled by tactile experiences while in the hospital for deafness as a child.

How did you get into art?
I got mono (glandular fever) while on a piano scholarship at prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts private boarding school and had to drop my minor-dance for a semester, due to the illness. A friend said “Take weaving, man…it’s an easy “A”. Three days into it I was absolutely hooked on fiber and switched my major to art, much to my parents’ dismay.

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How important is art for you?
It is the air I breathe, the calm in the storm, the thing that keeps me sane. And, even beyond that.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
Art is perpetual change that I can control, tactile stimulation that gives me goosebumps, complete adoration- it never finds fault with me- and I can send a message out into the world and have it received.

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Your art education was…?
Three degrees. A Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, then a Bachelor of Education in Art and finally, at the ripe old age of 47, I got my Master of Fine Arts degree.

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The craziest thing you did at art school was…
I stayed in a destructive relationship throughout my first undergraduate degree with a brilliant and disturbed painter (who presently owns a prominent NYC gallery!) thus affecting the quality of my experience at that time. The stupidity of the young…

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Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
Hmmm…most of it was a waste of time, but there were components of my MFA that were very, very helpful. I think I appreciated and gleaned far more as an older, wiser art student. I took everything really seriously and worked very hard.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
What didn’t I do! I was a store mannequin; a warm-up dancer for a disco band; a lingerie salesperson; a pizza parlor waitress; a fashion model; sold silver polish; babysat; was a fashion designer for an exclusive, international fashion design company; designed hats and clothes for t.v. shows; owned a wearable art business; sold everything I owned and travelled the world with my husband and first daughter for a year; was (and still am) an art teacher to ages 3-88 years of age; did census-taking; became a Mom- twice; overcame deafness and a paralysing major car accident and reconstructive back surgery, conquered foot and knee surgery; have taken care of a dying Dad and am now helping out an aging Mom and raising the last remaining child at home.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Not by my parents, but my sister and brother-in-law were excellent artists and art professor.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Yes. I grew up in Canada, full of natural beauty, peacefulness and little crime or threat. Nature inspires a great deal of my work.

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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…”?
Hmmmmm, I am still waiting for the big turning point. I have always gotten it, but my work has not got the recognition and sales I would really like. But, it is always worth it because I have no choice. This is what I was meant to do and I love every moment in the studio or watching as my students have their own AHA! Moments.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
My mother used to make Barbie doll dresses for me and bring them to the hospital so I could play with them and dress my barbie. I loved the satins, silks, the tactile. I absolutely love texture and touch…and we are sorely lacking in touch in these technological days.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Yes and NO! Concepts change, technical skills improve, but my work STILL has that push/pull dichotomy of intriguing and attracting the viewer, while at the same time repelling them.

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You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
You feel good listening to others verbally screw your piece and take what you want from the critique, but still know who you are. Thick skin is very important.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
Mostly riding the Big Kahuna…but when there are external stresses in my life, it takes a huge toll on my work. Recently, my husband lost his job and I didn’t make anything for several weeks. That has never, ever happened before. Usually, it is one or two days. I can’t stand going longer than that without putting my hand to it!

Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening and how do you work with these?
My creative urges are 24/7, 365 days a year. I need to clone myself.

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How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
Very, very, very.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
That would take volumes and more time than I presently have to discuss! We’d have to get into a debate about fibers’ place in the art world, and then that would lead to the never-ending Craft vs Art debate, and then I would start espousing all of my negative feelings about the hierarchy of painting and how they think they are the Kings….

Do you have much contact with other artists?
I try. I am the state representative for the Surface Design Association and am on the Board of Directors for a new fiber arts center we are opening up this year in Atlanta and I have some artist friends.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Not if you time it well, stay focussed, work hard, and never, ever leave anything to the last minute. I am a highly organized, prolific artist. The Martha Stewart of the art world. Everything is labelled in my studio and storage.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Holy shit! Are you kidding me?! I just graduated in 2007 with my MFA, am almost 50 and am just getting started! Throw that question out!

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What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
Some things deserve lots of research, others very little. It depends on the project. I access the internet a lot…don’t go to see any art books at my local library because A) they have too many Dead White Guys and B) I have a better, more comprehensive selection of my own books. I read art books voraciously and collect them prodigiously.

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
First rule of grad art school…never give them everything.

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What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
Time is NOT on my side. I don’t slap dash some paint on a canvas and call it a day. Most of my pieces START at 400 hours each.

What can you tell us about your creative development process?
Idea comes into head, sit down and start making it. Hang it up, put it on the floor, look at it, attack it and change it, look at it over and over again, repeat several times until you know…just instinctively KNOW…it is done.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
Personal vision and human expression. An invitation to look differently and experience. Titillation. Provocative thinking. If I see one more bowl of fruit I will scream….

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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…? Some intimate things can’t be fully discussed at this level. I do know that my physical challenges and growing up in Canada, and my shock at the human condition are all significant. Having kids and not having enough time for myself is significant. Doing something for 35 years and not being recognized is significant. Hanging out in my Dad’s electrical shop with the other “guys”- the plumbers, pipe fitters, etc. with shops in the same complex- was significant. At one time, female genital mutilation et al was highly significant. Babies being dumped alive after birth in dumpsters was significant. The way a leaf curves to catch the light is significant. It’s a life and it informs every single art piece.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
I would die.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Never. I am always motivated (except for after the shock of my husbands’ job loss).

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Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
I still don’t have any. No one has accepted my work.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
Well! Ain’t that a loaded gun! Both. I do it because I have to, but it sure would be nice to pay some bills because of it.

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?
Actually, I think I have a pretty awesome life’s work record. Some of my pieces from 20 years ago are similar to things I see now that are garnering attention and sales.

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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?
It is totally important to me. I want to suck the viewer in to my story…and lately, to contribute to that story, physically.

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?
That’s another loaded gun! My father used to say, “Why can’t you paint some pretty pictures and make money?” That says it all.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?
Another loaded gun. I try to be positive about it, but my life stays on the Starving Artist side, despite all of my good attempts to make it otherwise.

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Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?
Subject. I want to connect with an artwork. I was moved to tears once by a piece done on a piece of cardboard…

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?
It is all crucial. The most important thing an artist can be is educated, enlightened and informed.

Have you won any awards?
Yes, actually this is one area I have been quite successful in.

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The problem with the art scene today is…
It is incestuous.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?
I sold everything I owned, travelled around the world and looked at all sorts of art along the way.

How did you go about marketing your art?
Website, blog, twitter, demos, teach, mailing list, occasional magazine ads, give-aways, charitable donations and more.

How many artworks do you produce in a year?
Dozens of significant pieces.

How often do you work in the studio?
Every, single day.

Do you ever question being an artist?
All of the time. I feel tremendous guilt for taking so much time and money away from my retirement with my husband and from my family….

How do you cope with any low points?
Feel depressed, shake myself off and move on.

How long do our works they usually take to complete?
400-600 or more hours of work. The one I am presently working on will take a year.

How did you approach your first gallery?
Doing everything that I was taught to do. The approach, the portfolio of images, etc. I did what everyone suggested. Still no gallery will take me…and here in Atlanta, it’s all about the “who-you-know” so fat chance of getting noticed here.

Do you think art school nurtured you or somehow crushed you?
Both. I had a lot of diva professors with their own favorite students and agenda.

How did you manage to survive financially at the beginning of your art career?
Working, always working…while pregnant, while a Mom, always working.

How do you establish your art work prices?
A formula and then forge the formula because I know no one is going to pay that. Right now I get about 50 cents an hour.

Can you respond to this quote “Anyone who is half assed about art should get out.” (Janet Fish).
Yep. I know what she is saying. Unfortunately…it seems a lot of half-assers and ass-kissers make it. I know one.

What was life like for you as you were growing up?
Lower, middle class, good Canadian family. Parents who never understood where in the world their two artistic daughters emerged from.

How did your first solo show go?
Awesome.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?
Certainly not. I was full of optimism and enthusiasm! I still have the enthusiasm but not the optimism. Especially in these tough economic times.

How do you continue to grow, or is this not important?
Always and it is always important. I see a lot of artists become successful doing one form of art and they stay with that forever because the money is good. I have a love/hate relationship with that view….

Did you have an inspirational teacher, and how did that affect you?
No, I actually had teachers who were always against me. It was important to me to rise above their negativity and find my voice and believe in myself.

Here are a bunch of statements you can respond to any way you want. Go for the first thing that comes into your mind, or not…

Sociable and out there, or withdrawn or intense? Sociable WHEN out there, withdrawn in the studio.

Tough and resilient, soft and fragile? Tough on the outside, a total jellyfish inside.

Small and intimate or large and bold? Large and bold.

Security or insecurity? Insecurity.

Feel the art and hear the image… Feel. Literally.

The world is… a bitch. Awesome. A dichotomy.

Delicate and subtle, strong and bold? Strong and bold.

Intellect or careless casual connections… Intellect.

Critics are important because? People love to listen to negativity!!!!

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

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Amanda Boekhout – Artist

Amanda Boekhout is a Florida Artist from Tallahasee who has been painting for about 12 years and has had many art forms enter her life. Her website is www.elliottelephant.com and also check out her blog at www.chantspectacular.blogspot.com

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Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
I love to sew and design clothes, I love to sing and make music, I enjoy collaborative endeavours, and I love to garden and hike whenever possible.  The beach is my favorite.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
I have been working in oil paint for the longest amount of time but I am definitely a mixed media artist.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
My work is very personal and I would say that every piece is somewhat of a self-portrait.  I have social and cultural undertones but they are not obvious in most of the things I make.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently enthralled with the idea of “alive painting.”  I am experimenting with creating sets or spaces that are still and can be read like a very large painting.  I am also including my body in the works as the figural element, which brings in performance.  This type of work is more powerful for the viewer to interact with than anything I have done in the past.

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What fascinates you?
Bodies, skin, fur, dirt, the sun, plant life, the ocean, and love.

One word or statement to describe your current works?
Alive, ephemeral, ambiguous.

Why are you an artist?
I am deciding whether to consider myself an artist.  I am a maker.  I feel like there are a lot of people who call themselves artists and I am not sure I fit in anywhere so I am toying with the idea of making things that may or may not be and being happy doing so.

Your art education was…?
I went to undergrad at University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida and graduated in 2004 with a BFA.  I took 5 years off to “find myself” and live away from Florida for a while.  I am currently completing my first year of Grad school at Florida State University for my MFA in studio art.  I am having a blast and I highly recommend the program.

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Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
I am the type of person who really enjoys being taught.  I am very inspired by professors and fellow students.  I love the intensity of critiques and how they make me re-evaluate everything I think I know about art.  It is possible to have these experiences without academia, but I am not very good at seeking out those communities or workshops.

Have you always been interested in art?
Yes!  All forms of art are interesting and captivating and inspiring to me.

What is your earliest memory of art?
My sister would hand me a piece of paper and watch me fill it up completely with all sorts of marks and patterns.  She was really impressed by that.  We were very young.

Do you remember your first painting or artwork?
I remember falling in love with painting.  I was 16.  I was sitting at a drafting table in my parent’s house (my house at the time) and I was alone.  I was blasting Tori Amos’ Choir Girl Hotel and I was painting a female figure from memory.  That was the first time I felt that I had something that I loved more than anything else.  It was pure happiness.

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Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
My parents encourage me to do whatever makes me happy.  They are really amazing and supportive.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).
Looking back, I have always used the female figure as the main subject matter in my work.  There is a constant thread throughout.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
I am flooded with ideas all the time; I am very blessed to have such an easy time with this.  Now I just need numerous versions of me to help me make everything at the pace in which it comes to me.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Craftsmanship is very important.  When the level of technical skill is ingrained, the art is stronger and therefore will speak to the viewer with ease.  I am miles from where I wish to be in my skill, but I have my whole life to practice.

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Do you have much contact with other artists?
Due to being in Graduate school, I am surrounded by many artists.  We are constantly feeding off of each other and suggesting artists to look up for each other.  Also, I am a part of the Railroad Square Art Park here in Tallahassee.  We are most noted for out First Friday events, which are attended by upwards of 5,000 people per month.  This is a great opportunity to communicate with the artistic community!

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Making art is a very selfish practice.  Artists often leave their practice when they can no longer be as selfish as they once had the luxury of being.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
I love Monica Cook’s work.  She is a painter based in Brooklyn.  Any of the large paintings in her “Seeded and Soiled” show would be greatly loved.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
Monica Cook, Chris Sedgwick, Kehinde Wiley, Kris Lewis, Carrie Ann Baade, Odd Nerdrum, Andrew Wyeth, Ana Mendieta, Sally Mann, and Alex Grey.  Look them up!  They are amazing in every way.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
I struggle every day with knowing that I don’t know, creating a fresh idea, creating a fresh visual experience, being true to myself and to others with what I make, and accepting failure. (to name a few)

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
It is very liberating to paint over paintings.  I also like taking a painting to the fire as an offering to the art gods and goddesses.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works?
I am currently reading about warrior women.  This has been a huge influence on my work for the past 3 months.  I am attempting to embody the women I read about in my art.

Musical influences?
Eluvium, Slowdive, Sigor Ros, Marie Sioux, Radiohead, Blonde Redhead, Air, Amon Tobin, Dead Can Dance, Thievery Corporation, Grizzly Bear, Lichens, Grails, Polyphonic Spree, Ulrich Schnauss.

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
Viewers come with their own complete biography that directly affects the way they approach art.  I have put my own intention in the making process, but I love the ambiguity of art and how it can have endless meaning.  I only strive to make work that is engaging and inspiring for the viewer.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Deadlines!!!!!!

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
It would look great over the couch!

Tell us about your studio environment?
Is a studio ever big enough?   I have two studios.  One was given to me as a part of the masters program and one is in Railroad Square Art Park.  I love both of them and am very grateful!

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
I am really thrifty.  I paint on found surfaces.  I use very little paint; I go by dumpsters weekly to see what I can find to make things out of.  I recycle fabric and paper.  I am a firm believer that there is way too much stuff on this planet so if I am going to make more stuff I might as well reuse!

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

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Paul Lorenz – Artist

Paul Lorenz Lives in Paducah, Kentucky, though he is originally from Chicago. Paul is represented by a few galleries: Homey Gallery, Chicago’ Gallery IMA, Seattle; Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia . Since he was a small child he has been making art, but professionally for about the last 25 years. You can find more info at www.paullorenz.biz His Artist statement reads… “Abstraction is not a style, but a state of mind… a way of thinking about action and circumstance, confidence and risk-taking, boldness and subtlety.”

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Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
I am director for the River’s Edge International Film Festival… I like film and working in a festival atmosphere.

What are the main medium/s you work in…
oil on canvas and panel; water based media on panel; Bauhaus inspired graphite drawings.

How do you describe your work?
My work is definitely abstract with process more important than image. The image evolves from visual, chemical and physical properties.

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What are you currently working on?
I just finished a series of paintings for a solo exhibition at Homey Gallery, which opens on March 26. I also completed a series of graphite, graphite and oil, and graphite and casein drawings… I am not sure what their future will be.

What fascinates you?

Chance… coldness… darkness… ink… Lars von Trier and Peter Greenaway.

One statement to describe your current works?

Confident manipulation of chance.

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
A mark leads to a color, which leads to a space. A line leads to another line, which forms a plane, that may or may not cover space. The spaces combine, through tool and media, and a new vista is created. The combinations are limitless, though the growth follows a logic and rhythm. The result carries visual threads that lead our eye from one moment to the next. What similarities are born in a minute a day or in weeks of progress?

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Why are you an artist?
Art allows my mind to resolve questions.

How did you get into art?
I have always been drawing or painting since I was a small child… but working with oil paint in high school was the moment of no return.

How important is art for you?
It is pretty much everything I think about, and pretty much the biggest thing that guides my life.

Your art education was…
Studying Bauhaus architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology on Chicago… the most profound influence on me. Studying painting was about seeking the right instructors no matter where they happened to be. I studied painting at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, the International School of Art in Italy (with Nicolas Carone and Irving Petlin) and at the University of California, Berkeley.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
Studying architecture was the most important… you learn logic… and a way of understanding techniques that make them integral to your life, not just tricks.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
I studied architecture and worked as an architect for 15 years before quitting and devoting my time to painting and drawing.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
I have been fortunate to have numerous high points. The most gratifying was getting a commission for a painting on permanent display in New York City at Rockefeller Plaza. It was the largest painting I have ever tackled (4’-6” x 16’) and it was an honor to be given the commission. You can see it in the first flor lobby at 45 Rockefeller Plaza.

What or who inspires your art?
Architecture inspires me the most, though you may not guess that from my work. There is no sentiment in great architecture, like great painting, just the pure understanding of space, construction and composition.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts?
Work is always evolving… working in oil, graphite or water based media, working on panel, canvas or paper… I find I need a balance between everything to keep things fresh and the process moving forward.

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Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Getting started is very easy and adventurous… completing things is the challenge… knowing when to stop, knowing when you have said enough with out beating the point to death.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
They do…and when you are in the midst of a wave, you just have to work until the feeling is over.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
‘Art’ is very complex…like ‘medicine’. When I talk about ‘art’ I am always referring to fine art…not children’s art, student art, arts and crafts, crafts, art fair art, etc. Each has its own set of criteria. Fine art challenges the viewer, has a direct concept being explored and allows the confidence of the artist to be seen.

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Does the sale of your work support you?
The sale of my work does support me, and I am very fortunate for that. I also teach through the cyber campus of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in their MFA program.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
I live in an arts community in Paducah Kentucky… I see he artists all the time.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
I have a solo exhibition coming up in Chicago, opening on March 26 at Homey Gallery, plus numerous group exhibitions in Europe.

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Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
It takes a lot of dedication to keep your ideas fresh and alive so that the work continues to grow and entice. Art is a portrait of your soul and it is exhausting always having to be on the edge to make it happen.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
Kazuo Shiraga for his dedication, risk and energy. Mies van der Rohe for his idealism, aesthetic and logic.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
I have a journal where I map out the direction of new works and keep images of things that inspire me…architecture, furniture, quotes, etc.

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What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
They are simply not complete… and they continue.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
Be honest with your media, your marks and your structure… and always search for surprise.

Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?
Stravinsky, Takemitsu… Throbbing Gristle, Social Distortion… Italian pop… everything depends upon my mood when I walk into the studio… yes, the art is definitely effected.

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 create a series of moments and the viewer has the chance to be involved with the outcome or not…I spell out as little as possible.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
All four, though ‘shock’ is a strong word… I think ‘surprise’ may be better. I want the materials to entertain me, I like having that kind of engagement with media, tools, etc. Everything is an experiment… some things done with abandon, others with more control and insight. Inventiveness is something that develops with knowledge… the more you work, the more you know, the more inventive you can be. If I am not surprised, then the work is not done and I have to continue…until I am surprised…

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
Definitely… but I am not sure what could replace it.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
I have something hanging in MOMA in New York.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
I had moved to California and was living in Berkeley. A new gallery was opening in San Francisco and they were looking for new artists. I sent a portfolio, had an interview and they took a chance and represented me. It was a great time of growth and polish for me. I stayed with them for nine years, even after relocating to Kentucky.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
Being and artists and the ‘business of art’ are two different things and need to be looked at as such. When I am working in the studio, I am focused on the fun and challenge of working with color and media. I do not let business get in the way. When all is said and done, I then take the marketing of this work very seriously and try to find the appropriate venues, it’s an evolving challenge.

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?
The work is a reflection of a moment in time. Some things stay strong and viable, others do not hold their strength. In either case, the moment they captured was real and part of me, and for that they have value and deserve to be seen.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

Leaving California for Kentucky allowed me to design and build my own studio. It has light, space and a clean gallery space for viewing finished work. I have to admit, I am out growing it, but that is hardly worth complaining over.

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…
I think we all have things inside of us needing to come out… Working in the studio is the perfect haven for the demons and the angels.

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 hope that occurs. From what others have told me, it does. I think the strongest works are the ones that draw us back over many years to discover new meanings.

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 been in both situations, and I think humans need both. W need the time of solitude to find our voices and play without boundaries, but we then need the energy of others to propel ideas, create new dialogs. One without the other leaves us broken in a way.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?
We all want to be successful artists… It is just a very tough business. So many factors lead to success and many are out of our hands. All we can do is just keep creating the most profound work that we can.

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?
We are all working at a specific moment in time. That time is reflected by the society we live in, our education and our curiosity. History is very important because it gauges ideas and is a refuge for determining strengths and weaknesses in our work.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
Morning… definitely.

Have you won any awards?
A few, which is always gratifying? 2009: Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea, Florence, Italy: Citta de Firenze Medal. 2005: Kentucky National Biennial, third place winner. 2001: Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea, Florence, Italy: Fifth Place Medal, Painting

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?
Having a presence on the internet is important. I have my own website and post images on other art sites. The internet is good for communication but nothing takes the place of real human interaction.

How do you continue to grow, or is this not important?
Stay curious, try new things, never forget your roots and your personal integrity.

Here are a bunch of statements you can respond to any way you want. Go for the first thing that comes into your mind, or not…

Sociable and out there, or withdrawn or intense?
Sociable out of the studio, intense in the studio.

Tough and resilient, soft and fragile?
Resilient when dealing with art business… never fragile.

Logic and clarity or creative and messy?
There is a time for logic and a time for being messy… just not at the same time.

Small and intimate or large and bold?
Both… depends on mood and time between those opposing ideas.

Security or insecurity?
Secure in being curious and taking risks, which may seem like insecurity.

Feel the art and hear the image…
live the moment.

The world is…
large and full of possibilities.

Creativity muscle building…
More like brain building.

Delicate and subtle, strong and bold?
There is a time for both and we need to be sensitive and open when the time is right.

Intellect or careless casual connections…
Intellect starts most things, but we have to allow ourselves time for play…

Critics are important because?
Someone should say something about your work who is not a relative…

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au

Chris Sedgwick – Artist

Chris Sedgwick is a Painter who says he moves around a lot but always tries to live right by or in the mountains. He currently lives in Manitou Springs, Colorado, which is right at the base of the Rocky mountains near Garden of the Gods; a beautiful park with gigantic red rocks that jut out of the landscape. Chris says the area is very inspiring. His works are described as Transcendent narratives.

Chris is represented by Gallery Minerva located in Asheville, NC (www.galleryminerva.com) and the Elaine Erickson Gallery located in Milwaukee, WI www.elaineericksongallery.com

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You can see Chris’s website at www.crsedgwick.com Chris was a feature Artist in the American Art Collector Magazine 2009.

On his work Chirs says… “The inter-penetrating layers of symbolism, mysticism, and narrative in my work constitute a timeless world of ancient rituals and divinatory rites. In synthesizing techniques of the old masters, ancient mystical teachings, and contemporary science, my work focuses on the uniqueness and universality of inner landscapes and transcendent experience.”

How long have you been making art?
I have been making art ever since I was a small child; my parents were very encouraging of my interest in art.

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

Many of my interests intersect with my artistic endeavours; principally my love of learning and research into ancient cultures, mystery religions, modern sciences, symbology, and sacred geometry. I also love travelling, hiking and being outdoors.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…

Most of my paintings are solely oil paint and gold leaf but occasionally I will use some crystals, minerals or other forms of raw earth. I have really moved away from sketching in the past couple of years, I prefer to conceptualize a painting in my head before I begin sketching anything out and when I eventually sketch I am usually doing quick stick figures to figure out the geometry of the composition.

How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?

I would have to say that my work would fall under the category of magical realism with some narrative symbology thrown in there.

What are you currently working on?

I am in the works on a concept involving the four elements of platonic thought (fire, air, earth, water) including the alchemical concept of the “quintessence” all compositionally laid out to the golden ratio. I am in a transition point in my work right now, I am moving out of a ”Rembrandtesque” dark sparse phase towards lighter symbolically rich area where I am adding more color and graphic elements.

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Your art education was…?

I enjoyed my undergraduate art education, I attended Florida State University; I split my focus between sculpture and painting but after graduation I focused solely on painting. Sculpture is a hard field to brake in to especially if you don’t have the wherewithal to cast metals or the studio space. I attended UNC Chapel Hill for my M.F.A. just last year but withdrew after the first week, I realized too late that academia was not exactly suited to me anymore, along with a lot of financial concerns compiled with the fact that I have no desire to become a professor- I do think that furthering ones art education is a good idea I just think that the costs associated with it are downright obese in America right now; matriculation has really become a big business in itself regardless of it’s benefits in the long run. I am still interested in attending small workshops and would hope to someday be able to teach workshops myself.

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

I worked in a bronze-casting foundry, we cast medals, plaques, art, and door knockers, it was very tough work but it was fun.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I like oil paints versatility, portability, historical richness, and wide acceptance in the art world. I wish it wasn’t so hazardous to the health but I try to take measures against that.

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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?

For me I usually get my best ideas before going to bed or in the afternoon while the sun is shinning very bright, there is a slight breeze and the surroundings are calm and quiet; I have found that I don’t really get great insight while the weather is bad and I rarely get good ideas when I sit in front of a sketchbook waiting for them to pop up. I have noticed a very strange phenomenon in my work, I always seem to be narrating experiences in my own life through my work but I do not realize it or they do not happen until roughly six months later. It is not that I set out to narrate my experiences, in fact I attempt to do the exact opposite, but somehow about six months later I discover how the piece relates to me personally. This process has happened numerous times and I can’t really figure it out.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

I think it is paramount.

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art ?

It has solely supported me for years, but recently I have had to look for supplements to my art income on account of the economic downturn here in the U.S. I would say that the life of a fine artist in my experience is pretty tough, one has to be comfortable with never knowing when the next pay check will come, the baffling cost of healthcare is always a hurdle, and it can be rather lonely but I think it is all worth it in the end.

Not to sound too pessimistic but I think the dream of being a famous artist, collected by the best museums, and always in demand by collectors may be a pipe dream for the overwhelming majority, myself included. I see a lot of great contemporary artist being overlooked, whole genres even being written off or dismissed, and I have noticed the propensity of museums to showcase similar collections of a small group of contemporary artists- though that small group is generally amazing. One of my favorite artists I would include in this group would be Julie Heffernan, I love her work, and it seems that no matter which museum I visit they always have one of her pieces.

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Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?

I am darn near a hermit, I hang out with my wife and dogs, and we are always moving around the country. I do like going to exhibitions and openings when I get a chance.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

The world of online social networking has been great for this purpose; I can always connect with artists from different parts of the world through these outlets. It is kind of neat to see some great work in a magazine or link and then be able to dialogue with the artist so easily.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

The most significant turning point in my career would have to be when I was accepted in to my first gallery. I had been selling my work on eBay and building a small group of collectors but I had to make paintings at an incredible rate to support myself, Anna Parker, the director of Gallery Minerva encouraged me to broaden my scope and outlook on my work: I started to make more intricate works, spend more time on the concepts behind them, think about the conservation and archival future of my work, and of course opened me up to the wonderful world of professional framing- the black hole into which every painter throws their money.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?

That’s a hard question, but for the last five years my favorite work has been Hans Memling’s “Triptych of the Last Judgement”. I don’t consider myself to be particularly religious, more spiritual, but I really love how the old masters portray the concept of the last judgement, it is such a rich narrative.

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Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

My favorite deceased artists would be Hans Memling, Eduard Manet, and Michelangelo.

I consider myself under exposed when it comes to contemporary art but a couple of my favorite contemporary artists would be Igor Melnikov, Odd Nerdrum, Julie Heffernan, and David Linn. I love all these contemporary artists for their excellent craftsmanship and captivating subject matter, they all seem to have a strange edge to their work that surpasses “talent for talents sake”.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?

I am pretty stubborn when it comes to my work; I try to make everything work out eventually, but in the case that it doesn’t it gets sanded down and some more coats of gesso.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?

I remember in my undergrad schooling hearing a professor say that “art is just shit that looks cool”, at the time I thought that was a narrow minded approach to art but the more I have had time to think about it I almost have to agree; you can have pages and pages of explanations, concepts, and prestige but in the end if it doesn’t measure up or is begging the question “is that art?” then why even create it- just write a paper or find a better way to communicate the ideas you had intended. The only exception to that argument being the learning process, of course one’s technical skills needs time to develop in response to one’s need behind developing said skills.

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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 think that good art should be able to communicate on many different levels, you shouldn’t have to be privy to some esoteric knowledge to feel the overarching rush of experience from a work however being able to pick up on symbolic, historical, or personal references used in a work can add another layer.

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

I think that really is the point of art unless you are embarking on a personal therapeutic exercise. I have struggled with this concept my entire artistic career… is art selfish in nature? Should the creation of work without the viewpoints and measured impact on others be considered art or just a self-extraction technique that is expressed with artistic mediums? Some would say that the end results are one in the same, that of creating work solely with ones own benefit and gratification in mind or to moving towards a purely commercial execution. I think there is a difference, and I think the blurry line between them is where the great art resides.

I hope that my work confronts the viewer with a narrative capable challenging their ideas about spiritual and religious experiences while remaining euphoric in nature as opposed to shocking the viewer into an experience. I also want my work to communicate an accomplished level of craftsmanship so that the viewer notices the time and skill I put into its execution.

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…

I think you could substitute the word Art in that statement for just about any action that humans undertake.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?

Yes, very much so.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

I like giving titles to some pieces but some I feel don’t really need a title nevertheless I give them one anyway. It is interesting to me that compulsively giving titles to work is really a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of art.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

A couple of people have cried, one woman grew exceedingly angry, and one fellow tried to trade his BMW for a big painting, I am sure there are more stories but I am rarely with my work while it is hanging in the gallery.

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

I would like to think that it is a mixture 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 wish I could see them again sometime; I always wonder where my paintings are residing after they leave the gallery or studio.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

One book, which inspired my work was “The Physics of Consciousness” by Evan Harris Walker, another was given to me by a collector “The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception” by Max Heindel, a religious text that is great for its symbology, and “How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist” by Caroll Michels, a great book for those thinking about entering in to an art career. I am currently attempting to read “On Growth and Form” by D’Arcy Thompson, an early 20th century scientific text on the way forms take shape through natural processes.

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

Paint.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?

I like to paint during the day, as the light is much better.

Do you think art can change people or their perceptions?

Yes I do, it really depends what part of the brain you are trying to change though… I believe that you will never be able to directly change the “left” rational, scientific, or logical side of the brain with art but you can change the “right” emotional, holographic, and intuitive side of the brain. Many works of art have achieved a change in both perceptions by first changing the “right” which leads to a realization that the logic and operation in use by a society is in need of change eventually leading to inquiry and correction.

The problem with the art scene today is…

There are too many artists.

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

Have a good plan on how and what you want to achieve your goals and learn a secondary skill that will help you during the down times.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?

I moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico recently for six months to be near White Sands National Monument while I was finishing up a show I had been working on for two years. I am not sure why, I just felt drawn there and it was one of the favorite periods in my life so far.

What personally motivated you to begin a career as an Artist?

The great job security, year-end bonuses, and stock options.

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

I will work on anywhere from two to six at a time depending on their sizes.

How do you establish your artwork prices?

I work with the galleries that represent me, they are the best at analysing the market, and then we come to an agreement on the retail price.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

No, I would be fascinated to recieve any book recommendations, if anyone has one send it my way.

Critics are important because?

This is definitely a loaded question, implying that they are already important, with that said they do apply their expertise, breadth of knowledge and can help propel an artists career- I guess they could do the exact opposite too. I have never really dealt with any professional critics, only editors and reporters, so my opinions are a little underdeveloped in that area.

Peter Tudhope – Artist

Peter Tudhope is a painter from Girvan, South Ayrshire (South west coast of Scotland) is represented by High St Gallery, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. He has been making art for 42 years, you can see more of his work at www.petertudhope.blogspot.com

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Peter paints landscape and figurative work, mainly in oils. His work leans towards a suggestive abstraction rather than a more deliberate representation. Recurrent themes include dramatic skies, barns, riversides, bridges, the local countryside and shoreline as well as portraits and figure studies. The intense colour and expressive paintwork creates a dramatic and energetic surface and rawness, where space is increasingly compressed and pressurised, has become Tudhope’s signature style.

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

Music, film and lliterature are my other three passions. I write a little poetry, regularly attend the nearest filmhouse and couldn’t live without music.

What are the main medium/s you work in…

I mainly work in oils. I find the consistency and plyability of the medium suits my style of work.

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

Not really, my work is more about paint, colour and especially mark making. The image in many cases is secondary to the physical effort of painting.

What fascinates you?

I love to paint places I have travelled to. Apart from the usual culprits I think it would be wonderful to paint the Arctic or the wonderful mountains of the Guilin and Yangshuo region of China. The mountains and islands of Scotland always draw me back though.

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Why are you an artist?

Art consumes me. There is nothing I’d rather do more. For as long as I can remember I drew everything. It was fairly obvious it would become my life.

How important is art for you?

Simple, It’s what drives me to be the person I am. I think about art all the time. If I haven’t worked on anything for a while it can change my mood. I feel happy and alive when I create art, it gives my life a purpose.

Your art education was…?

I stared my art education at Edinburgh College of Art, completing my First Year Studies then transferred to Glasgow School of Art gaining a BA (HONS) Degree then a Masters Degree at Manchester Polytechnic. Both degrees concentrated on Printmaking.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

It wasn’t until I went to Manchester Polytechnic to do my Masters Degree that I realised how well I had been taught at Glasgow (School of Art), at least within the technical processes of Printmaking. I did find though that there isn’t much teaching going on more guidance, unfortunately not much of that either. Most students find their own way, this probably only happens in the art area.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

Since leaving Art College I have had to find work to “pay the Bills”. I worked in many different jobs such as in a Care Home for Educational and Behavioural Needs Children, built luxury tree houses throughout the country and worked as a sculptors assistant on many public art commissions.

Was art a “thing” which was encouraged in your family?

I was very lucky that my parents have always been encouraging. It became obvious very early on that some form of art was going to be my life.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Definitely a big influence.. My hometown nestled between the sea and the hills. There was a working harbour, which was and has been a continuous source of interest and inspiration. I walked in the hills which have been of great beauty to work from but also where I could clear my head and spend hours thinking and happily day dreaming.

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What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

From an early age I devoured art like drinking water, especially paintings and it was something I always wanted to do but wasn’t particularly good at painting with thicker paint. I was more of a draughtsman and so Printmaking made sense. I did become a little frustrated the medium was quite slow and methodic, I wanted instant images, and so when leaving college and not having Printmaking equipment readily available, I turned to painting in oils.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).

As a student I experimented a lot. When afterwards I started painting in oils it took a long time to become more in control of the medium. Although I still love the fact that the medium can surprise me. A lot of artists have a certain style through habit of the way they work. Sometimes a painting takes it’s own course and that’s when I let it take over.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)

Definitely. My early influences were artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt as I moved through college I started to get interested in a more modern scene with artists such as Julian Schnabel, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Keifer. After college I turned more to artists I had looked at throughout college and were now making more sense within my art. I moved away from abstraction into seeing the world again, going back to drawing, artists such as Lucian Freud, David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff were and have been the major artistic influences for the last twenty years.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

It has changed more recently from attacking the canvas with the bare minimum of sketched ideas to collating lots of drawings and colour studies of a particular subject which then lead me into painting. As I paint I make fresh drawings exploring new avenues to pursue within the painting. Ultimately the painting takes over and shows you the way to go. A painting does talk to you, the trick is not only be able to just hear it, but understand what it’s saying.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?

Not always. Hence my interest in looking for themes. They concentrate your mind to look at a subject at different angles. You somehow know when you have exhausted your own interest in the subject.

Do you get creative glimpses of urges happening and how do you work with these?

I’m sure all artists get urges… sometimes even artistic! Inspiration can come in many guises, a particular light in the sky, a colour draped across a landscape caused by a cloud or a gesture made by someone in the street. It’s at these times I would quickly sketch a kind of description of the scene.

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How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?

Like all artists I dream of how I might paint something in my head. Reality is always different but it’s a good starting point but I do like to keep my mind open to the image as it materializes.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…

I don’t really do commissions as I find the idea quite restricting, although I recently produced an exhibition of paintings from a theatre in Aberdeen. This seemed successful as the work was supposed to be on show for a month and ended up being on display in the Theatre for a year.

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art (job)?

I have been working on a smaller scale mainly due to financial reasons and I suppose it’s easier selling smaller works but scale is also about intensity, which is harder for me to reproduce in a big scale.

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings etc?

Of course. If you are an artist you should be interested in other artists. Going to an inspiring exhibition fills me with enthusiasm and it carries into my own work, it sets a fire under you and drives you on.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

I have been visiting Belfast recently and quite inspired by somewhere new. I have already created a couple of paintings and working on more.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

It’s always a little daunting until you get stuck in. I work quite quickly and know when I’m inspired the work flows.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

It seems to me we are talking about artists finding their “style” early in their career then repeating the same images over and over. I think the problem is more to do with the habit of the same technique. Although my style is similar I hope I don’t fit into that box. Each painting for me is a struggle, that’s the way I like it. Style is different from technique, my technique varies.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?

I like to paint in the studio. I am quite a messy and use a lot of paint. I would feel restricted working outside from a subject directly. I work from drawings done on the spot or later, I like the detatchment from the subject, it allows me to be more expressive and not so literal.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

About five years ago I started to pay more attention to drawing as a medium in it’s own right. It has changed the concept of how I want to paint.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Susan Rothenberg, her later work has me mesmerized with wonderful colour and descriptive brushwork. I love the abstract stories she tells of simple things within her life, very clever. Chaim Soutine is also a favourite, a master of the expressive gesture. There is a lovely giddy feeling and lush pure painting. Another wonderful artist I have come across is the Venezuelan artist Armando Reveron, his depictions of nudes and local landscapes are spellbindingly modern. One of the best artists who ever used white. Of course there are many others such as Bomberg, Auerbach, Kossoff, Matisse, Rembrandt, Carravaggio, etc, etc.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Like most artists I am obsessed with sketchbooks, they are not in diary form but if I looked back through them you could probably see the development of styles ideas and subject matter. I do however like to have a little visual diary when I travel jotting down notes beside drawings.

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

It has mostly always been from drawing from the subject. I would do lots of quick sketches with a felt pen, now I also work on colour studies and more developed works in charcoal.

Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?

Creating art is a lonely business, I do love to listen to music while I work. I love music and go to concerts etc I listen to my ipod on a base station so that I don’t have to be interrupted changing discs. Certain music is better than others, if I am not painting and doing other things related I like to listen to the radio.

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

It’s probably one of the most important things for an artist as it’s what makes a viewer stop and look. Without that there is no point exhibiting your work. But that shouldn’t be mistaken with creating work specifically for the viewer.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?

I think my work seems straight forward and fairly easy to read. It may not be evident though that the image is just a starting point, the real painting for me is the application, the colour mix, the texture, struggling with the process until an image appears which surprises you.

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

It has sometimes been a bit of a millstone as it can get in the way of relationships or influence how you live but is always worth it in the end. I can’t image my life without art.

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…

I have two main examples of this, the first is a minor one, when I draw or paint I am concentrating so much I can block out the cold or even pain. The second is more important, for me artistic creation helps my inner balance. I am happiest when my art is going well it’s like an anti depressant.

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…?

On a very personal level I did very little for about a ten year period when I was married. Family, long hours, little space and a crisis of confidence seemed to take over. After my marriage ended I vowed to myself art would become more important again and immediately started working on a series which kick started everything I do now.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

Sometimes I go through periods where I am in a creative slump. I am always thinking about art but physically can’t seem to get things going. Before long something works itself out, it’s like a habit, you just have to keep looking and drawing.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

Titles are great. They can give just enough explanation to help viewers understand what you and trying to portray. Some of the names of places are wonderful and are like frames, finishing touches.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work you want to share?

Only in as far as I need my studio set up so that I can wander in and out. Painting is not always a nine to five thing. Very often I paint at night or sit and look at what I’ve done during the day, resolving problems and searching for the next days work.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?

My first show was just after I graduated, a local art gallery saw my work and offered me a solo show. The thrill of that was doubled by the fact the other solo show at the same time was by Henry Moore.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?

Very exciting but unfortunately a bit of a let down. I thought mistakenly that it meant I was on my way into an art career, the lack of sales sobered me up.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?

It is a personal bug-bear. I think art colleges are responsible for the lack of knowledge in this area. It is probably as important as art history. Fine Art students need to know how to survive beyond college.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

It’s always nice when viewers compliment your work, not many people tell you when they don’t like it. Although early on in my college career I showed some early painted sketches to a tutor who told me they were terrible. I was taken aback a little, but he was right. It made me more determined to learn my craft.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

When I was a teenager my art teacher lent me his copy of Lust For Life, it inspired me like no other book had. More recently read Hilary Spurling’s biography of Matisse. It was a wonderful illumination to his life and work. There are wonderful books about the life of Pissarro, which showed the struggle of an artist to survive, it was as relevant today as then. And I read a great book about Jon Schuler, an American artist who came to Scotland and became inspired by the western coast and sky. All touch you somewhere inside as representing little parts of your own life and a connection to the struggle most artists go through.

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

I don’t really respond to comments like that. You have to develop a tough skin and always remember not everyone will like what you do. There is no point taking it personally.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

I have had different studios throughout the years, from lots of space in an old mill to the glass porch in my house. I can work in a small corner of an attic with little light if I need to. Currently I am moving trying to move home and have very little space. Ideally it would be a room at home big enough to store paintings and let me stand back from the paintings.

What would you say are the top three things, which make you successful as an artist?

A decent drawing ability is always good, I use striking colour mostly and the third thing would be the choosing subject matter, which not only you would like to paint but interests the viewer.

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 hope so and have been told on many occasions that this was true. As an Expressive painter I think the energy of the brush marks can be exciting, they show the power of the paint and hopefully how brave you can be with a loaded brush.

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?

People close to me get to know painting keeps me happy, others wouldn’t know, I wear my heart close to my sleeve.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?

I love sculpture. Recently I worked on a few small nude bronzes, which was exciting. I worked on all of the processes. They were modelled in wax which I found incredibly therapeutic and would love to do more. They somehow helped a new push in my painting showing the way forward.

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

I need a good subject to start me off or the work would not be done, but, the execution is what interests me more about the process of painting.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

You just have to look at my work to see I love a more expressive style, it’s harder to control but when you hit it right it’s a great high.

What is more important to you in your work, content or technique, concept or product?

A painting has to work on different levels, no one thing can be more important. In my own work the technique and the mark making process invigorates me, but there has to be a balance though with content. The content is a complimentary factor which helps to draw the viewer in.

How do you think art can change people or their perceptions?

I think art and culture in general is what makes people civilised. Everything from music to designing our cereal packet creates a better world. If your surroundings are well designed whether your home or outside it makes you happier and it’s very often the simpler elements which work the best.

Are you the sort of artist who seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?

I personally shun the limelight a little although I want my work to speak for me and would be happy to see it well promoted.

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 have work on a few of these sites, I have never got much in the way of sales from them but they are good for getting to know other artists and have made good “cyber” friends who exchange knowledge and encouragement. It has also been handy when someone is interested in your work to let them see a good collection of your work without having to travel to your studio.

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

All my paintings are worked from drawings. These drawings can be done from life or from photographs. I have got into the habit of when working from photographs I will turn them upside down so that I don’t get bogged down with trying to “copy” what I see. Instead, I just want to use them as starting points, drawing upside down can create a dysfunctional element which becomes your own.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?

At the end of a painting session you can be left high or down depending on how well the work is going. Finishing a painting is always a high.

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 think it’s a very difficult thing to try to make a “masterpiece”, they become that way through time. I would however like to make work, which would be seen in the future as quality of its time. Meanwhile, I paint because I love to do so.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?

The struggle can be depressing but can also show you that the world doesn’t owe you anything and it makes you try harder.

The problem with the art scene today is…

The same problem as it has been for many years, the high end of the art world is so stuck on finding the latest sensation it forgets about talent and quality in many cases. There are great artists still struggling and talentless fame seekers getting all the limelight. But nothing is fare in the art world and it’s still a case of being in the right place at the right time or playing the game in the right way and who you know. I suppose this sounds familiar for many other areas but it is particularly relevant in art.

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

Work hard, see it as a job not a hobby. Be professional, get to know about such things as tax, how to do your books etc. Remember you have a talent people want, do not sell yourself short, an architect wouldn’t work for free, you have bills to pay like anyone else. It is a fight, in general others want artists to just give their work away. Be realistic.

How long did it take to develop your own style?

I don’t think I really cultivated a style, I think through time my work just looks like the same person has produced them.

What personally motivated you to begin a career as an Artist?

Simple. I found from an early age it’s what I was best at and more importantly what I loved doing the most.

Did you intend to become a professional artist?

Yes of course. At school I looked to art college as my goal. Suddenly when I left I realised how hard it was to survive by your work alone.

Would you say your paintings reveal something private about yourself?

I am quite a quiet person, fairly laid back and wouldn’t say particularly excitable. My work on the other hand shows my passion within which only a select few ever see.

How many artworks do you produce in a year?

On average I paint about thirty oil paintings a year now, but also do many drawings and works on paper, which can vary.

What technical aspects do you focus on in your work?

I tend to work wet into wet, which means a painting for me has to be hit or miss everytime I work on it. I will scape the paint back off and try again until I find marks, colour etc. I work on the whole painting trying to keep it fresh and continuously spontaneous.

How long do our works they usually take to complete?

A work can take a matter of a few days or I can work on them for up to two years. They often get beyond a point where I feel happy working on the surface, in which case I destroy them and start again.

How has your mind-set changed from struggling to find your own style to solidifying what you are doing today?

My style is a result of painting in a way that is the most natural to me. I am quite impatient and always want to see instant results it is only the fact that I want to be discerning that I struggle on until I am happier with the result.

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

I usually work on up to four or five at the same time. They can develop in different ways and be completed at differing times. As I finish one I start another. I find also this helps when I am working on a series, one painting can spur on another.

Do you think art school nurtured you or somehow crushed you?

It definitely nurtured me. Of course like most people you didn’t use it to your best advantage and would love to have the time and resources again to do a better job. Money was always a struggle but it did give you time to experiment with other mediums and experiment freely.

How did you manage to survive financially at the beginning of your art career?

After spending five years at art college with the financial support of my parents I felt I had to start working and pay my way more even if it meant not in the art world. I have worked in Social Care, Teaching, Construction and Customer Services jobs to pay bills and support my family.

Does the gallery make the artist famous or does the artist make the gallery famous?

I think it’s hard to have one without the other. Artists need outlets for the work to be seen and sold and vice versa. I think galleries sometimes forget that without the artists they would not have a living, they can be a little guilty of their own self importance and look down on the artist. High street galleries are just shops which sell a form of luxury merchandise, it just happens to be artwork, gallery owners are shop keepers when it comes down to it. The artist is the talent, a good gallery recognises this and nurtuires them which can only be a good partnership for both.

What was life like for you as you were growing up?

I had a very good loving upbringing. My parents were supportive and allowed me the freedom to follow my passion. We were never particularly wealthy but never particularly went without. They encouraged reading, music and to have an open mind to the world. It was an easy place to grow up, safe and without much in the way of hardship or struggle. Perhaps my laid back attitude was a result, I know I am not as driven as perhaps I should be.

Do you have ideas turning over in your head all the time or…

Constantly. I daydream a lot, thinking about paintings. I paint in my sleep or built imaginary studios. If I’m not doing anything I’ll pick up an art book and lose myself for a while.

Eccentricity is seen as a common trait of artists of many disciplines, how about you?

I wouldn’t say I have any eccentricities. Sometimes artists become that way by cultivating a persona which will make them stand out as an “artist”. Art for me is just something I do I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops. I think I am happy within myself and confident enough to know it’s about the work not me.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Pete Nawara – Artist

Pete Nawara is from Chicago Illinos in the USA. He has been painting since 2005, you can check his website at www.petenawara.com and his blog. www.petenawara.com/blog He describes his work as work as figurative with a pop-art feel.

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention? I’m very intersted in Film, Music, & Illustration. I’m currently working on a script for a western film and illustrating a children’s book the I’m writing with the help of a good friend.

What are the main medium/s you work in… I generally work in acrylic with other mediums finding their way in. Gold leaf often makes an appearance. I like to be flexible with my materials, but not without making sure they are long lasting and used correctly.

maninahoundstoothsuit

Man in a Houndstooth Suit
[A Portrait of Nolan Farrell]
Acrylic on Canvas
64 x 52 Inches (162 x 132 cm)

Artist’s statement…

a. As an artist, I often find myself reading artists statements of various kinds.  Time and again, these writings consist of endless babble about what the artist thinks the viewer is interested in knowing about the work.  Usually, the artist is completely wrong about what these things are.  I do not claim to be any different.  In my original writings for this document, I will admit that I did my fair share of babbling, mostly about my concerns of the art world, i.e. Conceptual Art.

b. I have found myself in too many museums, completely bewildered by what artists are trying to say, and most of the time, completely disgusted by what they are getting away with.  Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the important impact conceptual art had on art history, but the statements people are making today are commonly irrelevant to society, or if they do hold any significance, it is completely lost on the general public.  This isn’t even the worse part.  Usually, it doesn’t even look good.

c. I strive to make objects that are aesthetically pleasing. This, first and foremost, is my goal. I want to make a material thing that can be appreciated visually regardless of the viewer’s art education.  Why should someone need an art degree to understand or feel a connection with a piece of art. I feel that my place in the art world is a struggle against just that.

d. With the use of color and composition I attempt to create a visual landscape that allows the viewer to tirelessly view the work. Whether it’s a portrait, an abstract piece, something illustrative, a landscape, or a figurative piece, my primary focus is to assemble a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, and form, that pleases the aesthetic senses. Any conceptual message is inserted as a secondary device, usually for my own amusement.

portraitofrobertshultz

A Portrait of Robert Schultz
Acrylic on Canvas
65? x 63?
165cm x 160cm
2008

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

a. It’s about how we see ourselves. What aesthetic ideal do we hold when we’re observing ourselves, or just people in general? How would we look to someone if we were to display all our vanities for the world to see? How does our reflection relate to us? When viewing ourselves, there are certain imperfections that we are more aware of than an outside viewer might be. Isn’t it like that when artists look at their own work?

b. As humans, we have a certain obsession with reflections, and with seeing ourselves. Look at the world around us. How many mirrors do you see when walking down the street, in a hotel, or in someone’s home. People are constantly sneaking a peek at how they look in their new jeans by catching their reflection in the shop windows. In our cars, we have a rear view mirror and two side mirrors, but for some reason we still find a necessity to have a vanity mirror, often on both the driver’s side and the passenger’s side. The thought of a ‘vanity mirror’ to begin with is a funny concept. We look at ourselves in the reflections of car and bus windows. When we’re on the train, we use the windows to look at ourselves and other people. We are obsessed with the way people look.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a series of paintings that investigates the ideals of visual aesthetics in the western world titled ‘A Recipe for Beauty’.

How did you get into art?

One thing that I remember in detail was the first time I set foot into the art department of the school I transfered to in the 4th grade. It was the first time I had been to any art department, and it was amazing. My previous school had art classes which involved construction paper and Elmer’s Glue. This place had a metal shop, a wood shop, and some serious assignments. I really found my place here. I didn’t really fit in anywhere else, but once I set foot in the art room, I was on top of my game. One of our first assignments was to put on an entire puppet show, from the ground up.

I remember feeling that I should be officially in charge of the puppet design, a responsibility which I took with the air of an evil dictator. I was eventually put into detention for fighting with another student over the fabric to be used for alligators, and how naturally it should be plaid.

The puppet show was a smashing success, and although the thoughts of being an artist weren’t fully developed, the thoughts of being a professional puppet maker were very strong. I’m pretty sure that alligator still exists somewhere. He was beautiful, plaid, and some of my best work. My Pinocchio, if you will.

stanna

St. Anna
Mixed Media on Canvas – 2005
Sold – Private Collection – Paris, France

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to be exposed to the education I received. I would say it had a great influence on the artist I am today and I would not change it in any way.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far? (Seeing your work in a particular collection etc…)

I was hired by a company to do live paintings touring the country with different rock bands for about two months. I was incredibly nervous at first, but my talents were received well and I gained an incredible confidence in my abilities.

stpeter

St. Peter
Mixed Media on Canvas – 2004
Sold – Private Collection – Hawaii

What or who inspires your art?

People inspire me. Everyday people. I’ve always had this ‘dream’ of having a giant studio out in the middle of nowhere. A place that I could delve into my work with no distractions and no interruptions. No people knocking on the studio door or keeping me from my paints with half-hour chit-chats and small talk. I also quickly realised that this concept is not a possiblity for me. I thrive on social activity and being constant surrounded by people. I study them. I eavesdrop on their conversations while I’m at the cafe. I watch them waiting for busses or trying to fight their way to a crowded bar.

I have trouble going out and not meeting new people. I’m a social creature and these social encounters are very important to my work. Without them I’m afraid of what I might end up creating, and I’m sure it would be dull and lifeless.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

The physical process starts with the camera. A subject is chosen and asked to pose. The camera is set on a tripod and the subject is asked to pretend the camera is a mirror, and that they are ‘checking themselves out’. Several photos are taken and then transferred into the computer for digital modifications. The photos are then touched up and arranged in a composition. Then, using vector tools, they are traced into shapes of color. Once they have been ‘vectorized’, they are printed in grayscale. The printed piece is then projected onto canvas and the piece is traced loosely. The shapes are then filled in with acrylic paint thinned with water, and gouache markers. Lastly, gold leaf is applied.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

“ Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years.” Wow. That’s frightening. I graduated in May of 2005, so ask me in a couple of months about this. I’m pretty confident I’ll still be painting though.

womaninvintagesunglasses

Vintage Sunglasses
Acrylic, Silver and Gold Leaf on Canvas
52? x 60?
132cm x 152cm
2008

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?

If I could have any piece of artwork in my personal collection, I’m pretty sure I’d grab a Lichtenstein. Probably one of his large scale abstract pieces. Maybe something straight out of the Chicago Art Institute’s Modern Wing. I went to the modern wing with my Cousin’s and had a good long look at some of those Lichtensteins there. I was really impressed.

Of course the answer to this question could be different almost any day of the week. I’m almost always tempted to become a thief when I see any of Eric Fischl’s work.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?

Gesso happens.

blackkeysftworth

Black Keys – Dallas / Ft. Worth – The Ridglea – June 19th
Live Painting
60 x 60″
2007

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?

Neither. When I produce a painting, I hope that the viewer will be visually stimulated. I want to reach them in an aesthetic way. Anything I’m attempting to communicate beyond that is purely secondary and supportive of that aesthetic idea.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?

I try and keep in touch with everyone I sell to. It’s important to me to make sure they are still happy with the piece in days to come. If there’s a problem with the piece , I want to be available to help. Sometimes paintings are scuffed or damaged in moves. I’ve had my fair share of repair requests. I’m happy to do it, because that work represents me, therefore it’s condition does as well.

Is your work process fast or slow?

The time it takes me to complete a painting is very dependent on circumstance. I often do ‘Live Painting’ in which pieces are completed in as quick as 4 hours. On the other hand, I have paintings in my studio which I started in 2005 and have still not completed.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?

I would discourage anyone serious about the arts to consider their work a therapeutic exercise.

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?

When I produce a painting, I consider it an object. It’s just a piece of material with paint on it. It’s not ‘Art’. It’s an object. That being said, I do try to create objects that will easily outlive me.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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The Theinert View…

Ursula Theinert is no stranger to the Art Re-Source blog, and now being part of the Fields of View exhibition we chat to her again to find out some details.

News Flash!

Here’s an interview done on SBS… It’s great when artists can get media exposure like this! It’s called inspiration from disaster.

ursula-portrait-small

1. Tell us about the works you have created for this exhibition.

I have completed three works and have nearly finished another.  My first painting was done a few months after Black Saturday, and heralded a new start in my physical and emotional energy to begin my art practice again.  We had just rebuilt a garage and had gathered together, and been given art supplies from friends and strangers, who kindly wanted to help.  My father built me two beautiful easels and a painting table and so with all this support and space to paint I felt energized to begin.

My first painting is called ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and is an acrylic work on a 120 x 150cm canvas, with a similar composition to the many paintings that were destroyed by the fire, which had been stored in the workshop studio which burnt down.  This painting was a great release for me, a coming to an acceptance of what had happened, and acted almost in the same way a funeral does with the grieving of a loved one.  The composition is a panoramic view of the hills of Callignee, as an attempt to portray the vastness of the devastation and the acceptance of the destruction. I also incorporated text using all words beginning with the letter ‘f’ that related to the fire eg., firestorm, fear, flames etc .These words acted as an emotive purge of my feelings about the fire.   This was a necessary start to my grieving and led me to the next phase of my work which was the more spiritual awareness of the miracle like quality of escaping such a dangerous event.

My next painting is called ‘Fire Angels’,  a triptych of  three 120 x 120cm canvases, which as the title suggests deals with the profound sense of a spiritual presence which kept my husband and I safe against all odds.  We came close to death several times and yet somehow we did not panic, we were guided to safety at the right time, with many other coincidences and good fortunes occurring,  all aiding in the sense of an otherworldliness surrounding us.  My composition is based on looking up into the tree tops of our totally burnt trees just next to our little mud brick home.  The trees had crowned and the house next door was destroyed.  The repetition of the images is an attempt to show a reflection on the meaning of the scene and the recurrence of that view and repeated safe outcome of many others, but sadly not all, who had to face Black Saturday.  Again I use text beginning with the words ‘Fire angels’ and list words that relate to guiding and overseeing and ending up with a phrase of ‘’keeping vigil over us”.

My next triptych is ‘Changeling’, and this painting relates to the issues of the acceptance of change to one’s fate, and the tenuous reality of plans and ownership.  I am certain that I was at the ‘angry’ phase of the grieving process at this time because I ached for my home and garden and land and trees and life, just the way it was before the fire.  The gratefulness of being alive and still having some parts of our former life was overwhelmed with the pain of having to deal with the day to day realities of the aftermath.  Again there is text used to reinforce this unwanted change that we all felt,  examples being,  ‘our land’, ‘our home’, ’our community’, our plans, ‘our fate’ etc.

During this time the rebuilding continued at a steady pace and we felt that we had reached certain goals, with our studio and gallery, almost being completed, and the house becoming more comfortable too.  The frenzy of activity and the stresses and positive outcomes of this amazing year almost paralleled the regeneration of the trees around us.  That regrowth and reawakening of nature has I feel mirrored the repairing of our psyche and emotional strength, with my latest triptych depicting an almost joyous scene of hope and a new beginning.

urs-tchangeling

2.  What does being an environmental expressionist mean to you?

It means I am concerned by the challenging environmental issues confronting and threatening our global future.  In my paintings I use text, colour and emotion to tap into the subconscious spiritual bond connecting us to nature to enhance the desire for innovative changes on a community level as well as globally.

I believe art has an important role to play in visually stimulating an audience with positive and negative messages which reinforce the need to nurture our world.  This visual approach is designed to inspire interest in environmental issues.  Art evokes deeply layered feelings, intuition and instinct within us all.  My works aim to facilitate contemplation and I believe intrinsically worthwhile outcomes occur when we experience another viewpoint and often all we need to do is to …”stop for a moment….!”

3.  What makes this exhibition so important, people should go and see it?

I feel Black Saturday touched everyone in Victoria, with the whole of the country ostensibly coming together and forming an emotional and psychological bond.  The fires are imbedded in our psyche, with this summer season highlighting the amount of interest, care and heightened awareness and education extracted from the painful experience of the fire and its aftermath.

This eclectic range of personal experience is reflected in some ways by the group of artists in Fields of View.  The artistic exploration of the five artists in this exhibition expresses their own individual experiences and perceptions through their own mediums in an evocative and dynamic way.   The complex environmental, philosophical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual issues that the fire has evoked in the artists will resonate with the community at large.   The ‘Fields of View’ theme is based on the Black Saturday fires but it also envelops larger issues, such as, the balance of the natural world, sustainability and conservation.   The power of art to stimulate, inform and encourage discussion through emotional creativity, indeed, can be seen in this valid example of environmental expressionism.

4.  Australian landscape is a well represented genre, what do you think Fields of View and your own work adds to the genre?

I thinks the Australian landscape has been depicted in many forms from the esoteric Aboriginal work, early European settlement, Australian Impressionists, Australian Expressionists and the contemporary art of today. Each have added to the whole journey, story of our history, way of viewing our world and each other.  I quite often feel Western artists have viewed the landscape as either romantically beautiful or foreboding and dangerous, and there is truth in both of these expressions of our surroundings.  However, I believe, artists are now seeing the land, the environment as the one being  threatened by humankind with the grave issues of the ‘balance’ in the natural world, sustainability and conservation all becoming the strong narrative feature of the work.

My focus is on the dichotomy between our love of our country and our use of our resources.  I feel we have a profound spiritual connection to the land, which I poignantly experienced during Black Saturday while I defended my home.   My work transcends known realities to the unknown otherworldly spiritual presences through our interaction with the environment.  I feel this spiritual bond heightens the enormous responsibility we have to our world and issues like sustainable wood supplies, carbon trading schemes and the many global challenges we face can only be addressed with fresh eyes and lateral thinking.

The Fields of View exhibition brings together five artists who were personally affected by the fires and who also explore the complex issues of our perceptions and our place in the world and our affect upon the environment.  We are passionate about art and our work, striving to express our narratives in a modern way, which is, to provide, create and enhance a greater understanding and awareness of environmental issues through art.

Connie Noyes

Connie Noyes is a Chicago based, Professional Contemporary Visual Artist who has been making art for 30 years. Represented by Art Depot, Innsbruck, Austria and the SFMOMA Artists Gallery in San Francisco. Connies website is at http://www.connienoyes.com

me-148

Interests you have other than art?

I have danced my entire life and I think as a result of this everything I experience is through my body. I am very physical and consequently my art is very physical. There is a visceral experience, often for the viewer, when they see my work in person. It is hard to get this from the internet or digital images, so this is important to mention.

2009_lucky

What are the main medium/s you work in…

I consider myself a painter, though I use many different materials in my work. My MFA is in photography but I never actually thought of myself as a photographer. The photographic image was the skeleton of my work. I had a hard time keeping my hands off the image. I had to touch it, to manipulate it, paint on it, erase parts and then draw back into it.

My photographs looked like paintings, and now as a painter people tell me I paint with a photographer’s eye. I think what they mean by this is that I work with the edges of the frame/canvas. This is where tension and poetry are created.


bulgariastudio

Artist’s statement…

This is a statement from my latest body of work Human Steps. It is an ongoing series I have been working on for a year and a half. There are paintings and digital images. Eventually there will be video components and an installation as well.

HUMAN: adjective, have, or relating, to characteristics of people. STEPS: noun, plural, the act of putting one foot in front of the other.

HUMAN STEPS is a dialog, which references the many disparate elements encountered in daily urban life – a metaphor for the way in which dark affects light and vice versa, how the sweet can become sickly if overdone and how close proximity to millions of people, diverse cultures and visual images can both inspire and overwhelm. It is a metaphor for tight quarters, pleasant or not so pleasant meetings and vibrant energy of the city in contrast to shadowy and emotionally difficult places.

For HUMAN STEPS, I use what most people consider garbage as a jumping off place in the work. The materials at one point might have been utilitarian, but were never considered beautiful. The hard, shiny, plastic surfaces often synonymous to commercial objects, would never pass inspection as such. Dirt falls onto the canvases, scratches, cracks, marks occur and there are no straight lines, only the illusion of such. Through the act of turning detritus into “works of art”, or elevating the prestige of garbage, I aim to question the status quo of beauty, worthiness and usability. 2009

2009_lucky_detail

Your art education was…? I have a Degree in Photography from a small liberal arts college in Virginia, Virginia Intermont College, A MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a MA in Psychology and Art Therapy from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.

I also took a few painting classes from Larry Robinson who teaches at UC Berkeley in California when I decided to switch mediums in 1998. Studying psychology and working as a therapist for 9 years changed my life and the way I think about my art practice. Taking painting classes with Larry, changed the trajectory of my career.

2009_therapistchair


Tell us about your study and the MFA…

I was accepted into the graduate program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at age 23. It was the only school I wanted to attend, though I had been accepted into two other programs. The Art Institute at the time had the reputation of having one of the best graduate art programs in the country. Plus I had been living in a very small town in the mountains of Virginia, teaching part-time at the college I attended as an undergraduate.

I drove to Chicago from this small town singing Hot Child in the City hoping the words could ease my nervousness and boost my confidence. I was shy, a bit intimidated and a giant sponge seeking food and knowledge. I took and absorbed what I was told about my work and tried to make it fit together in my psyche. I was making what I was told was BOLD work. To me it was simply romantic and stemmed from my own personal history of romantic encounters The response was never indifferent. Professors, other students and critics either loved or hated my work. The extremes intrigued me.

In critiques, the players would argue amongst themselves, passionately describing their response to my photographs. I learned how to play the game and how to get the response from my audience I wanted. In the process of absorbing others ideas -theoretical, intellectual or emotional, I forgot the importance of doing the work for myself.

Though, I never had doubts about getting my MFA, it wasn’t until much later when I could really appreciate what I got from going to school there. I was so prolific and the work I did has been the foundation for all work to come. But with that said, I don’t think I took advantage of the program the way I would have had I been a bit more mature. I received my MFA in 1980 in photography.

If you started painting in 1998 what did you do in the years previous?

I stayed in Chicago and worked and exhibited for two years after school. I don’t think I was prepared for life after graduate school. I was working as a waitress and bartender at night so I could work in my studio during the day. But, then something happened and the social aspects of the bar life and alcohol consumed me. I moved to LA, back to Chicago then back home to Washington where I finally hit bottom…and I thank God it stopped there. I was able to get sober and back in my body! I was married and my daughter was born on Xmas day in ’86.

2008_inthebeginning1

In 1988, when my daughter was less than two years old sitting in her high chair, I watched as she bit the tips off non-toxic markers. The color oozed out of her mouth onto the paper. She spit, drew, rubbed, rolled in the gooey mess. She was covered in color. She didn’t care what any one thought of her drawing. She was genuinely excited by her experience. It was in this moment, in the kitchen with my tiny daughter, I remembered again why I had wanted to be an artist. She and I began playing with art materials together. I learned so much about process from her.

I began working daily, very consciously being kind to the fragile artist child felled for the previous six years. Like my daughter, I suddenly didn’t care what anyone thought of what I was doing. In fact I never had to show anyone. I was just playing. I decided that the process would be my inspiration – one thing leading to another naturally. A year later, I was doing work that felt honest and stood on its own – photographing garbage, old window shades, cardboard, hardware, tape etc., manipulating the images in the darkroom and painting, drawing back into them. I began to exhibit the work in juried shows was awarded a couple of prizes. Soon after, in1990, had a solo exhibit in Alexandria Virginia at the Torpedo Factory. At the suggestion of a fellow artist, I spent every cent I had on having the work professionally framed. I was proud.

2008_harmony_discord

In April 1992, I was awarded an exhibit at Touchstone Gallery in Washington DC. I continued to work with photographic images. The imagery depicted the fragility of relationships – things are rarely what they are perceived to be. The black rose was a metaphor for beauty and the passing of time with sexual overtones. Since I had spent all of my money framing the last show, I used discarded materials to frame and display the work. The acrylic sheets, mounted on the frames with screws purposely didn’t fit. They swung from side to side as people passed. I tacked some of the work directly onto the wall and imposed makeshift frames around the large pieced together photographs.

In May 1992 I moved from Alexandria Virginia to San Francisco, due to my husbands employer. I had not yet figured out how to make a living with my art. Part of me didn’t even want to try. I was more interested in practical ways I could support my children and myself. I know now it was fear that held me back.

Since undergraduate school at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia, I had significant interest in psychology. Almost had a double major. After our move to San Francisco, I was accepted into the Marriage and Family Therapy Program, with an emphasis in Art Therapy at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont California. I began in June 1992 and graduated with my second Masters degree in 1994.

2008_conform

My relationship to my art practice changed significantly through the process of studying Psychology/Art Therapy. After graduation I worked in a few, rather severe venues, as an intern before private practice was an option.

When I began my private practice it was important to find a space where I could see clients, but also have my own studio. Believe it or not, in 1998, before the dot com boom that destroyed all reasonable rental options in SF actually hit, I actually found the perfect space in a creative arts building. My goal was to work in the darkroom and studio when I wasn’t seeing clients. This might have worked, except 2 children now pre-adolescent, and work with a difficult client base compromised my good intentions. It seemed impossible to carve out enough hours. Darkroom work was impossible. I began painting.

2008_conform_detail

At first, I was painting on photographs, printed before or old furniture I had found. I had learned from past experience how important it was prime the pump in order to get my creativity flowing again. At some point in 1998, I decided to take a painting class at UC Berkeley Extension. I had never been confronted with a blank canvas before. Though my photographs had always been somewhat painterly I didn’t know the first thing about painting. Painting was more immediate than photography. I don’t think I ever anticipated what would happen next.

2007_eruption

I devoured painting. The first night the teacher in the extension class said, “Who are you?” He had never seen anyone attack the process with such abandon in a beginning painting class. Through the work I had done as an art therapist, which is ALL about process, I had developed a deep understanding and trust in myself as an artist. I knew I would learn more about paint and painting materials the more I worked. Once I started I couldn’t stop. I rented a space in a group-painting studio and rented out part of my therapy office. I was seeing clients 4 days a week and painting 3, then seeing clients 3 days a week, painting 4, until I was seeing clients only 2 days a week.

My therapy practice was booming. I kept raising my prices because I didn’t want to work so much. I wanted to paint. Then I got it. If I had the talent to help others get what they wanted in their lives, I was also skilled enough to get it for myself. All I ever wanted to do was make art. Really. Everything else along the way was a distraction to knock me off my path. I was told a career, as an artist was not practical, especially with two children. I decided to stop believing this idea.

One year after I started painting, I was invited into Hang Gallery in San Francisco. The gallery sold everything I gave them. I was able to leave my private practice in July 2001. That year, I had a solo exhibit at Weigand Gallery, connected to Notre Dame de Namur University and was a featured artist at the Palo Alto location of Hang. I also participated in my second open studios in SF and was chosen for the Selections Exhibit through Art Span the following year. I was one of 20 artists from a pool of about 600. In March of 2003 I had a solo exhibit at Hang and sold out the show.

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What fascinates you?

Human behaviour, culture, diversity. I am fascinated how art can bridge differences- open up dialog. I am fascinated by irony and contrasts-opposites that aren’t really such, for example love-hate. These emotions are not opposite, the intensity of the emotions are both too strong. I think hate is intense fear of difference or perhaps an intense fear of ones own unconscious or dark side.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

Just show up!! This is the MOST important thing in the creative process. Something always happens even when I don’t feel like working…and sometimes really interesting things happen BECAUSE of my resistance. I just try to stay open.

Do you have ideas turning over in your head all the time?

YES.

So do you use a journal to bring those ideas to reality or some other recording device?

I write things down, I write a lot actually. I love to write and have even incorporated small vignettes of stories into some of my work, but often I just do it when I get an idea…I don’t tend to make sketches, though I do use Photoshop to manipulate certain images for paintings, especially when I am working on commissions. It gives the client a very close idea of what the final painting will look like.

Eccentricity is seen as a common trait of artists of many disciplines, how about you?

Maybe I am eccentric. Does one know if they are? I feel like a chameleon. I can fit in among people in very diverse settings, some more comfortably than others.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?

Funny question about rules. I think it is important to know the basics. For example, I was compelled to take a beginning painting class before I made my first painting in 1998. I had no idea how to start a painting. So I learned the rules, or this particular teachers rules, for painting. After a while I got bored with doing it the same way and I wanted to experiment. This is when I began to find my own voice with the medium. I just kept asking, “What would happen if I do this?”, and I would try. It was a painting, I could always undo what I did if it didn’t work.

What seemed to happen though was the more chaos I created on the canvas the more opportunities were presented. I was constantly working my way out of disastrous paintings. As a matter of fact, I don’t ever think I have made a painting in the past 12 years when at some point in the process I didn’t think it was a complete disaster. Usually the day after I was ready to trash the whole thing, the work would somehow resolve itself. In my work, if there is not this chaos or conflict at some point, the painting has no life. I take risks just to see what will happen next.

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 believe the beauty of art, abstract work in particular because of its subjective nature, but all art really, is each viewer brings his or her own experience to the piece. I get asked all the time, “What influenced this work or that. Every time I tell, the person looks disappointed. After a number of these disappointing looks, I got it. They were having their own experience with the work and my answer squashed their experience. So now when someone asks me that question, I always say, I would be happy to tell you, but first tell me why you are asking or tell me what you see in the work. I don’t want my answer to make theirs wrong, because it isn’t. I think art should spur dialog, which is usually what ends up happening with this approach. Art for me is not something that is absolute.

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

There are people who deeply connect to my work and others that walk right past it. Funny story, during an open studio a man walked by my studio door poked his head in and said out loud, “Humph. Buffalo.” Obviously he wasn’t connecting. But then another time a woman wanted to buy a painting I had in a gallery and there was something wrong with the stretcher. I took the painting back to my studio and she waited for this painting for six weeks. When I brought the painting back to the gallery she bought it immediately, took it home to hang in her dining room. The next day she brought the painting back to the gallery to return it. When asked why she said, “It sacred my children.” This was so interesting to me because it WAS an abstract painting, nothing overtly scary. But, the children, obviously sensitive children, picked up energy in this piece that frighten them. And I totally understood what.

It was a very difficult period in my life. The energy of those days came through in the painting. The children were right to be scared! So with this said, Paintings can communicate with viewers positively, negatively and indifferently. Of course I always want people to adore my work, but the times when they don’t can be just as interesting!

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it? There is no way I could ever stop making art. I wish I could, my life would be easier if I had a real job, and a dependable income etc. and I have tried in the past when I worked as a psychotherapist. I committed to my art practice in 2001, full time and have never looked back. This is my soul, my path. It is who I am. I have stopped questioning this.

You mention “There is no way I could ever stop making art.” So is the process or product of art somehow a therapeutic device of some kind?

Well, I am sure there is some therapeutic value, but I don’t consider my work art therapy. Art Therapy is only concerned with the process with little or no regard for the final product. Though the process is certainly an important part of my work, I do have other considerations as well such as concept, overall design, how pieces work together, intellectual considerations etc. When I said I could no longer stop making art, what I meant was my art practice is such an intrinsic part of who I am. It is more than just something I do. My art practice is my playground- it is a reflection of me, my voice, my spirit. I guess I need this mirror.

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How does having a working knowledge of Psychology assist you in your work?

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know so much and could work in blissful ignorance. It is interesting though, when I am in the process of creating a piece, I am not thinking about what it means, how it is connected etc. I am just paying attention to what is happening in the piece. After, when the piece is complete, is when I see everything! I understand the metaphor in my work very easily and how it is connected to my life and my own psychology. But, I also think the concerns I have in my work are universal ones…and lately I have been working more conceptually, so self-analysing my work is not such an issue.

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What discourages you from doing art?

I am always working. If not making art, marketing, networking planning etc. This is a full time job. No, it is a full life! There is no difference between my art and my life at this point. Today I am sick in bed and I am still working. Writing this interview…;-)

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Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?

My challenge is knowing a piece is not finished and trying to make myself believe that it is. It goes back to the chaos comment. After working and wrestling with a piece for a long time, I want it to be finished, but there is always a little nag in my head. It isn’t until I REALLY complete the piece, and I know intuitively when this happens, the voice goes away.

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What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them?

I have tried it both ways. My current work has titles. Other series have had more generic titles, titles for identification. Again it depends on the work. I don’t have any absolute rules about this.

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If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?

One of Anselm Keefer’s Wedding Dresses.


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The best thing an art teacher ever said to you was… “Just follow the work”. This has been invaluable. It keeps me focused on what I am doing and not concerned with what others. Though I look and am interested and get excited about other artists work, I can only go to the places my work and my process take me. Plus, it is always an exciting day when the work pushes me into the next phase of the process.

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How important do you think art is for society?

So important. I cannot imagine a society without art. Artists are the philosophers for the culture. Not only do we bring different viewpoints, thought, images, connections to the table we create the life in the culture- excitement, beauty and innovation. Without art we would live in a culture of grey -mundane, homogeny. There would be no joie de vivre. Depressing thought!

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You mention tension and poetry are created at the edges of a work… Do you want to tell us more about what you mean?

By cutting something off at the edge there is an automatic tension created, a push-pull between the edge and the object. It throws the balance off and suggests continuation into another plane. Isn’t this poetic? Often I will use the edge as the place where most of the “action” happens. The center becomes either a place to rest or a void.


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Art As a way of life, rather than a career or “job”… Do you think other people get that and appreciate the passion this might cause?

No, I don’t know what people get. I am certainly open to hearing other people’s response to that question, artists or non-artists alike. You obviously get it to ask the question. Thank you for that. I am passionate about my art practice, my life, all of the above.

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Here are a bunch of statements you can respond to any way you want. Go for the first thing that comes into your mind, or not…

Sociable and out there, or withdrawn or intense? Sociable, out there and at times intense

Tough and resilient, soft and fragile? I look fragile and soft, my attitude is tough and resilient and I think my inner core is made of steel!!! Though exhausting at times,I am a fighter for what I want…. and a survivor.

Logic and clarity or creative and messy? Clear, Creative and totally messy.

Small and intimate or large and bold? I love the extremes. At one point I was only making paintings over six feet and under 12 inches. Such different energy.

Security or insecurity? Depends on the day

Feel the art and hear the image… Feel, emotional and tactile.

The world is… f#%ked unless we can harness more creative intelligence in our leaders and everyone gets how interconnected we all are.

Creative muscle building… Comes from showing up, as with any practice or discipline.

Delicate and subtle, strong and bold? Again, I am there in the extremes.

Intellect or careless casual connections… There are no accidents. It is a matter of being in the moment, using you mind, body, emotions, spirit and whatever else is at your disposal to either respond or not to what is happening in the work at that particular moment.

Critics are important because? It is another way to have dialog about art. Agree with them or not, it is the dialog, which is important.


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Dan Wollmering

Dan Wollmering BA; MFA: PhD. is a Contemporary Sculptor based in West Brunswick, Melbourne, currently represented by Flinders Lane Gallery & BMG Art, Adelaide. For over 40 years Dan has been making art in Wood, Steel, Bronze and Aluminium. He describes his works as Abstract Architectural. He lectures in the Faculty of Art and Design at Monash.University Victoria. Dan has made pilgrimages to Italy France and New York several times over the years. You can read more on Dan via Flinders Lane gallery’s website.

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

Some works do (outdoor public sculptures more linked to political & social issues and ideas) Gallery works are concerned more with formal notions of structure, form and beauty invested in nature or a purely from the imagination.

What are you currently working on?

A series of works that were executed in foam & cardboard whilst on a recent art residency at Rimbun Dahan outside of KL, Malaysia – to be cast in bronze and aluminium. The works are loosely related to architectural forms derived from Islamic structures and contemporary buildings in KL.

What fascinates you?

Travel, cities, theoretical physics (what little I understand) discovering a new piece of music, (classical, rock or jazz) Albums that still fascinate me i.e.‘ Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis, ‘Blood on the Tracks’ by Bob Dylan and ‘Rook’ by Shearwater to name a few . . .

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Tactile and curious.

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Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

A series of 14 aluminium & bronze sculptures that reference small personal architectural statements – based on my living experiences in Malaysia for six weeks.

How did you get into art?

Elementary school on Friday afternoons – a time devoted to art activities that interested me immensely and the teachers who taught it.

How important is art for you?

I need it to make sense of world and to make it – to provide a type of concentration that brings about satisfaction and achievement.

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What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?

Sometimes, but more rarely as I grow older, it can bring goose bumps to my arms that conveys of a type excitement or challenge that is quite outside the world that we live in.

The craziest thing you did at art school was…

Designing a sculpture rocket (dry fuel rockets were all the rage back in the 1970s); it ignited and accelerated to about 100 metres when it nose-dived back to the earth. Luckily no one was injured.

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

Worked in a variety of jobs – mostly saving money to return to University Art School. (Factory worker Hudson Sprayers, Combine Driver and Mechanic for the Green Giant Canning company, Labourer for a construction company).

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Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?

There have been many. One in particular, being selected for the 3rd Australian Sculpture Triennial in 1987 at the National Gallery of Victoria.

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…”?

Hummmm . . . a positive experience seeing a major work by Louise Nevelson at the Walker Arts centre in Minneapolis.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

Such a difficult term ‘success’ perhaps when the work hums – most artist know when this condition occurs – as rare as it is. Another measurement, when attached to a commercial gallery, of course, arriving at your opening and seeing those uplifting ‘red dots’ – certainly makes the effort worthwhile although I would not necessarily state categorically this is the only measurement of success.

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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 Try not to waste time in the studio. The days of ‘fooling around’ are over – but would like to have more time to engage in this important and necessary activity.

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?

Not really, am more interested in the ‘flow’ – when one is working a piece – so focused and engaged that hours pass quickly. A good head space.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?

Yes – a loaded term that Postmodernism has, for the most part, tried to kill off but continues to bounce back when artists aim high.

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Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…

Yes, a piece titled Dwelling, that I am proud of that was commissioned by Moreland City Council (with some funds from Monash University) sited in front of the Leisure Centre in Fawkner Victoria.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

I have read this and understand the difficulties associated with making a reasonable living off one’s own practice. Yet, there are many examples whereby artists ‘return to the field’ after years in other occupations, or free from domestic responsibilities, or have sufficient time and funds to commit to the practice. In my experience, most committed artists have to make work and will exhibit in whatever manner they wish over a long period of time; Art is a marathon not a sprint.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

I have never really turned – just going steadily forward. A ‘focused point’ was when I was doing the ‘rounds’ trying to ‘land’ a commercial gallery when finally after approaching many without success – a colleague friend tipped me off regarding a new gallery opening, I was accepted and became part of the stable of Artists at Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne. I have been showing with them since 1989.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Rebecca Horn, Louise Nevelson, David Smith, Buster Kendall, Anthony Caro (late) add another 100 artists here.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

Yes – being selected for an International Sculpture Symposium in Southern China – commissioned work that was eventually installed in Shanghai.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had?

Generally after a solo exhibition – work removed, feeling ‘flat’ taking stock and then questioning why am I spending all this time devoted to this activity when I could be doing many other interesting things as well?? It only lasts for a few days – as other art related projects have to be completed. We just keep going.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?

Not one thing in particular, rather embracing more of the overall arching activities occurring at the University art school at the time – including happenings, performances . . . I was somewhat sceptical of such undertakings as being rather indulgent – but only now recognise the value and significance of these experimental and innovative art forms.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?

Oh dear, another excellent question. Depends on which piece and the brief attached i.e.a public artwork/sculpture – being site referential. My inside gallery work is more geared towards to condition of abstraction and such notions of transformation and imbedded spirit Sometimes, this may manifest itself in ideas of beauty or alternatively, uneasy and precarious possibilities of chance and accident i.e. cause and effect.

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…?

Becoming an activist in the Union movements. The death of both my parents.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?

Process vs product – the age old question. Sometimes only certain sculptors can appreciate this often overlooked creative condition. Enjoying materials and appreciating techniques are often important vehicles of conversation shared between sculptors. Looking at from another angle, perhaps this is why cooking shows are so popular on TV – the mystery of the making.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…

You are known by your first name, not only with your peers, but by a wide audience.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?

Just do it – it has to be done – never ever assume that anyone but yourself will promote your work. Sometimes, a good dealer will make important connections – particularly when it comes to clients.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

A man came to our first commercial exhibition held in South Yarra – all dressed in the medium that we were using primarily throughout our exhibition – which was bread.

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

Most artwork is decorative – some with meaning, some without – don’t worry too much about it. There is a lot of decorative artwork going back to early civilizations, enriched with symbols and significance. Know yourself, the intended audience and then consider the site/gallery in which it is to be exhibited.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?

Again, who knows, if it was not for Art – then there very well may be another passion to embrace – could even be sport – i.e. golf, bushwalking or chess – although at one stage with a fellow artist I played a lot of backgammon.

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 think they think it is all very normal – after all have studied art or made sculptures most of my life. Attending openings, galleries, and museums – all very much of what we do.

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 need both – but do appreciate private studio time – no distractions.

When you get the urge to create art because something has “pushed your button/s” how compelling is it for you?

It is more a regular work process that I undertake on a weekly basis.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?

No artist needs to starve and another myth that raises its profile, generally when the media has nothing of substance to write about.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

Both have their place – depends on what’s required.

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?

Much more considered with my public artworks. And always aware of the historical tradition in Australian sculpture: its practitioners, influences, ambitions, trajectories and possibilities.

How do you think art can change people or their perceptions?

Art really cannot make claim to this – however, I think art can make extraordinary perceptual change with the individual – but not society as a whole. There are now too many competing media and other influences that can undertake major perceptual shifts in society.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?

Yes, to support such occasions and see if I can make the shortlist (for major ones). It is perhaps our equivalent of competition – although highly subjective with luck – if we compare with sports.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?

Promotion is all part of the industry – one has to if you are serious about being a successful artist. I do – but hopefully not in a grandiose manner that is self delusionary and destructive. I see such occasions all necessary in the process of networking and making opportunities – but not at the expense of wasting time not actually making the work.

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

Just do and just keep going. Go to art school, make friends (some may become very helpful later on in your career). When you are ready – do an MFA (research which art school will suit you best). Apply for grants, enter into group shows and awards and when you have a body of quality works – keep an ear to the ground for new gallery soon to open.

How long did it take to develop your own style?

‘Style’ is another one of those difficult terms in the Visual Arts – perhaps best to suggest that it may be idiosyncratic – all depends on the event, exhibition of site specific nature of a work requires flexibility and a more lateral approach.

Does the gallery make the artist famous or does the artist make the gallery famous?

I think it probably has to do more with curators, editors, feature writers, reviewers and critics. Galleries are important, but generally facilitate sales – some have clout to influence the above – but again, the work has to be good, challenging, difficult or stunning beautiful or a ‘wow’ factor that can not be described – or put into words.

Can you respond to this quote “Anyone who is half assed about art should get out.” (Janet Fish).

Hummmm . . I guess one could suggest that we need a lot of the clutter to really appreciate the good stuff.

Cultural connections you may have which may be of value to the viewer? Go overseas and make art connections, residencies, symposiums. It is important to get out of Australia.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Burning Desire Creates Field of view…

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2010 will see many Visual Art events emerge, some large others small… However this one event has already etched it’s place in the artists taking part.

Fields of View is an exhibition featuring 5 Visual Artists all affected by the Black Saturday fires of Feb 2009, from directly fighting fires to save their homes, to standing on the edge of the firezones watching and waiting… then in the aftermath all counted their blessings, conferred various stories and carried on.

Only now with a renewed interest in the way their now changed lives had instantly become more precious, Artworks evolved, giving them a chance to explore and communicate the issues all had experienced.

Couple this with the fact all are passionate about the environment and their role as Environmental Expressionists and you have a fantastic mix of impetus and context with which to present their works.

Over the next few weeks I will have the opportunity to share with you some aspects of the exhibition and the way the Artists express their environmental concerns and inspirations.

When artists get together the collective power to obtain media interest is tangible… They called it ‘Artists respond to tragedy’ http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2010/01/25/2800651.htm take the link to hear the artists interviewed on the black saturday fires and see some of their work!

Here are some images from the first opening of the exhibition at Maffra Vic.

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Kerrie Warren – The view from here…

Kerrie Warren on her work and her role in the Fields of View Exhibition.

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Tell us about the works you have created for this series of exhibitions.

I’m an Abstract Expressionist painter and am very much influenced by my environment at the time, the ‘Bushfire Series’ came through naturally because the fires and the after effect of the fires became a part of my life.

I live in Crossover Victoria; my studio narrowly escaped the Bunyip Ridge fire on Black Saturday, a day that I will never forget.  I was also influenced later by the talk of ‘Fire Bugs’ in various areas.  Thus the ‘Fire Bugs’ naturally began to appear in the work also, they just flowed out and I didn’t try to stop them.

I work with the canvas on the floor and use acrylic paints, mediums, gravity and gestural movement to express myself through bold mark making and colour.

I do not plan my work; instead I flow with it and work in a spontaneous fashion.  I somehow step inside ‘spontaneous’, where everything slows down and I work to a point of resonation (a climax).

How has the environment shaped the art you produce?

The environment has always shaped my work in a sense.  I explore the ‘sensation’ of it on a molecular level, where energy (life) and movement are recorded in the moment.  The influence is always there…

You were all involved in the Regionalis exhibition in 2009, apart from that not being a travelling show, how is this different?

In one sense it isn’t different, it is simply the evolvement of a journey.  My whole heart is offered in every piece, on every canvas, within each mark; however, this particular series sits within a very raw, powerful and emotional group series based on a catastrophic event.

Two of the exhibiting artists (Werner and Ursula Theinert) were directly impacted by the fire at Callignee on that day and it has been such an experience to work with them on this project, they had to start from scratch and even rebuild their studio first!

I think it will bring forth an emotional response from the Victorian communities, I’m sure that many viewers will relate to our stories and will have their own to tell.

What makes your work unique or magical for the viewer?

I suppose that depends on the viewer’s perspective.  As an Abstract Expressionist, I find my work often sparks discussion, even debate.  It is generally either loved or loathed.

Either way, what the viewer will find is honest mark making, a balance of dynamic colour and something they will not have seen before.  If the viewer is open to this style of work and they have the opportunity to spend time with it, they will allow themselves to ‘feel it’, to communicate with it on layers beneath the surface (like I do).

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How does being part of a group travelling show like this make a difference for you?

Being part of a touring group show creates its own opportunities to exhibit and reach the wider community.

It connects the artists involved and certainly stimulates activity both in and out of the studio.

It also creates an opportunity to connect with supporters and sponsors, International Power / Mitsui Loy Yang B collected a piece of mine from this series, it is very exciting to know that after the tour comes to an end, ‘Firewall’ 09 will end up in a corporate collection.

The Parliament House dinner, how did that come about, and a bit about it…

Yes, the Parliament House presentation and dinner is something I am very much looking forward to.  We made good friends with our local MP Mr. Gary Blackwood Member for Narracan a couple of years ago when we presented ‘Wild Dogs from Down Under’, another touring exhibition that travelled in Victoria and to our sister city JiuJiang in China.

MP Mr. Gary Blackwood was interested to hear about the ‘Fields of View’ tour and assisted us by creating the opportunity to present this project in an official capacity in Queen’s Hall, Parliament House Melbourne, where on the same night participating artist Peter Biram will be launching a new arts movement ‘Environmental Expressionism’.

We are also excited to announce that Mr. Ted Baillieu MLA, Shadow Minister for the Arts, will officially ‘open’ this occasion, supporting the project.

The night will be celebrated along with a VIP 3 course dinner (inside Queen’s Hall) and we invite anyone interested to join us, to support this project and be part of this journey!

*please find the invitation on this link

http://www.kerriewarren.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Invitation-to-Parliament-House.pdf

Kerrie Warren, Abstract Expressionist.

Werner Theinert – Field of View Artist

Werner Theinert is one of the five Artists in the Fields of View exhibition, here are his responses to a few questions I asked him about the exhibition.

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Tell us about the works you have created for this series of exhibitions. (medium, style, intent, subject.)

I have chosen three pieces from my Black Saturday series to be a part of the fields of View Tour.

They are all 1200 by 1200mm high resolution images, printed on high quality vinyl which in turn is covered with a clear semi matt protective layer.  This is then self adhesively fixed to an aluminium sandwich board – modern day sign writer technology.  The board then has an aluminium channel fixed to the rear, to allow easy hanging of the work and to provide a degree of strength and rigidity to the board.

The original images are firstly copied and melded into geometric angular panels.  These panels are then combined and shaded to give an illusion of three dimensional boxes.  The patterns create an Escher type illusionary effect.

The original images used to create these pictures were taken on the Sunday morning after Black Saturday, and as such have a very strong association with the devastating events of that fateful night.  The many stark images taken that morning are a clear reminder to me of the hopelessness of mans efforts to in any way try to combat the sheer raw power of Mother Nature – the destruction was total and complete.

The first piece is titled Distorted Metal.  The original image was taken with the collapsed roof of our burnt studio workshop at an angle in the foreground, with the fatally injured Bungalow and blackened tree line in the background.  The interesting patterns created at the corners of the boxes resemble radiating stars, with the blackened trees creating a feather like pattern within the stars.  The other interesting part of the image is the Crab like creature created by the angled metal sheets.

The 2nd piece is titled Burnt Studio Metal, this was all that was left of our Studio workshop – but burnt metal and molten glass, with the stark blackened trees standing sentinel in the background.  The interesting feature of this piece is the appearance of a halo or a circle around the top of each box (or is that the bottom of the box).

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The 3rd piece is titled Mower Metal Burnt.  This was an image of the remains of our shed.  The shed had the mowers, bikes, hydraulic splitter, slasher – anything and everything gardening!  The colours are simply Black, Brown and White.  There are so many different things created by the melding of the images, limited only by your imagination.

Conceptually the boxes each represent a family home, a family unit.  Each box is a part of a group of boxes – a small community.  The next pictures in the Black Saturday series then have many more boxes – representing a large community, and the next one with even more boxes – a State.  With the final image in the series, with the boxes arranged in a seemingly chaotic manner representing the chaos and disorder after Black Saturday, but if you look closely – bigger, overall boxes still remain, in other words the fundamental fabric of the community still remains!

How has the environment shaped the art you produce?

The Environment, and what we the people of the world are doing to it, is a major concern for me personally.  I am an avid reader of people like Heinberg, Gore and Flannery, I am currently looking into things like Permaculture and self sufficiency.

I would say that the events of Black Saturday have reinforced and confirmed my views on climate change.  The extremes of climate which we experienced firsthand that day have increased my resolve and my passion to continue on the path to self sufficiency, and to spread the word on Climate Change and Environmentalism, using Art as a medium.  It has also provided me with a vast number of graphic images and material for me by which I can continue my artistic journey.

My aim is to provide a visual narrative that creates and enhances discussion about the environment, and the future of our world.  I have worked in various capacities within the energy industry.  I have worked in the Telecommunications Industry, Aluminium Smelters, Alumina Refineries, LNG Production plants and Brown Coal fired power stations.

I have lived my adult life in Bahrain, Qatar and in Australia’s Victoria and even the Northern Territory.  I feel that these experiences have given me a valuable insight into the environmental workings of all of these industries, but also an insight into the attitudes and philosophies of our politicians and leaders.

I have made a conscious decision to aim for self sufficiency.

What does being an environmental expressionist mean to you?

Being an Environmental Expressionist, for me, means I am a member of a group of contemporary artists, utilising Art as the medium for conveying the Environmental message to the public and to the world.

The Black Saturday fires forms a major aspect to this exhibition, do the works you have created somehow act as a form of healing for you?

Art has been a catalyst for my healing process by providing avenues of support and a creative voice through expression of my emotional reaction to the destruction of our property by the unleashed forces of nature.

The use of the optical illusion created in my images portrays my own feelings of the illusion of ownership and property.

For me the post Black Saturday “healing” has also been provided by the rebuilding of our property and our lives from the ashes left by Black Saturday.  Closure has occurred by the demolishing team removing the remains of our Studio / Workshop and shed, by finally making the decision to demolish and remove our Study / Office at the end of the house, and the decision to demolish and remove our Bungalow, and replace it with our new Studio Gallery.

The completion of the rebuilding works, have also provided me with the healing and the closure required to adequately cope with this event.  The creation of my new series and the positive outcomes of our exhibition at Red Gallery, the creation and launch of Environmental Expressionism, when combined with the forthcoming Fields of View touring exhibition have further assisted in the healing process.

What sorts of messages are you communicating with your work?

My artistic journey is one of discovery.  My earlier work manipulated the original image and created a spiralling ever decreasing illusionary effect which was a metaphor for the decreasing power and influence of the coal industry and the ever increasing damage done to forests by the changing climate. The narrative for the picture is written in the centre or the focus of the picture.  The text is printed in the same font as used in a dictionary, as if it is a direct copy/paste from the dictionaries authoritive text.  This ensures that the narrative or the desired message cannot be misinterpreted.

My latest series uses the post fire images of destruction to create a range of optical illusions which focus on the illusion of property ownership and its perceived permanence.  The Cubic forms created, represent a container of people’s lives and possessions – a home. The connection of adjacent boxes creates the sense of neighbourhood, community and shared realities.

What makes this exhibition so important people should go and see it?

I feel that Black Saturday touched everyone in Australia, with everyone coming together and forming an emotional and psychological bond.  The fires were a vivid image of the potential destructive powers of nature and an environment out of balance. This summer season has highlighted the new awareness, and changed people’s views on how to cope with a potential future fires.

The exhibition provides a portal through which we can view five different perspectives of an event that has touched each artist on a personal level.  The artists in the exhibition have each created works to stimulate, inform and encourage discussion through their own passionate expressions and concerns, not only for Black Saturday but for the environmental issues that will challenge us in the future.

Fields of view – Interview Peter Biram

Peter Biram

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Tell us about the works you have created for this series of exhibitions.

My current body of work is exploring the recent 2009 Black Saturday bushfires this links into previous works exploring the theme of ‘land ownership’ and ‘usage’ within an environmental framework. This relationship includes traditional and non-traditional interaction with the land. This work reads on several layers-

  1. 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.

  1. Subject

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

  1. Conceptual Narrative

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 (In some works I use the ‘hard edged ’Motifs or symbols’ ) and the koorie perspective, (the dots).

I am also exploring the fine balance that exists in the natural environment, some of my past works explore this theme of ‘Balance.

This is to say “Order & Chaos” found within nature and the balance of power shifting between the two states.

Many of my compositions are 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 various motifs which is usually  in the bottom half of the composition.(from a European standpoint)

The ‘hard edged’ nature of the chosen motifs or symbols’ also represents past civilizations, this presents a symbol of ‘land ownership’ in the sense of  ‘branding’ the land.

I also usually choose hard edge shapes 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.

How has the environment shaped the art you produce?

The concern for the natural environment has always plays a large part of my life. Art can be a powerful platform or a stage that one can express concepts or concerns. In this case I express the ever- growing concerns over the natural environment. In this form my focus is towards human kind and the relationship human kind has with the natural environment with special attention to ‘land usage’.

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What does being an environmental expressionist mean to you?

I have major concerns over the future with regards over the natural environment, and art is an excellent vehicle for expressing these ideas. If we subscribe to these views one can take this to the next level, as collective voice in the form of an art movement, this is why I founded the new art movement – ‘Environmental Expressionism’ ,to more effectively pass on the message

Australian landscape is a well represented genre, what do you think Fields of View and your own work adds to the genre?

The paintings which have established a permanent place in the Australian heritage are usually those which depict the ‘typical’ Australian landscape or express an aspect of Australian character.

This is the common demoninator  which surpasses the changes in genre, style, and me  and links such paintings as Tom Roberts’ The Breakway, Arthur Boyd’s Wimmera Landscape and ShoalHaven series, Sir Hans Hysen’s Spring Early Morning, Russell Drysdale’s The Rabbiters and finally Fred Williams Upwey,Lysterfield and Pilbara series, to name a few.

Paintings themselves emerge as valuable, known and loved works but it would be impossible to present Great Australian Paintings on the basis of judgment of individual paintings. Rather, this book is a salute to the founders of Australian tradititions in art, artists whose successors are even now enriching that tradition in new ways.

The first great school of Australian painting is well represented in this volume. This was time of he ‘golden era’ of painting in the 1880’s and 1890’s, the time of artists like Roberts, Condor, Streeton and McCubbin. With the light of the French Impressionist movement, they were the first to capture the true vision of the country, to break away from the idealised interpretatons that went before.

It is my hope my work has followed, with no less distinction, by the paintings of this age – each new work I undertake will hopefully be discovering and illuminating a new element in Australian landscape or scene.

What sorts of messages are you communicating with your work?

I am an environmental expressionist painter. The paintings explore the theme of questionable land ownership and usage within an environmental framework. This relationship includes traditional and non-traditional interaction. I examine the pressure that is placed on the land in an environmental sense including the fine balance that exists in the natural environment. I usally break my paintings into two sections symbolizing the two states of chaos & order, with special attention to the effects of the Victorian bush fires of 2009.

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What makes this exhibition so important people should go and see it?

Fields of View presents a variety of perspectives and perceptions about the environment, through the eyes, hearts and minds of five passionate Australian artists. Artists Leonie Ryan, Kerrie Warren, Peter Biram, together with Ursula and Werner Theinert share their individual visions, emotion’s and concepts about the environment including individual experiences of the Black Saturday bush fires.

Margaret Zox Brown

Margaret Zox Brown from New York has been making art for 23 years and works in oils. Here is her website http://www.margaretzoxbrown.com and her blog http://margaretzoxbrown.com/blog/ you can also check out her work in this You Tube video.

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News Flash! Margaret won an emerging artists award in New York this Jan check out the details here…

Artist’s statement…

As I have evolved as an artist, I have gone through various transitions, building on what I have just learned and then working through my newfound curiosity. Currently, I am exploring the human form attempting to break it down to its more simple abstract self.

For the past several years, the 2 dimensional canvas has really been my muse with color being the true subject and my subject matter being the introductory form that leads the viewer through the journey of each painting. My paintings are neither representational nor abstract but somewhere in the middle. And, what I have ultimately created is quite simply the emotion behind whatever it is I am expressing.

Loose black and white sketches are the bases for all my paintings. I copy them onto each canvas that I have already given a wash of colors from my entire palette. With a thorough, thoughtful, daring and intense exploration of color, I work with my subject matter and deconstruct it and add to it over and over until the entire painting comes together as whatever it is I am feeling and then expressing. I choreograph a harmonious, graceful dance allowing the viewer to freely meander through each painting guided by all the elements; color, emotion, line and shape, paint application, light and depth, subject and mood.

My inspirations are many; the beauty I see in nature, the serenity I feel when observing a Still Life or the intrinsic nature of the human spirit. Whether my subject matter is lost in complex abstraction or broken down to its abstract simpler planes, the journey on each canvas allows me to express the essence of whatever it is, what it feels to me.

My goal with each painting is for it to be rich and thought provoking and emotionally stimulating. There should be moments of excitement, a rush as well as moments of calm and familiarity with a continual discovery of something new.

How do you describe your work?

Expressionist paintings that hover between Representational and Abstract with color as my true subject.

What are you currently working on?

A series of paintings of the Human Form. Currently, I am working on one smaller painting (30” x 24”) as well as one large painting (74” x 66”) which are modelled after drawings of my daughter who was just home for a month from college. I am so emotionally drawn to her, that expressing the emotion of a moment captured with her is exciting and satisfying for me.

What fascinates you?

Color first and foremost then anything that moves me; be it a line or a gesture or a mood or a shape.

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Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

My current works are of a subject matter, the Human Form, I have painted at all different stages of my art career. I am now coming to them, though with so much knowledge and experience they truly express the essence of and the emotion behind each figure and the moment in time I have captured.

The journey on the canvas guided by color and paint application and medium with the awareness and understanding of different movements in Art History empowers each painting to be all that I am seeking.

Why are you an artist?

At this point in my life, it is all I can be. My life and my art are so intertwined that I express my life through my art and my life is lived in how I approach my art. As I grow, my paintings do and as my art evolves, my self is enriched.

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How did you get into art?

I always drew, my entire life. That was in me. And when I first discovered color, I felt as if I had put my key into a treasure box, just for me.

Your art education was…?

I have been taking an Advanced Oil Painting Class at the 92nd Street Y for the past 23 years and other than that, I am college educated and have travelled so I have a strong base of cultural influences.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?

I have had a wonderful teacher for the past 11 years, Brian Rutenberg, a successful contemporary artist who really brought me to the next level. Also, Robert Gamblin from Gamblin products introduced me to certain colors and mediums which set me on a totally new path of discovery in my art.

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Do you remember your first painting or artwork?

I remember my first Oil painting I did in my 20’s and I remember paintings I did when I was very young at home and was so proud of.

What or who inspires your art?

Different artists, like DeKooning for his painting energy, Picasso for his drawing and genius, Gaughin for his colors and Matisse for his presentation of the world on a flat picture plane…

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 my life and art came together. When I started to abstract and take elements out of my paintings, I then realized I could live my life that way; I did not have to hold onto beliefs or ways of doing things. The whole picture became a way to view the world.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I tried it and just loved it. I am very earthy, really so the dripping , messy, smelly experience excites me.

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You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

Difficult question. I feel successful when I have wowed myself by what I have produced but also when I get confirmation by the outside world that what I have created is beautiful and thought provoking.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

I really concentrate on my drawings the most when starting a painting now. The beauty and perfection (as far as I am concerned) in the drawing, is the pivotal element of my paintings now where all other elements like color and paint stem from freely. Initially, my drawings were secondary.

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art (job)?

I also teach painting and drawing and will do commissions when they come up. I also am exploring other art related business ventures.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

Yes, I share my studio, I take a class and I have friends who are artists.

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Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?

Yes but so stimulating. The pressure to get it all together and have a goal like that is wonderful.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?

Right now it’s people, but as I have said, there could be a line or a gesture or a shape or a mood that moves me. I see the world as an artist all the time. I am a very sensitive person so I am moved often although I never know in advance what it will be, which will move me to do a drawing and then do a painting from that drawing.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

When I discovered transparent colors, color became my pot of gold. And when I experimented with abstraction, my personal  life and how I approach the world changed in a great way forever.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?

A Picasso painting, pre cubism. His drawings and mind just wow me each time I see those.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the college I went to around my art and an exhibition of my art. And, my art has been put on banners around New York City representing the artistic area (district) where my studio is.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.

I have been rejected many times from galleries when seeking representation. It always seems that is like Catch 22- you have to be known and showing to get known and showing.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Just my sketch books.

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What happens to works that “don’t work out”?

I just put them away. People often like them, though, so if they want to buy them that is fine even if I am not proud of the piece.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?

I wish I had gone to Art School and gotten a Masters in Fine Art when I was young. But actually no one encouraged me to do it. That is just my own personal regret.

Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?

I love Bob Dylan, the Band, Neil Young… All folk rock and I listen to music all the time while painting. Silence makes me too aware of myself and what I am doing whereas the music becomes part of the whole process and brings me to that zone.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?

Sometimes the title of a painting reveals the significance of the journey I took while painting or the influence behind the painting or the ultimate satisfaction in the painting.

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…?

Having children and wanting them to live life in ways I never did, with confidence and richness of spirit, to know and like who they are and to shoot for anything in life. As I said my life and my art became intertwined when I started to put abstract images in my art. I handle life like I handle a painting now and it feels great. I am living creatively rather than being a prisoner to other people’s conventions or dogmas. And I am happy.

What discourages you from doing art?

Real life pressures like money and discord that can crop up with other people.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?

At this point, I would really like to hand it over to galleryists to do it for me. I need more time in my studio creating the work so there is work to market!

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?

Yes, many collectors are repeat buyers and I invite and include them specially to different events around my art and I have also developed genuine friendships with many of the collectors.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

The Biography of DeKooning.

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

That’s your opinion (I would actually just tell myself this and not express it to them as there is no point in trying to change someone’s mind who is so off the mark).

What would you say are the top three things, which make you successful as an artist?

My colors, my sensitivity in my paintings and the general public’s reaction to my work. I would like to be selling more and in more galleries and in Museums to be as successful as I aspire to be.

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?

Definitely I want them to discover new things each time they look at one of my paintings

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 children and friends think my work is great. They are impressed with what I create. I have always been told I am very sensitive, perhaps “they” attribute that to me being an artist. People are only awed by how I work…

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”.

That is not a term which resonates with me at all. There are infinite possibilities to create wealth through creation of a new thing. Why not for an artist?

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

Not smooth. I am all about the paint and color and mess. It is visceral and expressive not controlled.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?

I love most of it, it consumes me in a great way that I bring to the rest of my life. There is almost nothing about it I don’t like. I do wish more people involved in the art world were as sensitive and people oriented as the artists creating the work. Pretense is an unfortunate by product of this business which is not appealing, not inclusive and not productive. Art and artists offer so much to the world.

How do you go about marketing your art?

My website, Open Studios, email announcements, art organizations, shows…

How long did it take to develop your own style?

Many years, 23 in all but with the strongest emphasis in the past 11 years.

How many artworks do you produce in a year?

20 or so.

How often do you work in the studio?

As often as possible but not every day as other life commitments are there, like my children and teaching…

How do you cope with any low points?

I turn them around to something positive. There is always another way.

How long do our works they usually take to complete?

Can be months but more often weeks.

What did your prices start off at?

The first painting I sold was for $1,000 and it was 24” x 30” Now that size sells for $3,000

Does some of your current work reflect your earlier works?

Always. You can certainly tell that my work is an evolvement from past work.

How did you manage to survive financially at the beginning of your art career?

It is always difficult but somehow it works out. If you believe in yourself then others do too. So you bring about the reality that you want. And, I want my artwork to be successful and to sustain my life.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

Not a clue.

Do you have ideas turning over in your head all the time or…

Yes for new work and ways to express myself and new ventures to move ahead in life and dreams for things I want to do in my life.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Amy Guidry – Artist

Amy Guidry is from Lafayette, Louisiana and is represented by three galleries, Wally Workman Gallery in Austin, TX; The Oak Street Gallery in Hammond, LA; and R. Coury Fine Art in Savage, MD. Amy says she has been making art almost all of her life, her works are mainly Acrylics on Canvas. Her web site is at www.AmyGuidry.com and her blog is www.ArtistCommentary.com

So Amy, How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other? Hmm, if I had to simplify, I’d say surreal.

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One word or statement to describe your current works?
One word – detailed.

Can you give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
My new work is more surreal than it was and I’m going back to an approach more in line with the original Surrealist movement- taking images from dreams, not altering them.

Why are you an artist?
I’m doing what I love to do.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
I’ve always been an artist, except I went from being a jewelry designer to being a painter.

What is your earliest memory of art?
This isn’t my earliest memory, but it’s my most significant one. My mother let me use a set of oil pastels and I was amazed with the colors and texture. It was much better than my crayons.

What or who inspires your art?
People, really. How we live and function, independently and with others, as well as with the rest of the natural world.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)
Not really. I remember being interested in Surrealists such as Dali and Magritte at a young age. Now I’ve just expanded the list to include younger, living artists.

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You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
Artists you admire enjoy your work.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
I keep lots of sketchbooks and refer back to them all the time. Some ideas fit a series I’m working on, while others may be used later. I’ve always worked this way except that over time, I’ve learned not to be as self-conscious about my ideas since I’m the only one who sees them.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
It’s important once I’m taking something to canvas, but not so important when I’m working in my sketchbook. I have an “anything goes” policy there.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Extremely important. Everyone has ideas, but artists are the ones that execute those ideas with skill.

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Do you have much contact with other artists?
Yes! I know a lot of artists locally and nationally, especially thanks to the internet.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
No, because I make it a habit to stay on top of things and be organized.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
That’s news to me. I think artists today are very business-savvy and working hard to dispel the “starving artist” myth.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Anything by Hieronymus Bosch or James Ensor.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
As mentioned, Bosch and Ensor, and I’d add Odd Nerdrum. All three have a surreal, dark feel to their work. Bosch and Ensor were doing this even before the Surrealist movement began.

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Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Yes, the sketchbooks I never throw away.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
There’s no such thing to me. All my sketches are saved even if I use them years after their creation. Anything else I’ve taken to canvas has been well-planned before execution

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
I don’t consciously think of any “rules.” If anything, some principles may have become ingrained in my process, but that’s the extent of it.

Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?
My taste runs the gamut, but I tend to listen to a lot of Imogen Heap, Blonde Redhead, Basia Bulat, Jeff Buckley, and Sia.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
I may as well be dead.

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What discourages you from doing art?
Nothing discourages me so much as distracts me – emails and phone calls have to be limited.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
Nothing special except maybe my magic paintbrush… Just kidding.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
Anyone can learn about business. There are lots of resources out there, you just have to put the effort into it. Otherwise you’ve got a roomful of paintings and nowhere to show them.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
My work is for MY sake… not for a gallery, not for a critic, and not for what I think is “popular” or “sellable.” I paint what has personal meaning to me and what I can be enthusiastic about. Nobody wants to buy art from someone that can’t even be enthused about their own work.

How do you feel about earlier works in people’s collections / ownership?
I always feel the need to improve and surpass what I’ve done before, but I still recognize the value in past works. As long as it’s a “good” piece overall, that’s what is important.

Is your work process fast or slow? SLOOWWWWW.

What would you say are the top three things, which make you successful as an artist?
Talent, ambition, intelligence.

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’ve never intentionally approached my work that way, but I’ve been told by others that they feel the need to get a closer look and that they tend to take more time looking. That’s always nice to hear.

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 work on my own in my studio. I love to get feedback, but that’s after hours. Otherwise I wouldn’t get as much done.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?
It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Have you won any awards?
Yes, I guess the most memorable being my 1st place win in American Artist Magazine for their 70th Anniversary Competition.

What is your working routine? Do you listen to music while you work, or stay up late for instance?
Let’s see…I listen to music, I paint all day but sometimes I do overtime if I’m about to finish a piece anyway, and I have, on average, 4 cats sitting around my easel at any given time.

How often do you work in the studio?
Everyday.

How did your first solo show go?
Great! The place was literally packed with people. I had complete strangers coming up to me, telling me they liked my work, giving me the thumbs-up. I couldn’t have asked for a better show.

Do you have difficulties getting into galleries?
I don’t know if difficult is the right word. Applying to a gallery is equivalent to applying for a job. It’s all about presentation and professionalism, which requires hard work, but I wouldn’t consider it difficult per se.

Did you have an inspirational teacher, and how did they affect you?
My art teacher throughout junior high, Mrs. Harris. She encouraged me to try out for the Talented Art program, which I got in, and was always very supportive of my work.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Sue Beyer

Sue Beyer is an emerging artist based in Brisbane, Australia. In 2006 after a 10-year career as a graphic designer, Sue enrolled at the Queensland College of Art (QCA) to pursue fine art professionally. Sue is currently completing third year and is already an active exhibitor. In the past year Sue has been included a number of art prizes and exhibitions including the LAUNCH Clayton Utz Travelling Scholarship, The Churchie Emerging Art Prize, Artworkers Award and the Prometheus Art Prize. Sue has also has been included in exhibitions in the new Gold Coast art space 19Karen.

Sue’s work can be seen online at www.suebeyer.com.au and on her regularly updated blog http://suebeyer.blogspot.com/

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They drew a veil of darkness across the proceedings – 2009
Acrylic, posca pen and ink on canvas - 120cm x 120cm

Let’s start with your Artist’s statement…
“Through the genre of landscape painting, I explore how people use space in a modern urban context and the assumption of the permanence of our way of life and our cities.

In particular I look at patterns of urban design and outer suburban sprawl, which is the product of individual choices concerning the ownership of space, and forms the setting for displaying the trophies of conspicuous consumption.

By doing this I am conducting a social critique on our modern patterns of living expressed through the social consequences of urban design.”

What personally motivated you to begin a career as an Artist?
I have always been a creative person. Art is very important for me. If I’m not creating the stuff in my head, I am not very nice to be around.

After working as a graphic designer for 10 years and being really unhappy I decided that I had to take a chance and be an artist full time. Leaving behind my financial independence and somewhat successful career was extremely difficult for me. But I am the happiest I have ever been.

What I find compelling about Visual Art is that I can get my ideas across to almost anyone and I hope that viewers may question their preconceived ideas about things

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It is important to ensure that all connections between the wires are properly made - 2009
Acrylic, posca pen and ink on canvas - 120cm x 120cm

The overlaid maps and architectural elements in your paintings have quite a graphic quality to them; do you think your experience as a graphic designer has influenced your pictorial decision making?
My design background has definitely influenced my decision making, especially in terms of composition and colour.

I really like the line and form that can be found in mapping. I also like maps because they show how we try to make order out of an essentially chaotic landscape.

What are the main medium/s you work in?
Painting in acrylic and oil, and currently installation as well.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
At the moment I am using acrylic because I can get really unnatural colours. It also dries quite fast and I can do more work, more quickly.

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Police were called in to quell the chaos – 2009
Oil on canvas - 120cm x 210cm

Would you describe your work process as fast or slow?
I am a really fast producer. I work obsessively until it is finished and then I make more. I think I am a workaholic.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
I always use the golden section in my work. I find that proportion of space it creates very pleasing to the eye. It’s like a failsafe. It always works.

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Pandemonium broke out - 2009

Oil on canvas - 120cm x 210cm

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
I keep journals all the time. I buy the A4 size with blank pages and stick in things that I am interested in, information on other artists I like and ideas for work. I can look back at them anytime and find out why I did things. It’s interesting to look at old journals. Sometimes I get new ideas from the old ones.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
I usually take off the canvas and re-stretch the strainers. I hate wasting materials.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
I usually do most of my work from 9am – 5pm, 6 days per week. But I will work whenever the mood takes me. If I am really busy I will work more, but I try to have one day a week for fun.

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At first I tried to keep it a secret from my neighbours (night terrors) – 2009
Acrylic on canvas – 3mts long approx

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

I work on 2-3 pieces at the same time and I usually work on ideas in my head at the same time.

How would you describe your art education?
I am still at uni at the moment. I am in 3rd year at QCA in Brisbane and next year I plan on doing honours. I’d say my art education is helpful to a point. I try to get what I need out of it and ignore the rest.

One word or statement to describe your current works?
Night-vision

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

My newest paintings reflect the unseen issues of suburban society.

A suburban residence viewed as through night-vision goggles. A furtive recording, as if from a reconnaissance mission, where the salient details are captured succinctly for later consideration.

The scene is still, with the anticipation of events about to unfold.

A familiar scene on the verge of transition to the strange, representing the dreams and aspirations of a society heading into uncertain times. The fundamental assumptions that make the suburban form possible may no longer hold valid, causing anxiety beneath the calmness of the surface, even as it reaches its fullest expression. The advent of peak oil, climate uncertainty, demographic change, shifting geopolitical realities all impact the stability of a financial system based on risk and the concept of limitless growth.

How will they change the way we view our lifestyle in the coming century?
Will the now commonplace seem strange – how transient are our seemingly permanent marks on the surface of the world?

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They began to make camp before darkness fell - 2009
Acrylic, posca pen, gouache and ink on canvas - 120cm x 120cm

Has your work changed much since your earliest efforts?
When I first started painting I had no direction. Since 2006 I have been painting about what I am doing now. My technique and concepts are much better than it was a few years ago.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
I identify strongly with the conceptual artists. Concept is everything for me. If I didn’t have a concept I would just be making pretty pictures and that’s not acceptable for me personally.

What fascinates you or inspires your ideas?
I am driven and obsessed about consumerism, town planning/urban design, architecture, space and the home. Sociology, semiotics and psychogeography also fascinate me.

What are you currently working on?
I have recently completed a public art commission for the Queensland State Government and now I will be working on a series of paintings and then an installation in late November

Though still at university you have already been included in some well known art prizes; how do you think selection into such prizes aids your art practice?
I really think it does help to get into these shows when you’re starting out and trying to be noticed. Lots of different people go to those shows and you never know who might be seeing your work and hopefully taking a bit of notice. I never expect to win anything.

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

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
I use semiotics in my work. I like to reference ‘lifestyle’ magazines. In particular modern architecture and the utopian ideals associated with modernism.

You mentioned semiotics a couple of times now; for the benefit of those who haven’t yet studied semiotics could you give a brief explanation or definition of the term?

Semiotics is something that I used a lot in my graphic design practice. Just briefly, semiotics is the study of a system of signs.

For example the colour red can signify things like danger, love, speed or blood. So if I wanted to make a road sign that drivers need to take notice of, I might use the colour red as it draws attention to a potentially dangerous situation that needs to be avoided. Thus, stop signs are red.

Another example of a semeotic sign is that people who identify with the emo subculture generally wear skinny jeans and like the band ‘my chemical romance’. If you heard that someone liked ‘my chemical romance’ you might assume without even seeing them that this person is an emo and wears skinny jeans.

A great website to learn about semiotics is:

http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/semiotic.html

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
I won first prize in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital art award in 2008.

How did your first solo show go?
I did my first solo exhibition last year. It was supposed to be a joint exhibition with another artist but they pulled out. I had lots of work that all related, so I decided to go ahead with it anyway. It was a party! I sold three big paintings, which more than covered my costs, and I had a great time.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
I am constantly criticising my work and ideas. I get sick of looking at my work sometimes and question what I am doing. This lasts one or two days at the most and then I am off and running again. I suspect that a lot of artists go through this though.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
It is important to me that viewers take something away from my work. I don’t want to be overly didactic with my work but I do have a message to get across. I would like the viewer to decide what the work is about. The work guides them to point and then they need to do a bit of work for themselves. It’s a two way thing. Having said that, if a developer or town planner saw my work they would get it straight away because I use their language a lot in my paintings.

What about the role of titles with your work?
I love coming up with titles for my work. I have a process that I use and it is working well so far. The titles are important, as they help to reveal the meaning of the work. Sometimes they might be a puzzle for the viewer.

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

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
If I feel like I’m in a slump it usually means that I need a holiday. When it happens I read, watch dvds, go roller skating a lot, anything except making art. The need comes back soon enough.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?
It’s a shame that money has so much control over how a person lives their life. It seems that we don’t have much of a choice in our consumer driven societies, unless you are wealthy, you need to earn money to survive.

How do you establish your art work prices?
I work out my prices by size. When I graduate at the end of this year my prices will go up a few hundred dollars.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
Work hard and then work a bit harder. And don’t get too confident, there’s always someone out there that’s better than you.

Eccentricity is seen as a common trait of artists of many disciplines, how about you?
People have said this about me. I don’t mind, actually I quite like it. It’s better than being boring.

And lastly, interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
Roller Derby!

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Compiled and edited by Amanda van Gils © 2009+

Deb Mostert

Deb Mostert is a Queensland artist whose home and studio is on 3/4 of an acre of bush in Bellbird Park, Ipswich.

An oil painter, Deb uses commonplace objects such as toys and ornaments to set up scenes for her still life paintings. Deb is currently preparing for two solo exhibitions – ‘Bugs on Toy Cars’ at Iain Dawson Gallery from 1st to 12th December and ‘Untold Stories’ in February with her Queensland dealer, Lorraine Pilgrim. (Deb is also represented by Peter Walker Fine Art in Adelaide).

Deb chats with Amanda van Gils about her upcoming exhibitions and about some of her experiences as an artist.

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Bug on Toy Car 9, oil on canvas 42×72 cm

Your work is currently still life; is there any particular reason you are working in this genre? What is the importance of the objects that you are using - toy cars, insects, dolls, cups and so on – or are the objects themselves quite arbitrary?

I am intrigued by something I once read that the genre of still life was considered by the 15-17th century art establishment as the lowest form of painting. Biblical and history paintings, portraits and landscapes all rated higher than the everyday objects.

I was drawn to the humility of the genre and concepts of the sacred and banal. I am becoming increasingly aware that there is no division in my life between some things being ‘sacred’ and others ‘ordinary’. So even vintage toys and household objects can be metaphors for my spiritual journey.

I love the retro stuff purely because it reminds me of my youth. I search for genuine 50-80’s objects to use because I think they are sufficiently removed from our modern objects to startle us with recognition. I am also very interested in paradox.

The objects I choose to work with are strangely worthless and priceless at the same time. They are often keenly sought after by collectors and this drives the prices beyond my feeble budget. I scrounge second hand stores and buy on e-bay if they are cheap enough but otherwise I borrow from collectors and friends.

Earlier this year I spent a couple of days deep in the bowels of the Sydney Powerhouse Museum Collection Store with beautiful and valuable vintage and antique tin toys that will never get out on display. I was struck by the latent potential these toys had for narrative and so I am making a series of works based on these objects for my next solo show in Feb 2010 which will be entitled ‘Untold Stories’.

Having access to the collection must have been a terrific opportunity for your research.

It was rather wonderful to have a glimpse into the wealth of objects that are kept on the nation’s behalf. I was not allowed to touch anything, and I could only direct the white-gloved curator to move the toys this way and that, so it was quite different to the way I would normally work.

And what can you tell us about the work in the exhibition about to open in Sydney.

The ‘Bugs on Toy Cars’ show is on at Iain Dawson Gallery from the 1st-12th December, it’s my first solo exhibition in Sydney. The work for this show is a light-hearted nod to the Dutch Still Life painters who painted bugs into the grand vanitas of wealth, power and prestige. A memento mori, reminder of mortality.

These works are painted using real bug specimens I purchased from a collector perched on top of vintage and modern matchbox cars. The works are painted in scale.  The scale of the objects is designed to confuse and delight, and often incompatible pieces sit in comfortable tension.

The works can be read in many ways, as the objects become reflectors of the experience of the viewer. My work aims to reveal the narratives that lurk beneath the humble surfaces of plastic, tin and bugs”

You were a practising artist for many years prior to going to art school; what prompted you to undertake formal study? And what difference, if any, has the art school experience made to your career and/or sense of self as an artist?

I had been an artist for over 20 years but when my marriage of 16 years ended and as part of the healing process I had to discover who I was and this led me to take up study again. To be single (and a single mum), to grow and learn in an environment of such creative support was part of what I needed to realise who I really was. I enjoyed every second of it (well, maybe not all the art theory lectures…but most of them).

Allowing myself the room to experiment, learn and mix with a wide variety of other creative’s, was hugely transforming to my art practise. I moved from being an artist who just made pictures, to being an artist who makes pictures with purpose. I think, read and research a lot more, I am more aware of my responsibilities as artist, and my practise is more focused and centred. Uni didn’t give me answers but it made me aware of all the questions!

I also had the opportunity to exhibit in the grad show and the Thiess Awards and it was here that my work was spotted by Lorraine Pilgrim. I have been represented by her ever since.

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Aluminium Cups and Robot, oil on canvas, 100x120cm

Congratulations on recently being awarded the Sponsor Prize at the Eutick Memorial Still Life Awards at Coffs Harbour. You have been a finalist in quite a few prizes during the past few years – what benefits do you see in participating in art prizes?

Thanks!

It has been a very encouraging journey over the last few years. I started entering art prizes on the advice of my agent (Lorraine) and although it can be very demanding to be continually feeding this hungry machine, I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to hang in some exciting shows with artists whose work I really admire.

I also have my fair share of ‘dear john’ letters! It is a strange concept, the art prize thing. Why make a competition out of such an unquantifiable thing as art?

Like every artist, I wonder why I keep entering but I guess deep down it satisfies a need to be seen, to hopefully be ‘selected’ and to have some feedback in what can be a fairly solitary work environment!

I also realise that my worth and indeed the worth of any artist can not and should not be measured by success in art competitions.

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

I guess my work must have a personal message as my work/life/faith is interwoven. I can’t separate one from the other so what’s happening in one area will be reflected across the others. I have become increasingly aware of the love of God for me and it has allowed me so much freedom to be who I am. So I feel the work I am making in these last few years is about that personal journey.

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Tin Bird and Lead Manoil on plywood, 23 x 47 cm

What or who inspires your art?

The heroes of art I’ve always admired have been Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velázquez to name a few. The painters of the Heidelberg School, and more recently I’ve discovered Andrew Wyeth again. I’m also influenced by Michael Luenig and Charles Shultz for their perceptive look at the human condition. And I’m sure there are many others but these come to mind immediately. But mostly I am in awe of a Creator God, for with out Him none of this wealth of creative energy would be possible.

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?

Going to Holland was like an artistic pilgrimage although I would need to go back again and again to even begin to see and understand all the art I want to see!! I even found a Jan Mosteart (not sure if he’s a distant relation) in the Rijksmuseum. It was quite wonderful to stand in front of paintings and sculptures I’d only ever seen in publication and revel in the previously unrealised scale and technique.

It made me proud and humbled to be an artist; what a fantastic gift we’ve been given….what a privilege!


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Bug on Toy Car 6, oil on canvas, 42 x 72 cm

Can you share with us some significant moments in your life – events or people who impacted your Art?

I was mentored as a youngster by my aunt Mieke den Otter, who is a fantastic visual artist. (painter, printmaker, textile artist also in Queensland) She encouraged me, gave me art materials, took me to shows, lent me books, took me out drawing and generally invested into me for many years. We have had several exhibitions together and I would say she has been a driving force certainly in the early years of my art practice.

Going to uni, as mentioned earlier was a watershed. Travelling to Holland, Belgium and France during my uni years also helped to consolidate my roots. Both my parents were born in Holland so to go back and see not only my family heritage but also my spiritual and artistic heritage was very important. During my time there, visiting museums and art galleries also reawakened my interest in the still life genre, which is what I’ve been working in for the last few years.

It’s interesting that you mention your Dutch background and the historical import of still life as a genre. When I think of Dutch still life paintings they are quite opulent, loaded with an abundance of objects and symbolism. Yet your works are sparse with the meaning being derived partly from memory and nostalgia, but in the main, from the interaction between the objects that often appear as if they are deep in conversation with each other.

The interaction almost always seems to hijack the work! It’s been fascinating to watch the narratives emerge from conversations between objects. In fact I spend a lot of time ‘playing’ with objects to find the scenarios that allow for more quirky conversation. I enjoy the quiet humour that overrides a lot of the work.  I am fond of the idea that less is more so I tend towards more sparse arrangements and having experimented with more objects together, I’ve come to the conclusion that I just like the look of fewer objects….a purely aesthetic choice. I have also become more aware of the ability of objects to reflect the experiences of the viewer, often people read the same work very differently based on their own paradigms.

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Bugs on Aluminium Teapot 80×80 cm oil on canvas

Winner of this year’s Sponsor Prize at the Eutick Memorial Still Life Awards

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
I have always struggled with some of the goofy painting titles I’ve come up with in the past, so I figure I will just stick to the blatantly obvious and call them exactly what they are. Which in strange way, also alludes to everything else they could be…for me and for the viewer.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

I always carry a visual diary, which serves many purposes. It is a place to dream, design, think visually, experiment, note ideas, write quotes, doodle and generally relax. It enables me to think more easily and take in more of what’s around me. I would really miss it if I didn’t have my visual diary. It’s my spare brain.

As well as an exhibiting artist you have done commissions, residencies in schools and you also teach in your studio. How do you balance the competing demands?

I’m a reasonably organised person; don’t really fit the stereotypical, temperamental, distracted artist type. I see my art as my job as well as my calling so I tackle it in a fairly methodical way. I trained as a commercial artist many moons ago, and I often think that it has left me with some handy practical ways of working. To a deadline, to a budget, within a time line…etc I am also mum to three teenagers so that requires organisational skills purely as a matter of self-defence! My desk diary keeps me sane; things never look so daunting when you write them down. And I have borrowed other people’s aids to organisation too.

How do you continue to grow, or is this not important?

Growth is important; if we aren’t growing we are stagnating. I’d hope to always be learning and moving. One thing I’ve learnt is the older I get, the less I seem to know! So I look forward to exploring, praying, reading, looking and experiencing as much as I can. There is so much out there!

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out?

I would say ‘to thine own self be true’, that is, find what it is you are meant to create and work hard to realise it.

Accept that ‘overnight success’ can take up to 20 years and that your art practice is a long-term journey.

Be prepared to learn, hone your skills, try new things and accept graciously the criticism of others.

Also brace yourself for being holed up by an enthusiastic non art-making member of society who – upon discovering you are an artist – will inform you that their cousin is an artist, and proceed to describe their paintings to you while being astonished that you don’t know them personally. Sigh.

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Delft Blue Dog in Dish 2007 oil on canvas 80×80 cm

Deb Mostert’s Sydney exhibition opens 6-8 pm Wednesday 2nd Dec 2009 at Iain Dawson Gallery 72a Windsor Street Paddington NSW.

Her work can be seen online at any of her galleries websites and also on her website www.debmostertartist.com.au

Lorraine Pilgrim http://www.lorrainepilgrim.com/

Iain Dawson Gallery http://www.iaindawson.com/pages/exhibitions.php

Peter Walker Fine Art http://www.peterwalker.com.au/

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Compiled and edited by Amanda van Gils © 2009+

Sharon Stelluto

Sharon Stelluto, I’m a contemporary artist from Philadelphia, PA. Primarily an oil painter but she also does mixed media illustration pieces consisting of watercolor, pastels, and ink with side projects in collage. You can find her on the web at… www.sharonstelluto.com

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What are you currently working on?
I am working on a new piece that embodies botanical forms fused with industrial mechanical forms. The figurative nature of the work allows the natural world to blend with machinery and metals. Two distinct shapes of opposites dance across the canvas only to combine and blend into one plantlike form made of mechanical parts. My intent is to illustrate the ceremony of opposites, fusing the feminine energy of the natural world along with the masculine energy of industrial forms. A significant theme in my work is the concept of duality. I formulate a space where the dualities can intermingle and create a sense of oneness.

Why are you an artist?
My life has consisted of a distinct inspiring life force that compels me to create. I believe being an artist is no longer about a passion, but more of a necessity and a compulsion.

We are creative beings; it is our very nature and our core to express ourselves. It feels unnatural to me to not let that unravel from my being on a daily basis. It is a way of life to me, not a choice.

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How did you get into art?
I came out of the womb with a paintbrush in my hand. I remember responding to life at an early age by art making.

My parent’s would take us to church every Sunday and I would always bring my bag of crayons and paper. Although I may not have understood the setting, I found comfort in my random doodles among the church pews. I may have even absorbed the Spirituality through osmosis.

Later on in life, my work began to reflect the spiritual path that I soon found myself upon. No longer a believer in organized religion, I found a unique spiritual journey of my own as the truths and divinity of life blossomed for me in its own beautiful pattern.

This soon started to shape and support the depth of my work as an artist.

I saw that the dance with life and the sheer amazement of experiencing this world is a spiritual practice in itself.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts, etc?
As a young child I had a wild imagination. I would thrive on taking nature walks and collecting any shape, plant, rock, or particle that I found interest in.

I loved getting my hands into the dirt, creating dreams and worlds with the earth.

My backyard was a mystical land of opportunity. I would like to think that this passion for the natural world has extended into my work today.

I continue to collect shapes, and references from nature to this day.

My favorite past time is walking in gardens or nurseries full of flowers and lush greenery. I notice shapes and colors but also witness the way plants choose to unfold.

I draw a lot of my inspiration from color and feel that the vibrancy of color contains so much joy and life within it. Nature grounds me and helps me remember what is truly important in my life.

Having studied and practiced yoga for many years as well as being a certified Reiki practitioner, I believe I embrace a more holistic viewpoint of life.

This ultimately creates the structure for my work. Living a life with constant awareness that everything within life is energy, including us, I approach my work with this underlying concept.

My intention is to formulate a visual language for this invisible force that permeates all of life.

I often reference ancient mark making from the Mayan civilizations. Their knowledge and awareness of shape within their art was extremely advanced. I am drawn to the Mayan Art forms because they do resemble cellular structures. I feel the imagery of the living cell exemplifies energy in its purest form.

I am also drawn to the concept of duality and opposing forces. I am mostly inspired by feminine energy vs. masculine energy in its myriad of forms. To create this contrast, I incorporate natural, botanical imagery with the balance of industrial, mechanical shapes.

In blending these opposing forces, oneness is created and a subtle reminder that it all originates from the same source.

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Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Yes and No. Yes, because my life is full of so much inspiration and imagination as I live and breathe creativity in all I do. But to blend this inner determination with the outside world and life’s daily demands can be tricky at times. Within my career as an artist, I have found that time maintenance has been a key factor. There also may be moments when you have the time but lack the driving force to create. Creativity, I believe, is not something that should be forced. But sometimes when you reach a block, you have to break through those walls in order to maintain your drive and direction.

On my path as an artist I have encountered moments of creative block and it seems to come in phases with the undulations of life. I maintain hope in those phases, knowing it will return to fruition once again. But I’ve found that one’s inspiration is a well and when not nurtured properly has a tendency to dry up. Your inspiration needs to be fed in order for the creative process to continue to take place.

Do you get to other artists exhibitions, openings, etc?
Yes, I feel it is just as important to find inspiration by seeing other artwork, as it is to spend time creating. I make a habit of going to gallery openings, scrounging through books at the bookstore, or tapping into the wealth of resources on the Internet.

It is important to me to understand what is current. As much as we all have been shaped by our world and what has come before us in terms of art history, I feel it is most relevant for me to understand the present moment. To witness and take in the current trends, and underlying art movement taking place reflects the conscious collective of humanity in the now moment. Society changes over time and although the great masters hold brilliancy and weight for inspiration, I find that the innovation of current work reflects our present world state. To be a part of something that is actively taking place has a greater subtlety and grace to it.

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Can you name a favorite artist or three…and why?
I am very inspired by artists with sharp, bold, linear shapes such as Keith Haring and Jean Dubuffet. I am in love with Jean Dubuffet’s sculpture work where he blends painting and sculpture together, creating living landscapes of art form. His simple use of line and form creates such a beautiful dynamic of shape. Drawing a lot of inspiration from graffiti and the street art scene, I feel that line work and the flow of form is important in conveying emotion.

More current contemporary artists who inspire me are Oliver Vernon and Damon Soule. The work of these artists has distinct connections with the earth as well as spiritual undertones. They convey this by using soft, subtle methods combined with sharper shapes and an urban flare. I feel that these artists are masters of form and color.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
I am intrigued by the current state of the world and how it is shaping us all. These times are crying out for balance and healing. I believe this healing should begin within us as individuals.

We are so caught up in global change that we tend to forget that changes have to start within us first. I feel that one of the only things in this world that has guaranteed a place of joy, upliftment, pleasure and healing for humanity is that of the arts.

Within my work, my focal point has been on the issue of blending the harsher masculine quality of our industrialized society with the healing of the land through a natural urbanized art style.

My approach in my work is to facilitate an opening of the heart through color and healing forms, reminding us of where the healing really needs to take place.

If you stopped doing art right now, would you miss it?
Yes, extremely. Sometimes I think of the lives of people who do not practice an art form.

I think of all the free time they must have! But I’m sure on many levels, they fill their lives up with other joys. It is just hard for me to fathom not spending a majority of my life in union with my own creative self. I see it as a form of spiritual practice that allows me to commune with the divine and welcome the imagery that would like to come through.

Artists seem to have permission to meditate with themselves much easier than one who does not pursue this mode of expression. It’s like a free pass to your true self and innermost passions!


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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Ami Muranetz – Artist

Ami Muranetz is from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. www.muranetz.com

Are you currently represented by a gallery?
I have a group show opening on October 2nd until the 23rd within Agora Gallery, which is located in Chelsea, New York. After the show I will be personally representing myself, and exhibiting more frequently within Canada.

Interests you have other than art?
Along with my obsession in creating sculptures, paintings, and mixed media artworks, I devote a fair amount of time to environmental and humanitarian issues. I contribute monthly to organizations like the World Wildlife Federation, write letters to politicians and am active in local demonstrations.

Our provincial government recently announced a new budget cut that during the course of 2009-2010 will reduce arts funding by 92%. The local arts community has been outraged, and Victorians, regardless if they are visual artists or not, will eventually be affected by this decision. As a result, I‘ve been inspired to use this issue as the focal point of a new street based art series that is in the works.

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What are you currently working on?
I have recently been sorting through ideas on global change, and ruminating over the direction this might take. One idea that has evolved is a mixed media installation that juxtaposes satellite photographs of urban centers with medical images of human and other animal bodies. The installation will open up a dialogue around our connection to and reliance upon the natural world. Our exploration of technology is not a diversion from the environment we live in, but a potent aspect of it.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
Children United in Education is one unrelated project I’ve been collaborating on with two colleagues through Camosun College. Comprised of fundraising and giving presentations to local elementary and high school students, the project is designed to raise funds to send children to the Human Factor Leadership Academy located in Akatsi, Ghana. The school will aid in the rebuilding of Africa’s future by training youth and young adults to become capable and compassionate leaders within their communities.

As well as educating Canadian youth about the challenges Africa’s children are facing through writing and art activities, we intend to establish a dialogue between the two nation’s children that will hopefully stimulate new ideas for meaningful change. To look up more information and details of this incredible project, their website is: http://humanfactorla.com/

Can you name a favorite artist or three… and why?
Kiki Smith has been a strong female presence in the art world that has continued to inspire me. She has remained true to her methods and metaphors despite being on the fringe of the art world for many years, which is reflected in the painful honesty of her work. Kate Raudenbush is another New York artist who has been a powerful influence on my creative capacity. The three dimensional sculptures she has built for Burning Man in Nevada are created specifically for the purpose of viewer interaction, which in turn fosters an intimate engagement for each person. The street artist SWOON has blown my mind in terms of scale and level of accessibility she creates for her audience.

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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…?
The universe is an extraordinary mystery. I feel humanity is just on the verge of beginning to become conscious of the depth of connection we all share. Meeting my husband was an event that truly altered the foundations of my belief systems.  The first time we traveled to Burning Man in 2008, it was like crossing a threshold into a parallel universe where I actually felt my values, creativity, and spirit were respected and celebrated. Black Rock City is a temporary and autonomous zone, where for one week art forms of every medium are encouraged, and economic exchanges are unnecessary. I see this experiment in temporary community to be the future of how our societies will form, and from this have become motivated to change my focus from artwork to architecture.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?
A guest speaker on the TED series made a poignant speech on how society undervalues the importance of art in our world. The entire system from education to economics is geared to praise left side, logical and pragmatic thinking. Our concept of valuable skills in society is linked to economic gain, and because artwork is not inspired by profit, it does not fit within the existing hierarchy.

Ancient civilizations such as the Romans and Egyptians valued the aesthetic beauty of temples, buildings, artwork, and music, and thus produced some of the most treasured artifacts and buildings in history. Our present culture values such as speed, fast money, and short term gain are at the expense of future generations. The term ‘starving artist’ in my opinion is one that has only recently been needed because our society doesn’t respect the value and validity of artists. Without them though, we would not have the Sphinx, The Mona Lisa, or any other great contribution of art to appreciate.

What are some of your future ambitions and goals?
I allow myself the opportunity to set grand visions and dream big. My current goal is to enter the Environmental Design program through the University of British Columbia next year, and later pursue a career in sustainable architecture. There exists an imperative need to design sustainable and energy efficient yet aesthetically pleasing communities and structures. The technology and materials to accomplish this are available, but the inertia to follow traditional building methods is still quite strong. As our planet changes more rapidly, we may see an increased desire to rethink our current approaches to building our societies.

A secret fantasy of mine is to one day become Prime Minister, with the intent of transforming the current education system and instilling accountability. The entire premise of how we ‘teach’ needs to be re-examined.

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Have you won any awards?
2009 has been a productive year, and I been honored to have been presented with five awards for my artwork.  One was awarded through the Community Arts Council in Victoria for work showing the most promise. Another was first place in the 14th Annual International Competition ‘Beyond Borders’ through the Viking Union Gallery in Washington.

I also recently won three awards through the Visual Arts Department in Camosun College for my portfolio, community work, and commendable achievement. I feel quite blessed to be recognized amongst my peers, and appreciate the faculty within the visual arts department for their commitment to student achievement.

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?
From what my friends have said of me recently (many things I won’t repeat in this interview), I live my life with no regrets and follow through with my fantastic or at times completely absurd ideas. My inspirations usually lead me to great places in my work or on international adventures, and feel I have accrued a lot of valuable life skills. Although there have been a few times when my mother has looked at me, and has shaken her head. We can laugh about these stories now, but at the time they were not as funny.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
Artists like Damien Hirst have had assistance from trans-national companies that marketed his artwork for him, hence his incredible recognition in the art world. My thoughts are to make a decision about how far you want to take your work, weigh the challenges and joys that may come, and to follow through with the decision.

Before I even contemplated becoming a serious artist, I studied art-marketing books, researched interviews with high profile artists, and read resources on crafting a portfolio. For anyone who is determined to become a celebrated visual artist, I highly recommend doing your research, reading art journals, and studying what innovative approaches recognized artists are utilizing to market themselves. If you do the work, but don’t exhibit, how will anyone know what you do?

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
My creative process usually begins with a dream or an issue that gestates for some time. These dreams then take form in sketches and drawings, and are birthed along with a coinciding conceptual theme. More often, the materials that are used illustrate the statement I’m seeking to communicate. It’s one primary lesson I’ve learnt from my sculpture professor Judith Price, who engrained in her pupils the importance of materials to communication.

What or who inspires your art?
I’m inspired to reach higher peaks in my self-expression by the artists and artwork I see at Burning Man. There are fantastic creations I have seen there, like a fire breathing, articulating dragon constructed from recycled materials that causes me to reconsider the materials I use. Conscious and creative communities also inspire how and why I create artwork, and positive leaders like the Dali Lama encourage me to consider the messages I send into the world through my work.

Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.
Within a collage class I will begin teaching in October at The Paint Box School of Art, the students will engage in creating mixed media portraits of the self or recognized person in the community. My own project will involve mixed media portraits of conservative government officials in various prostrated positions. These will take the form of life-size posters scattered throughout the city, proclaiming words of wisdom, absurdities, and provocative sound bites. www.thepaintbox-victoria.com

Artist’s statement…
I take pleasure in constructing tangible experiences for the viewer, in which messages are delivered through physical and visceral experiences.  Current metaphors I embed within my works suggest a curiosity about our social structure, and solicit feedback from viewers in order to distill a collective voice.

My work often addresses issues of social division, status, and sexual stereotypes through manipulations of culturally identifiable symbols. This exploration is carried out through a variety of materials such as plastics, plaster, wood, and glass.  Figurative forms are usually present; either disembodied or referenced metaphorically, and present commonalities that exist between people and their environments.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Cara Walz – Artist

Cara Walz lives and works in the Sonoran Desert in Southwestern USA and Mexico,  you can see her website at… www.carawalz.com and check out her blog at www.carawalz.wordpress.com . Cara has been making art for about 10 years.

Are you currently represented by a gallery?
No, because I have to mark up the cost of the work too much to cover the gallery percentage. The gallerists I’ve worked with don’t really have an active base of buyers anyway. I do like to participate in interesting group shows at either commercial or not-for-profit spaces.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…

drawing materials, collage, animation

Artist’s statement…

I work with a wide range of materials, but really, I’m always making some sort of drawing, even if its ?nal form is a video, installation or website. While I’m working I ?uctuate between a pull from my head and a pull from my heart. When my head’s in charge I tend to work on innovative structure and technical experimentation, like a scientist.

When my heart takes over I’m focused on meaning and expression, like a poet. I’m happiest when I find a balance between the two, probably because this is where our richest thoughts reside, but I cannot, or will not, control the outcome by purposefully favoring one over the other. The head and the heart both provide valuable insight and I never know which one might offer the best resolution of an idea.

How do you describe your work?

It ranges from pop/kitsch-influenced narrative to industrial/experimental weirdness.

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What are you currently working on?
A series of colored ink & acrylic drawings influenced by emergence theory and some figures influenced by George Romero’s zombie films.

What fascinates you?
I saw my first wild tarantula this morning. I thought they all lived in plastic boxes.

Why are you an artist?
I can do three things: dance, draw and write. I made a choice to devote my life to the most difficult of the three. I’m a glutton for punishment.

How did you get into art?
I didn’t. It got into me.

How important is art for you?
It’s a pain in the ass, like a wayward child. I love it.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
I don’t think art education creates artists, but I valued the history, culture and theory I learned. I also met a ton of interesting folks.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
I worked a long list of crappy jobs, toured a brief stint with a punk band, gave birth, stuff like that.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Sitting on a blanket in a ballet studio, watching legs and dirty ballet slippers fly by, feeling the wooden floor bounce beneath my butt in time with the music

Do you remember your first painting or artwork?
The first artwork I was proud of was an extreme doodle on the cover of a spiral notebook in junior high school.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
From my mother’s side of the family, yes; from my father’s side, I’d say they were neutral

What or who inspires your art?
Currently I’ve been obsessing on Twombly. Next month it will be someone (or something) else.

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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…”?
I get it, but I’m not yet convinced it’s all worthwhile.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
Ink is the first medium I worked with. As a child I constantly doodled with ballpoint pens, and I made linoleum block prints with my grandmother. Now I’m most fond of waterproof, fade-proof ink in bottles applied with a small round brush or a big flat streaky brush. Ink is the only medium that moves fast enough.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.) ?
As soon as I see a work by someone I either love it or hate it, and I have absolutely no preference for a certain style. I very rarely change my mind about a picture or object I love.

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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 really haven’t changed my process of making things over time at all. I always have more ideas than time to execute them, so during times of introspection I plan out a project, knowing full well I may or may not get to it. I have a running list, and I gravitate toward the project that seems most immediate or necessary. Some projects float around in my head or on paper half formed for months before they come together. Some projects pop into full fruition very easily. Some die on the vine. It’s always been this way.

I execute work based on the intent of a project, and so methods and mediums might change to suit this intent, but not a whole lot because no matter how experimental it appears to be I’m always making a drawing of some sort.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
Sometimes it’s extremely important, sometimes not; I liken this to symphonic music vs. experimental jazz: both approaches are useful, depending on the project and intent.

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Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
Cultural expression.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Craftsmanship can elevate some works and doom other works to mediocrity.

Does the sale of your work support you?
I’ve taught art and I’ve written about art and I’ve sold art to make money, but I wouldn’t recommend you do any of these things to live comfortably.

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Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
That’s simply due to the demands of living, paying the bills, especially if an artist decides to have children. If a person completely gives it up then they weren’t meant to make art, which is fine. One can live creatively without making art.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?

I’ve always been the weird one, the one that refuses to settle on a genre or style. When I make something people like, many expect me to make a bunch more of the same thing. Not likely to happen. I make as many pieces as are necessary to complete a project and then I move on.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
I would love to own anything by Bruce Nauman, maybe a neon piece or one of his ‘animal parts’ sculptures. I relate to him because to me, he is also always making a drawing.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?
I already named two, Cy Twombly and Bruce Nauman. Alberto Giacometti can be my third, I suppose. I admire their work because it’s usually very good.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
They get torn into pieces and oftentimes these pieces make their way into something else

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?

What are the rules of basic composition? Has anyone really ever been able to teach this? There is no such thing as ‘basic’ composition. It’s either ‘good’ composition or ‘bad’ composition, and it’s completely relevant to and dependent upon the context/format. The eye either gets sucked into or repelled from the works we create.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
I’ve always done the same type of research, mainly collecting but also reading and writing theory, but I seem to spend more time at it as I grow older.

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Musical influences?
I don’t always work to music, but when I do it might be Philip Glass, Outkast or Billie Holiday or They Might Be Giants, Madonna or the Beatles.

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 watched a 15 year old boy die a little over a year ago. He was dragged under the back wheel of a school bus. There was blood coming out of his nose and a huge bruise all along the side of his body. His name was Kevin.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
My favorite titles are made-up words, like ‘superfluxable’ or ‘microcosmigram’, and generally I’m a fan of titles as long as they’re short and sweet.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
You’re able to live on a Greek island with a herd of goats.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
It came about the same way all good things come about, through a friend of a friend.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
This is just about the only notion that has changed for me over time. When I was young I thought there was some holy ‘other’ somewhere who decided whether or not work was deserving of…something, I don’t know. Now I realize that the art market is very closed and settled and centered around certain institutions.

I have a ton of education but I’ve always been ‘outside’ this system, simply because I don’t know any rich, influential people. I decided quite awhile back to essentially ignore this system and make work I like and that people near and dear to me like.

In essence, there are two markets, one for the elite and one for the rest of us. This is true not just for art but for real estate, food, clothing, etc. This ‘regular person’ market is actually larger and more various if you’re willing to do some legwork, but it’s tough to stand out amidst a glut of landscape and flower paintings disguised as art.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
One person told me the word “spit” was “tips” spelled backwards. My response was “okay, and-your-point-is…?”

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?
Some buyers like to keep in touch, others like to covet the thing and be rid of you.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
The Ecstasy of Communication by Baudrillard. A Clockwork Orange by Burgess. Oryx and Crake by Atwood.

Tell us about your studio environment?
I have a dirty shop-like studio space in my back yard, which fills the bill unless I want to work on clean little drawings. For those, I work at a table in the house.

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…
At some level he’s probably right, but I don’t think the viewer has to be beaten over the head with this all the time. Delicacy has its place.

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?
This is definitely an intention, that the work seduce the viewer. Baudrillard argues that only the object has the power to seduce, and I agree.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
A pile of carefully considered debris.

What or how do you respond to the term “Starving Artist”?
I suppose it’s better than the notion that all artists wear berets.

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?
Very important.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?
I’ve never harbored any delusions about the making of art, except maybe the aforementioned delusion that the cream always rises to the top, when in fact geography, luck and social status can play a huge part in an artists’ level of success.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method? Most of my work is derived from bits and pieces of our constructed world, whether it be photographs, web content, commercially printed materials, television stills, etc. I also work from life on occasion, and I take photographs of subjects I can’t dig up by any other means.

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?
It’s important to me to make timely work, work that’s relevant in this time and place, but it’s up to the historians to figure out the rest, and I’m more than happy to let them to do that thankless job.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Bestow hugs and kisses upon anyone you meet who appreciates what you do.

How often do you work in the studio?
When enmeshed in a project, daily.

Do you ever question being an artist?
Sometimes I wish I was a fireman or a nurse or something.

How has your mind-set changed from struggling to find your own style to solidifying what you are doing today?
There have been moments when I’ve thought, “Wow, I’m making some strange stuff!” but those moments are fleeting.

How do you establish your art work prices?
I price things according to how long they take to complete, so something that only takes a day or two to finish is very affordable, but something that takes a month or more to resolve is more expensive.

Does the gallery make the artist famous or does the artist make the gallery famous?
In most cases the latter. Collectors make the artist famous.

What was life like for you as you were growing up?
My mother was a ballet dancer and my father was an alcoholic advertising executive. They divorced, of course, and when I was six I went to live with my father and stepmother, a schoolteacher. I spent a lot of time alone doodling and making things to escape what was a tumultuous, drama-filled household. It wasn’t long before I met friends who also created things for similar reasons, and then I spent more time with my friends than with my family. It’s still that way.

How did your first solo show go?
That would be “siren” at Joseph Nease two years out of grad school, and it went pretty well.

Do you have difficulties getting into galleries?
Most commercial galleries in the midwest and southwestern US sell genre paintings. I’ve never bothered to try to get into them because I don’t make genre paintings. My work shows well in contemporary art galleries, but the buying audience for contemporary work is so small they usually operate in the red, so, especially in the last few years I’ve found it easier to sell work directly.

How do you think people learn about you?
Through the internet mainly, but also through friends.

Eccentricity is seen as a common trait of artists of many disciplines, how about you?
I can’t remember most names or any series of random numbers. Is that eccentric?

Do you wake up with ideas at 2am etc… and have to jot them down?

No, but oftentimes I can’t get to sleep because of a new thought.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Richard Szymczuk – Artist

In our continuing series on Geelong Regional Contemporary Visual Artists I am pleased to present Richard Szymczuk a Contemporary Photographic Artist.

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Tell us about you and your art a little…
I am a Geelong based, urban landscape photographer.

I photograph abandoned petrol stations, milkbars, old advertising signs, post WW2 architecture, street art, etc. My influence has been cinematic. I developed a fascination to the fringe locations depicted in American road movies in the mid 1980s, while studying graphic design. That started the quest for me, getting on my crappy pushbike with my 35mm Cosina camera in hand, to find similar locations in Geelong.

The most notable films for me were: ‘Paris Texas’ ,‘Vanishing Point’, ‘The Misfits’, ‘Repo Man’ and David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’. I would get such a buzz, out of these movies. I was the age of approx 22 years, and my eyes opened wide, to the amazing landscapes and offbeat locations, depicted on the silver screen, combined with fantastic soundtracks, sound scapes, and intense/ quirky story lines.

I am a massive fan of David Lynch’s artistic vision and creating a sense of dread, within a location which

(Initially) looks ‘ideal and safe’. My photography has developed a more sinister feel over the past couple of years, shooting at night and under the full moon at creepy locations.

In terms of pets, I once owned a black Kelpie dog, by the name of Bronko.

How long have you been apart of the Visual Art scene here?
Since 1986, I have been documenting Geelong’s roadside vernacular. I have probably developed a little bit more of a profile over the past couple of years. I still feel to be on the fringes though. That’s OK, as I would like to have something ‘alternative’ to offer in a visual, artistic sense and perfecting the craft.

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What do you like about being part of this region?
Practicality. Geelong is a good town to live in, with a relaxed pace and northerly aspect. Also, being a very keen Cats supporter in the AFL, I need to get a good fix of my footy news everyday.

A bit about your art background?
I have a Diploma in Graphic Design and an Advanced Diploma in Multi Media. But the real schooling is through observation and inspiration. I have exhibited primarily in-group exhibitions, and also exhibited solo in cafes and swanky restaurants. (Artwork should be accessible to people), especially while they have a café latte. I have yet to have my first ‘official solo show’, though I have many thousands of images to draw from, to present something very solid.

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What do you do other than Art?
I work as a Gallery Technician. It’s good way of meeting visual artists and you certainly learn how to use power tools and work up a bit of a sweat at times, installing and packing up an exhibition.

I also freelance in stylized ‘character’ illustrations and architectural photography. One has to be versatile in an industrial city.

Do you catch up with other Artists in the region? If so how, what, where, when etc…
I feel that what I do in terms of photography, leaves me on the fringe somewhat, (much like the fringe locations) that I photograph, but I enjoy it that way. It’s fantastic to be photographing under a full moon at 3 am in summer. It almost seems like a privilege, to be under the stars at night while everybody is fast asleep, and witness/ record a dreamlike time and subject.

I have a few close friends who specialise in landscape painting, photography and web design. They offer good support and advice. They understand my vision.

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Any local art projects you have been part of?
At present I have artwork in the ‘Geelong Regional Artists Exhibition 09’. Be sure to visit the show and see some Geelong talent!

Being a touristy area, do you take advantage of that somehow?
Geelong is a regional city with a strong industrial backbone and that is well ingrained in its history and culture. The Pivot city … ‘The Bradford of the South’, it has been, but now with the opening of the Geelong Bypass, the city seems desperate to be connected to the Surf Coast. I personally prefer that ‘perceived distance’ of the past. If I do go to the Surf Coast or the Bellarine Peninsula, it’s rarely with my camera.

There are various photographers, recording the beauty of the tourist beaches and forests etc, of Geelong and region. That market is well covered for. I avoid this genre of photography. To me, a beach is a beach … it could be anywhere.

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Do you have a web presence?
Sure do. It is a Flash based website which I designed. One has to have a website, and also to consider networking through social websites i.e.: Face book, and interact with others with similar interests such as the websites: Flickr, Zenfolio,etc.

Richard Szymczuk’s website link:

http://roadszide-images.com/

The Documentary website link:

http://www.digitalzoo.com.au/lost/

Do you have a highlight in your art career you want to mention?
One highlight was having a video documentary produced, on my photography in 2003. It is a 27 minute, broadcast quality, documentary that ‘just missed’ being aired in ABC1.

The Documentary is titled: ‘Lost Highways: The roadside photography of Richard Szymczuk’.

Produced by ‘Digital Zoo Media’ in Melbourne. It’s a nifty documentary!! The story continues on today, with DSLR gear instead. If anything, that would make the documentary more relevant today, with so many more locations having been demolished, and me still documenting that process.

Also, having a photograph of mine, on the cover of Aussie pub rock legends: ‘Hunters and Collectors’ CD and vinyl single: (‘The Way You Live’).

The next highlight will be on a sunny blue sky day.

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Are you working on anything, which has a local flavour?
Nearly everything that I photograph is local. I live here, so I may as well be observant. There are so many visual delights in the urban landscape of Geelong. It is an under-appreciated city. It is not just about beaches, sunsets and forests. I search for the beauty in the ugly.

Do you have representation at Melbourne or local galleries, and is this important for you?
At present , I do not have any representation. I see it as a case, of continually working on the process of recording images. Is time a factor? Money is a factor. In this GFC, one has to invest wisely and get a good return on their efforts. As a starving artist, yes, I have to diversify in regards employment and perhaps representation could lead my photography to be discovered by a much wider audience.

Any takers out there? Ha Ha !

Somebody who inspires me is Australian artist, Rosalie Gascoigne. She had her first solo show at the age of 57. She spent years perfecting her craft, creating a unique vision, and then ‘suddenly’ became a sensation. What a great Aussie story. Scrounging up found objects near her home and transforming them into something totally brilliant! The wait was well worth it.

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Did you choose Art or did Art choose you?
It chose me! I loved to draw as a kid in primary school. It’s great fun, excercising the imagination with a fresh HB pencil! I still love to draw characters, especially in the concept and development stages. Drawing introduced me to colors, shapes and possibilities.

Any funny things happen while you exhibited or made art?
Yes. Don’t stand too far out on the road whilst taking a stunning photograph…. Cars can kill you!

Over the years I have become immune to the number of cars beeping at me and boofheads yelling out at me. But, it’s all good fun. That usually brings a wry smile to my face. At least somebody out there, is noticing my photography and passing comment. And at night. bring a torch with fully charged batteries.

Any advice for a young “Artist” contemplating dedicating their life to Art?

Avoid clichés. Stick to your artistic vision. As your vision develops, so too will your skills and concepts becoming fine tuned, or more ambitious/ dynamic, over the years.

Avoid ‘middle of the road opinions’ of your talents, from ‘mediocre people’ within the artistic realm.

If they don’t ‘get it’ …. remember what the VFL Footscray legend ‘Ted Whitten’ would say: ‘STICK IT RIGHT UP ‘EM !!’.

Any other pointers about making art locally you want to mention?
I wish Geelong had an Art Precinct, where there were studios and artist’s lofts in the city, supporting painters, sculptors, photographers, film makers etc. Geelong artists are spread all over the region. Where on earth is there a central point? Where is the artistic ‘cross pollination’ of concepts?

Also, I desire for an edgy, approachable art gallery/ space, to be established that does not take itself, too seriously, to cater for creative people and audience, open to: street wise, edgy, ironic, kooky, and fresh visions, much like various galleries in inner Melbourne.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Jeff Martin – Artist

Jeff Martin is a Melboune Artist represented by Gould Galleries in South Yarra and has a web presence at… www.jeffmartin.com.au Jeff has a show coming up soon at Gould Gallery, details at the galleries web site or Jeff’s.

Hi Jeff, do you have other than art you feel are important to mention?
I manage/own the Appleton Street Studios in Richmond Victoria.

www.appletonstreetstudios.com

What are the main medium/s you work in…
Mostly Oil on Linen and ink on paper, however I do enjoy playing with sculpture.

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What are you currently working on?
I am currently involved in a series titled ‘Back of House’ where I spend one evening in a commercial restaurant kitchen during service sketching the chef’s at work. I then take my impressions back to my studio and on a large-scale canvas I convey the working environment of that space.

The work is not about celebrity chefs or food (all the plates on my paintings are empty) it is about the working environment of the professional kitchen.

In February/March of 2008 I exhibited fifteen large paintings of Melbourne restaurants as part of the Melbourne International Food Festival at Gould Galleries Melbourne. In October 2009 I will be showing fifteen Sydney restaurants as part of the inaugural Sydney International Food Festival by Gould galleries at Shapiro Gallery.

What fascinates you?
People.

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

And a more descriptive outline on your current works…
This show is big, really big, my most ambitious yet. I don’t know how to give a descriptive out line that would convey the scale of this work, which represents 18 months of my life.

Why are you an artist?
I don’t know how not to be one.

How important is art for you?
It saved my life…. That’s important.

seans-panaroma

Your art education was…?
Is…. Art education never ends.

Sorry…. Being a smart ass.

All my important lessons have come from my interaction with working artists. People that lead by example and get the job done. Not all artists comprehend work ethic.

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?
Worked in restaurants.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far?
I did an Artist in Schools residency through Arts Victoria in 2008, which was a ‘Big Buzz’. I also work every year with grade 3 and 4 kids to make a totem pole for their school fair, which is always a highlight of my year.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Yes, I draw every day, everywhere. It can cause issues.

beauty-and-the-whisk

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…
Yes I find commissions exciting; it must be a collaboration of sorts for it to have any chance of success. I understand why many artists run a mile… it can be tough going if you don’t sort out the rules at the start. Having a good gallery assist you is imperative.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
Yes, daily at the studio.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
I will be exhibiting in Melbourne with Gould again in 2010 and have plans for 2011. It is really important to balance the project at hand with future planning and know that when it is done, you’re not.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
No, it’s all planning. However I did earlier describe my current exhibition as daunting but I think that’s just the idea of starting it all over again.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Bullshit how…. Lifespan? They need more education.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
I already have it. Well, I am getting it back from the framers today.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Yes, I have many sketchbooks. You can see some of them on www.jeffmartin.com.au under works on paper. I will post more before the October exhibition.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
It all works out, it just might not have been resolved yet.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?
I have a teacher say to me “Art is Not a Career” If you look over my visual diaries you will see this comes up time and time again. It can be taken a number of ways and I like to watch people’s reaction when they first read it. (btw the teacher was being negative)

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
Work hard.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Chelsea Gustafsson – Regional Contemporary Artist

Welcome to a fresh new series of interviews on Regional Contemporary Visual Artists, these are Artists who live outside major cities and often face differing challenges to Artists “In the thick” of a busy contemporary art scene, which can often be found in big cities…

My aim is to showcase these Artists from time to time and give them a few extra moments of “fame”. To start out I want to introduce you to some Geelong regional Artists, for the overseas readers check out Geelong and the “Great Ocean Road” online to see what you are missing.

If you are a Geelong artist or indeed any regional artist outside a big city… consider dropping me a line to be interviewed. Remember though the focus is on contemporary works.

Chelsea Gustafsson, is first off the rank….

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Tell us about you and your art ?
I live in sunny Barwon Heads with my husband, dog and chooks. I’m currently studying graphic arts and about to complete the course and be thrown back into the real world. Studying full time for a couple of years has been very indulgent and a load of fun, but I’m looking forward to having some paid work again and my weekends free to paint, surf, hang out, whatever. This year in particular I haven’t been able to paint as much as I would like to, but I’d probably complain of that regardless of the amount of time spare anyway.

How long have you been apart of the Visual Art scene here??
I moved to Barwon Heads from Melbourne in 2004 and just kept plodding along painting and doing what I do. I’ve participated in a couple of local exhibitions here, in Barwon Heads. In 2006 I successfully entered the Geelong Regional Artists Exhibition and then this year I was fortunate to be invited back to exhibit in their 7 year Retrospective Exhibition. I’ve had some paintings up in Torquay, but other than that Melbourne’s nice and close and there’s loads going on there with annual exhibitions and art prizes to enter.

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What do you like about being part of this region?
The environment. I grew up in a small community in East Gippsland and it just seemed right to settle in a similar kind of environment after running amok in Melbourne and overseas. My husband and I both enjoy surfing, so somewhere by the coast was a no-brainer for us.

Tell us about your working arrangements?
I’ve just packed up my studio space actually. I had a room at the front of the house set up with an old drafting table as an easel and all of my materials and bits of inspiration scattered throughout. But I tend to use the kitchen table most of the time, so I had a ruthless spring clean and squished everything into a cupboard. I generally work quite small so it’s not too hard to pack things away again. I think I need it for my head-space too. If I’m returning to work on a painting and there’s too much “stuff” existing around it I find it quite hard to get back into the groove of it. Less clutter equals a clearer head for me. I do have intentions of setting up the garage and taking over there though!

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A bit about your art background??
I left High School and went on to study painting at RMIT TAFE. One of my painting lecturers told me I’d never amount to being more than a waitress. I haven’t worked hospitality for awhile, I’m probably not even qualified enough for it these days. Maybe I’ve amounted to less than even he expected! I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, at the moment though. Not happy enough to just cruise with what I’m doing, there’s always more to strive for, but I don’t feel like a complete cock up just yet.

What do you do other than Art??
Other than art? What else is there? I’m currently studying graphic arts, but I guess that doesn’t count. Surfing. Kicking the footy at the park with my husband and dog. I really do like arty stuff. It is a pretty broad term though isn’t it? Art.

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Do you catch up with other Artists in the region?
Not really. I have a friend nearby who I met back at RMIT TAFE, we’re both a bit useless at catching up regularly but we will call on each other when needing inspiration or a pat on the back. I also recently had lunch and a chat with someone that I have only crossed paths with a few times. He’s just getting back into his more creative side and wanted to know how other’s go about their craft. I don’t think I told him anything he doesn’t already know, but it’s good to reaffirm with yourself sometimes that you’re on the right path, or have “stuck” moments just like everyone else. I think we all second guess ourselves and lose confidence in what we’re doing sometimes. It’s usually an up and down thing.

Being a touristy area, do you take advantage of that somehow??
I try to, but I don’t exploit it as well as I could I don’t think, but that comes down to a time thing mostly. Earlier this year I had a series of small works up at TigerFish
in Torquay. Their size and price made them quite accessible for tourists passing through. I intend to keep up this series but there’s that time thing again!

Do you have a web presence??
Not yet… I thought I would by now. I intended to! It’s getting there. I’m hoping to be on top of that in a couple of weeks…

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Do you have a highlight in  your art career you want to mention?
I was pretty chuffed when Linden Arts Centre in St Kilda asked if they could use one of my paintings to promote the following year’s Linden Postcard Show. I got a few calls and messages from folk recognising my work travelling around Melbourne on the trams as a poster.

How does the process of creating an art object begin for you?
Sometimes it’s just a colour that will dictate what I paint. Sometimes just a situation that may appeal to me and I’ll create a scene to photograph for reference and work from there. It can just be the way some lines flow through an advertisement that sparks something. It comes from everywhere. I draw it up, transfer it onto the canvas and then it’s just like paint-by-numbers from there.?

Did you choose Art or did Art choose you?
I chose it from since I can remember. Don’t all kids like art? I just kept doing it, and missed it whenever I stopped doing it.

Any advice for a young “Artist” contemplating dedicating their life to Art?
You’ll either do it or you wont. It’s really that simple. I’m sure it’s the same for someone who is good with words, they write because it’s pleases them. Whether you make money from it or not isn’t the driving force behind it.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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Irene Wellm – Artist

Irene Wellm is a Melbourne based artist whose large scale oil paintings of mysterious and magical scenes reveal a fascination for the human psyche.

With a career spanning 30 years, Irene has exhibited extensively both in Australia and internationally. Her work likewise is in international and Australian collections notably Artbank and Ballarat Regional Gallery.

Irene is currently working long hours in her Clifton Hill studio as she completes work for her first solo exhibition with Catherine Asquith gallery, who she joined earlier this year. “Something Like Us” is due to open on Thursday 8th October, 6 – 8pm. Irene’s work can also be seen online at http://www.irenewellm.com

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Image: Something Like Us, oil on linen, 122 x 183 cm, 2009

Artist’s statement…
Painting for me is a way to tell a story. It provides a conversation with the unconscious and is a way to gain insight, a way to become civilised.

Most people aren’t what they appear to be. We are ambiguous expressions of varying facts and fictions at different times, and as an artist I am interested in finding a way to express this about myself, and about people in general. The background to my work is inspired by a personal interest in depth psychology and Carl Jung’s theories on the process of individuation.

Recurring themes are searching, displacement and the idea of ‘home’, or belonging – where do I belong? So a painting may address this along the lines of ‘lost and displaced’ or may express associations of where the feeling of belonging is met, or the search for such. The sense of a dreamscape is often in my work, whose meanings are also explored through the physical handling of the painting style.

Have you always been interested in art?
Yes, ever since I can remember, I have liked being creative by drawing and writing. My family on my mother’s side was particularly creative, and my mother had been on the path to becoming an opera singer when she was in Denmark after WW2, but she got tuberculosis and it stopped all that. My Aunt creates pictures by weaving that have been quite large in the past – some bigger than my work!

My earliest work of art was in my older sister’s room, on her wall, in ink. It was grand, but my parents apparently didn’t think so! I was 5, supposed to be having a nap. But the allure of the ink bottle on the desk was too great.

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Image: Von dem Vater, oil on linen, 152.5 x 122 cm, 2008

What is your earliest memory of art?
A Salvadore Dali painting – one of his more gruesome ones, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936. I was probably no older than ten, and it was my mother’s book. I remember sitting on the floor and staring at it for ages, trying to fathom what on earth it was all about.

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?
That certainly is what I hope for, that my work might live on a little in the minds of those who see it. I think some part of me wishes to make art that makes a difference in some way. I know from my experience that there are paintings I have seen by other artists that live in me continually, and they have broadened my language and visual perceptions of my environment. I think a good artwork contains a dynamism even within its stasis as a physical structure, and it holds this movement like a life force. One can only aspire!

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
I try to give equal importance to both, because with my current work the way the paint is laid down is an important part of the language about an idea, so it all ties in together. I like to use the paint in a more expressive way that will add depth of meaning to the subject, so I vary the technique accordingly.

What are the main medium/s that you work in?
I work primarily in oil paint on canvas or lately, a fine linen that is oil primed. It suits the way I work in that the weave doesn’t interfere visually with the thin layers I mostly use. Oil primer allows the paint to sit on top, rather than sink in as happens on an acrylic primed surface.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?
All of the above. Sometimes I begin with an interesting photo I might have found, from my own collection, or from the Internet, and I play around with it as one might do with a collage, but on the computer. Other times, the seed of an idea flashes through my mind, and then I go on a hunt for references or make my own, and piece it together. After that, I draw it up on my canvas and let another process begin. The collage work is really only a starting point most of the time, because then the painting process takes over, and decisions get made along the way accordingly.

It’s a bit like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle – every new development sets off another conundrum, and I keep going until the last piece slots into place. Of course, its not always so straight forward… It can really be an emotional roller coaster, with one day up, the next really low. And when there’s the added pressure of a show approaching, it can bring a lot of sleepless nights. But mostly by now I have learnt that I just have to trust the process, and generally I will get there in the end.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
Not so much an emotional relief but a joy that starts to bubble up when things start to pull together towards the end. Before that I can get quite stressed and impatient.

Would you say your paintings reveal something private about yourself?
Most definitely, they do, but half the time it takes me until long after they’ve been completed to really understand what that might be. Because of my working method and my interest in ideas from the unconscious being allowed to come through, it seems to be inevitable. Of course, then people want to know what it is they mean, and I have to say, well, I’m not sure, I don’t know yet. And if I have a clue, well, then I don’t really wish to share such things with a stranger anyway. And really, it doesn’t matter that I don’t know, because people will always bring their own ideas and experiences and their own unconscious with them – which can then make for a very interesting discussion.

So mostly I prefer to leave the mystery within rather than analysing it too much.

Does some of your current work reflect your earlier works?
I find that the making of work has a cycle, one that goes around and comes back to ways of seeing that you did when you first started to paint. But you never arrive at the same point as you did, so it’s like a spiral. Ideas develop and mature as you do. So, yes, I constantly find echoes of past paintings, especially lately. I keep finding myself in the forest, but thankfully not as a little girl anymore!

Recently my work has become more about people again, which was what I was interested in during the ‘80’s and early ‘90s.

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Image: Siren, oil on linen, 142.2 x 152.4 cm, 2009

How did your first solo show go?
I had my first solo show the year after I graduated from Melbourne State College (now Melbourne Uni) in 1986. It was at the long defunct Roar Studios in Fitzroy, and I exhibited the paintings I did in my final year. In hindsight, it was probably too soon, but I just assumed that’s what you did if you wanted to be an artist. It seemed very natural.

It was a good night with friends and family, and I even sold two paintings. It’s so long ago, I don’t recall any reviews or such.

I have a long exhibition history of various solo and group shows from that time on, all at various cafes and artist run spaces up until 1999. After that it was with commercial spaces.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?
I had absolutely no idea. My training had been for teaching, and that’s what was focused on, not how to be an artist – although we were taught by artists, including Terry Batt, Godwin Bradbeer and Claire Day. We had an incredible professional practice regime in those years, hours of drawing and painting. How could I teach after experiencing that? The main turning point came after hearing Wendy Stavrianos give a talk in one of Suzanne Davies’ Contemporary Art classes. That was it – I had to paint forever!

After graduating, I wanted to do a post-grad course at RMIT, but I didn’t get in, and I didn’t know anything else about art schools. I was very naïve, very young. So I went and found myself a studio to work in, found part time work, and just kept going.

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Image: Silent Dreaming: The Warning, 152 x 178 cm, 2006 (Collection of Ballarat Regional Gallery)

You have been exhibited many times since that first showing and been represented by some quite prestigious dealers – has it met your expectations?
I think, first of all, that a lot of my expectations were unrealistic. My first commercial gallery was Gallery 101, and I left them after a year to try and find my place in what I believed was a gallery with more kudos.

I had felt that I was lost in a large, much older stable, and I wanted to be in amongst artists my own age, where I believed the ‘pulse’ would be…. I’m sure I came across to Diana as incredibly ungrateful. Thankfully, she still talks to me! I respect what she does immensely, and her gallery was a beautiful place to show my MFA work.

After that I was taken on by Nellie Castan, and it made a lot of difference to everyone else that I was there. I know now that it helped my need to be seen as an artist of merit. That’s the honest truth. I was so thrilled to be a part of that scene, and it did my ego an awful lot of good!! But it was not meant to be forever, as life had different plans for me.

I had believed that a gallery would support an artist through their whole career, but I found out that this is probably an old fashioned idea. And not one that NCG could honour for various reasons. The experience of being asked to leave was a very painful one, but a good wake up call. Leaving there relieved me of a lot of pressure to “be” someone, someone that it wasn’t in my nature to be.

During this time I was taken on by Michael Carr in Sydney, but that was short lived as he went bankrupt after a few years. But my one show there went really well.

Since then I haven’t pursued a gallery in quite the same way. I needed to let someone find me, someone who would understand where my work was coming from, and hopefully build a relationship from there. This is what has happened with Catherine Asquith, where I am about to have my next show.

Do you have any cultural connections that you think may be relevant to viewing you work?
I have cultural connections to Germany and Lithuania, providing me with influences as I grew up. Ghost stories seemed to be everywhere! Faeries and other creatures inhabited the trees and flowers, and goodness knows what trolls lived in dark places. The dead walked among us, and to spook my elders was the greatest challenge for me (I learnt this talent from my maternal grandmother).

As I am growing older, I seem to be developing a strong connection to my German side, especially as I am mostly attracted to German painters – Anselm Keifer, Neo Rauch and Daniel Richter to name a few. I think the attraction is the cultural element, and Germany’s history of Romanticism in connection to the forest. A lot of my work over the years has had elements about a person being connected to nature in one way or another.

In 2000 you were one of three Australian finalists in the UBS Art Award in London which traveled to Basel, Zurich, Geneva, Monaco, & Munich. What was that experience like? Did it lead to further success for you?
That particular time in my life was such a turning point! I was at the VCA doing my Masters degree, and the opportunity came up to enter a new prize. My supervisor Su Baker encouraged me to try – I almost backed away as I didn’t feel I had anything current in my work that was up to scratch for an international competition.

The experience was exhilarating and frightening all at once. I was chosen as one of three finalists from Australia, and we were flown to London by the UBS Corporation to partake in a huge event. The show was held at the Whitechapel Gallery, and was judged by Nicholas Serrota from the Tate. I have never seen so much money put into something for art. They flew all the artists (worldwide – twenty or so) and their work there. They put us up for a couple of nights at a big hotel, did a swanky catalogue, and generally made us feel great.

After that was done, I stayed in London with a friend who was there from the VCA on exchange at Slade Art School. We were on a houseboat on the Thames! Then I traveled to Madrid and Bilbao, Spain and Paris, France for another two weeks, looking at art and just walking everywhere.

As to where it led, well, here in Australia, the whole event barely registered a blip, as far as I know. That was a strangely disconcerting experience, after all the fuss I had experienced in the UK. I really don’t know how much external success it granted me when I returned, but as far as my painting was concerned, I launched immediately into a new body of work with real confidence. I think that was what the whole experience gave me – a greater confidence in myself as an artist.

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Image: Untitled (Fall), oil on canvas, 168 x 168 cm, 2000

How do you continue to grow, or is this not important?
This is really important to me. All my creative and personal life, developing who I am and how I create is all that has mattered to me. And as I get older, it matters more and more.

It is often commented to me about how my work has changed over the years, that I don’t do the same thing over and over. It’s really been a long journey finding my way as a painter. I don’t know how young kids just go out and do instant styles – I guess we’re all different, thank goodness! But for me, it was trial after trial, and a lot of exploration of other artists. I know now I could never have done anything differently, because you are who you are.

The ‘Art Market’ may not have been able to keep up with me, but that’s their problem. Well, actually, it’s yours too if you really just do art to sell. And of course, I want to sell my work too, but my deepest creative impulses never seemed to have the same agenda! I was and am driven from a place that has it’s own path, so that has effected my career greatly. I’m pretty sure I even lost representation by one gallery because of it. But what do you do?

If I try to do what I think is the way to go commercially, it all dries up inside me and I get bored with what I’m doing after a year. I feel empty, and really, there’s no point painting then. Conversely, that’s not to say it wasn’t all a part of a learning process ultimately. Every diversion, every exploration has taught me a lot.

Now, in my practice, I grow by continually looking at art – on the internet, in magazines, and go on the very infrequent overseas trip when I can – that is definitely the best way to grow. Each time I went overseas, it gave me such a distance to look at what I was doing so I could gain the courage to make a leap forward.

And personally, I am very interested in Jungian psychology and dream interpretation, and what Jung calls the process of individuation. I am currently devouring all the books I can on these subjects, and others by associated authors. It brings me into the interpretive fields of myth, fairytales, and alchemy, which are all rich pickings for my work as a painter and storyteller.

This aspect has never changed in my work.

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Image: August, oil on linen, 134.6 x 167.6 cm, 2009

Do you feel there is a contradiction in the inherent nature of creativity and desire to experiment with the way the art industry seems to operate (e.g. establishing a recognisable ‘style’)?
Well, yes, I do. It goes back to what I was saying before about the need for growth. The Art industry is a business like any other in this current climate, and of course they want to make money, or gain kudos. I think an artist has to find a way to travel along on the outside of this if they really want to find their own personal way, especially in the early years.

After a while, you find you can dip your toes into that realm every now and again, but I don’t think it’s healthy for an artist to stay there. But when we are young, we want to be appreciated by whatever the Art authority is, and we are easily swayed. Well, at least I was. Maybe things are different for younger artists now. Their education is certainly different.

Perhaps it comes down to a separation from what was once seen as the inherent value of Art and the Artist in our culture? Ever since the concept of ‘Economy’ took a hold, it seems to me the more humanistic values have mostly been forgotten in lieu of fame and fortune, and ‘sell-ability’. It’s not that it is bad to want all that, it’s just that I think an artist needs to find more of a balance, more of a deeper understanding of where their internal creative motivations and drives are coming from, if they want to work confidently with the Industry without it effecting who they are within.

What do you believe is the hardest or most challenging aspect of being a professional artist… and the most satisfying?
The hardest is staying true to myself at all cost, regardless of whether others like or approve of what I do. I would say this has been my greatest challenge – to believe in myself, to persist and maintain courage in what I was doing, even when external ‘success’ was not apparent. And to learn that ‘success’ has different meanings and that things take time.

The most satisfying is being able to paint, and making work that is interesting to me. And the feeling I get when a work starts to come together!

Every day I am grateful that I can come to my studio and work.

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Compiled and edited by Amanda van Gils © 2009+

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