'Deep Within' A4 work on paper 2013
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Right now I am working on a series of canvases inspired by the walls of the small Calles of Venice where I walked each day last year. I intend to start some large-scale works on paper responding to the calligraphic remnants of scraffito and graffiti - marking passages of time. I am also continuing my collaboration with San Francisco based artist Carl Heyward. He has challenged me in many ways. It has been a period of intense growth following my involvement with the Knee Jerk Fragmentation Project. The collage based postal exchange of paper fragments and rolled canvas is currently evolving. It excites and challenges me.
Can you describe your working routine?
I try to get the studio each day - working each morning and afternoon – life permitting. It is just a short walk down the studio but a big enough distance to have to go to ‘work’ and I like it that way. The routine can vary depending on whether there is a show coming up or not. I like to clear the studio each day creating the appropriate working space - set up materials etc then hit the play button. I can’t work quietly – I need music to work as a background foil with certain albums cycling for each series of works.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
The studio is a colourbond shed 10 metres x 7 metres. The main working space is a 7m x 7m square with a main viewing wall or working wall. This room has three large wooden kitchen tables that can be arranged to suit what I am working on at the time. I also have a large bench with storage on casters that can be wheeled around with ease. Lighting is a series of tracked spots. The other section is a separate bathroom/storage area and textile area with a desk and sewing machine for my cloth works. It is an ever changing and evolving space. I describe to people that when I walk into my studio I walk into me. It is a space that enables me to experiment and explore with freedom in my own way.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
Landscape ignites something from deep within me – I do this by immersing myself into a place during longish periods of time – generally in a residential situation. It is all about asking questions on many levels to gather that deeper understanding of a certain place. It’s kind of like sitting with it and listening, looking at the layers, the colours, the textures, the shapes and forms, plus it’s unique sensibility, then letting it distill for a time before it is carried forward into a picture, painting or moving image. Sometimes it can take many visits to a place to truly begin to grasp its’ complexity and layers. I adore making works that have a depth of surface quality and textures with matt and gloss contrasts too that play with the eye. For me it is hard to separate the micro and the macro. This is where my questioning begins.
The process starts with a written journal on site and then working on smaller paper works – mostly intuitive in an abstract form usually in black and white and earth tones – mainly ink and pencil and some collage work too – I love the act of identifying certain shapes within that place – so that when I get to the larger works back in the studio the visual language of the place emerges carrying the work forward into the larger works. For me it is these beginning drawings that hold and carry an integrity – a raw energy that holds a certain truth and authenticity.
Pacifica I, mixed media on paper,
200mm x 75mm, 2013
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
Wondering when to stop with a work – the over-working is one of my biggest struggles – there are always parts of the work that I love in its many stages but it this that can actually be holding me back. When I can totally let go of that push/pull and let the unthinking part really go and just let the paint flow – that’s when I find it becomes more potent/relevant and authentic rather than contrived or derivative. It’s this adrenalin rush as you take that leap of faith that is so addictive for me. You think you know this but you still get caught up in the pretty bits and for me the cycle goes on and on. It seems like I need to do the pretty bit for ‘dirtying’ it up.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I love using different materials and have to rein myself in quite a bit. I mainly use water-based materials - oils and solvents give me such a headache. A while ago I was using patina mediums, shellac and bitumen but had to stop for the same reason. Right now it is mainly acrylic and oil sticks as well as ink, oil pastels, pencil and coloured pencils – on both paper and canvas. I constantly use cloth and found papers in the collage technique - creating some interesting textures with over-painting on both canvas and paper. I am enjoying drawing much more and am pushing myself to be more disciplined with it. Just thinking more about ‘what is a drawing’ is making me question my way of working. It has also seen a return to my roots as a mapmaker – working over disused books, old engineering plans on Mylar and plan paper is informing a new body of work. My Land Map Series and the Pacifica works on paper are evidence of this and are now touring as part of The Drawing Box show.
Land Map III, mixed media on paper, A5, 2013
What does the future hold for this work?
Right now I am enjoying a period of experimentation without a deadline to complete works. The Venice canvas works may sit for a while as I am trying to find representation in a commercial gallery in Sydney or Melbourne. The collaborative works will be shown in Australia and San Francisco during 2015 and venues are being looked into right now.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Living in a small rural coastal community near the NSW and Victorian border in Australia away from Museums and Galleries is difficult at times. Just being in touch with so many international artists through places like facebook and other artist networks online has been a life thread for me. And a big thank you to Valerie Brennan for this opportunity to share part of my process in the studio. Social networking has opened many doors over the past few years and continues to nourish me along with many other artists around the world.
Once in a Blue Moon, mixed media on board,
200mm x 75mm, 2013