TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOU AND WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW…
I’m an Australian-born artist, living in Byron Bay. The studio here is in Bangalow, in the Byron hinterlands, about 20 minutes away. I work in many different mediums — this studio is devoted to my small works, mostly, and I share it with a fellow artist, Kate Stead, who’s working with portraiture. We cohabitate nicely. We met in art school about 15 years ago.
I respond mostly to the local environments, with the landscapes that I’m doing. The journey from Byron Bay to Bangalow, old Bangalow Road, is a beautiful windy road that I’ve journeyed on for over 20 years.
YOU’VE SPENT 6 YEARS IN SHANGHAI, WHERE YOUR ART CAREER THRIVED, AND NOW YOU’RE IN BYRON BAY. HOW DO THE 2 CREATIVE COMMUNITIES COMPARE?
I think returning here, to the rural environment of Byron Bay and Bangalow, I had an existing community to come back to, lots of friends who are makers and artists. So, it’s home; it’s a big difference to the big city sprawl of Shanghai, where there was so many people and anonymity. Though there was a freedom in that too, in not being held by history, just moving into that space as a fresh face and being able to respond to the city with a really innocent gaze — it was wonderful!
I did a lot of street scenes there, and one of the things that I did was these manhole cover rubbing. They’re so ornate, all different, beautiful, leading to the underbelly of the city. Like conduits for information. And they’re just these massive, steel, ornate pictures in themselves! Someone gave me all this handmade paper, so I did these rubbings while I was at the Swatch residency, They’re so ubiquitous in their nature — they’re everywhere. And that same attitude is what my return has brought me: at the moment. I’m working on the Ibis bird, because they’re everywhere.
WERE YOU REPRESENTED BY A GALLERY IN SHANGHAI?
I did commercial projects in Shanghai: a couple of restaurants, so my work was featured through them. The people who owned them gave me a hallway between two really busy restaurants in the former French concession, and I was able to rotate my art work and other people’s art work in that space, continuously. But I did exhibit in the Shanghai Museum, in a collective exhibition for the celebration of women in art. And the Australian consulate chose my work, which was exhibited there.
I also did work with a gallery whose the owner was from New York, and her family had been in Shanghai for a very long time. She had a gallery in the former French concession, so when I got there, I exhibited in it, and she put my work forward to the Australian consulate. From there, I got the residency with Swatch and the residency with the textiles firm that has taken me into working with old age care in China, making art with the elderly, which I continue to do today.
Coming back here, there’s not as much exposure. The reach comes differently; we just have to think differently about how our reach is. For me, Bangalow, this little space, has so many people — a real collaboration between food and art and clothing and lots of creatives. On Saturday morning, the markets are just there, and so many people come through. I’ve only been here a year and, since then, a lot of people have come in and bought work, and they go home and show their friends. It’s beautiful;, it’s very intimate and really personable, what we have here — and I value it so much.
WHAT THEMES DO YOU PURSUE IN YOUR WORK?
Mostly, a response to the local area that I’m living, responding to place, with the nature of the medium of paint. I’m always exploring surface structure, so I’m looking at painting over very old paintings. I might use reclaimed timber skirting boards, reclaimed cedar or just a skirting board from old buildings, and surface history really impacts the nature of my work. There’s this collective memory that happens, that history of those skirting boards in the hardware shop, and that brings a quality and history which maybe aren’t seen at first glance, but I certainly feel them in the work. I do portraiture as well. That questioning of humanity and looking at lines on the face and soul in the eyes and all these sorts of things.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 18 YEAR OLD SELF?
To keep breathing. Just take it slower. Look at what’s right in front of you. Be authentic. Tell the fucking truth! She was a song writer, front for a band, used to play at the Espy and The George…