Also in the July edition of Studio La Primitive Art ZINE I was interviewed about my art making history. There were a few curly questions… however most of them were easy to answer.
Included below is the interview with some of the images included. Again I would like to thank Robyn and Eric for the invitation. It was an interesting process to write this as it enabled me to question my work, its history and identify aspects of my work once more.
In this issue I am humbled by fabulous company including articles about Matthew Quick, Pamela Griffith, Vince Vozzo, The Strutt Sisters, Shelagh Lummis as well as a in depth interview with Eric & Robyn Werkhoven by Maggie Hall.
This is a magazine and I urge you all read this issue or follow them so that you may read future publications.
INTERVIEW: What attracted you to the world of Art?
When did your artistic passion begin?
My art making journey has resulted in me walking onto and off the path of art at different stages in my life, yet it has also been a constant companion. It is not simple for me to pin point when, where or why I was attracted to the world of art because for me it was a series of events, people and destinations in my life that seemed to be placed on my path. I was lucky enough to have several good teachers and friends at every level of High School, TAFE and at University right through to the completion of my Master’s degree at The University of Newcastle in 2010.
As a fairly typical young girl who loved to draw; it would take me to another place where I would draw for hours, I would find a place in my home that was relatively quiet and everything else dropped away. In this place my imagination had permission to wander. My mother’s support was a contributing factor when I was young. Her insight into her youngest child is now very clear to me. She would always find a piece of paper ready for me to draw on.
Because I was the youngest child of four children art making enabled for me to find my own private island. Initially I copied pictures of animals, then progressed to drawing people’s faces and eventually progressed to the human figure. I can also remember scribbling patterns into the columns of my school books and developing them into imaginary and abstract landscapes.
Art was the only subject at school that I was keen about, the decision to leave school after year 10 to study art full time seemed very natural at the time. I didn’t want to waste my time with all the other subjects…. Like many young people I was in a hurry! I didn’t feel comfortable about doing the HSC and a bit like I didn’t fit into the education system. All I wanted to do was hang out in the art rooms.
- Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Originally I didn’t know what being an artist meant. I felt compelled to make a mark, to make images… the natural progression flowed on to enrolling at art school. It seemed like a very natural decision for me at the time to enroll at art school, and yet it was odd because I wasn’t really surrounded by artists or particularly encouraged to be one.
Recently I have since learnt that we had several generations of creative people in my family including my uncle Robert who became a chicken farmer, his Aunty Ada was also an amateur painter and several generations of photographers including my father.
Dad wasn’t keen for me to go to art school, we argued about it. Despite his passion for photography which I can see now that I have inherited, it wasn’t a vocation that was acceptable for young women at the time. My father even disconnected an allowance originally set up to pay for art school and it forced me to go and get a job to support my studies. It actually made me more determined.
The path of art was chosen intuitively and I have always wanted to make artworks and be an artist, even if the focus shifted to teaching at times. Quite I impulsively left school at the age of 17 and went to Meadowbank TAFE in Sydney (Sydney Gallery School) where I enrolled in an Art Certificate which was at the time a two year course. My focus during TAFE became black and white analogue photography, painting and experimental drawing.
After completing TAFE I worked for several years in various jobs in Sydney before enrolling in University in 1983 as a “mature aged” student, I was 21 years old.
At City Art Institute (University of NSW, Faculty of Fine Art and Design) now) between 1983 and 1987 I shifted my focus to drawing and discovered Lithography. However it wasn’t until my Masters project at The University of Newcastle (2010) that all three areas of my arts practice have begun to truly merge…. Using photographic processes in printmaking and making one off individual prints and print objects.
- Describe your work?
Looking back now I can see that my childhood upbringing has been an integral component of my work for much longer than I have realised.
History is now the central spine of my art practice, as is research of oral histories, historic sites and social histories. Recently I have begun to focus own family history. There is no set method or routine when I commence a new project. Nevertheless I may spend several months researching images and the historic facts surrounding a story before I commence making the actual work.
Seeking family series 1: Georgian stairwell and Iron Cove Creek
58 x41 cm
Archival ink jet print on archival paper
My father John William Swinfield was a ”self-taught” historian and collector of historic objects including British issue colonial and 18th century firearms. Our childhood home was filled with a complex mix of historic paraphernalia that included recycled, vintage and antique objects. Often on weekends we visited auction houses, antique shows and went to social gatherings at the homes of Dads extended tribe of collector friends.
As a result of this upbringing I have developed an ongoing fascination with objects of historic significance, their place in history and the social histories attached to them. This pull has slowly crept into my art making processes and recently become its focus.
I like to call my working process the construction of visual narratives based on oral histories and the documents and photographs that I have gathered.
Akin to a writer who is creating a “story” I create visual stories that enable the viewer to connect with their own ancestry and perhaps to connect with a little part of their own history as a result.
Do you have a set method / routine of working?
Nowadays my artmaking is very research driven, responsive to sites that I have personally visited and the related historic material. However that being said I also have a passion for the materiality of my practices and the nature of the medium used within my processes. They are integral to the development of the work, often resulting in very abstract tangents to my practice that are sometimes visceral and attached to an emotional response to sites and the histories that they are connected with.
- Why do you choose this material / medium to work with?
I have multiple tangents to my work that can at times be distinct and can often cross over and into each other’s traditional territories. The photographic and the drawn processes will at times venture into each other where I require a more physical and direct response through the drawn mark.
- How important is drawing as an element to your artwork?
Drawing is integral to my art practice and so much so now that I have often taken it for granted. I have always drawn and still utilize its multiple forms in several ways. I use drawing as a form of note taking during research and often this will develop into a layer of my work through photo silkscreen or photo lithography. Sometimes drawing will surface through direct mark making as an emotive response to an individual story or a sites memory.
- Is there a particular reason for your choice of style / genre? What inspires you?
I am inspired and driven by art and history. The artists who particularly inspire me in my personal art-making are individuals who have initiated an emotional response within their work questioning historic iconography and social constructs.
Looking back on my past in hindsight this is quite ironic mix of reactions considering my background as a teacher and that I am now also an art coach. I still believe very much in the need for solid foundations in art school education systems and community access to the necessary support for younger artists. It is also a curious past for me now as I consider myself an arts educator
- What have been the major influences on your work?
Inspiration in its literal sense comes from so many different places for me. An object will trigger a memory, a shape, a texture within a rock pool whilst walking along a beach. Watching my son walk through the bush, a landscape, a building shape and art history itself can inspire me.
At different times in my art practice I have been inspired by very different artists. And when I taught art history at Newcastle TAFE and when students asked me who my favourite artists were I found it difficult at times to underline a list of favourites and I still do.
Nevertheless I have always been inspired by all the women artists who have stoically kept working and despite their life situations have managed to continue their art practice. The list is too long to include them all and consist of a diversity of names, styles and eras stretching back to the Renaissance including: Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Cassatt, Kathe Kollwitz, Lee Krasner and of her contemporaries who struggled for identity beside their husbands, Georgia O’Keeffe, Eva Hesse, Kiki Smith, Grace Crowley, Australian photographer Sue Ford and Frida Kahlo. The list of women artists is much longer than I can mention here. It is lengthy list for multiple reasons.
Also there have been many male artists as well and recently I have been driven by the work of Christian Boltanski, Yinka Shonibare, Robert Motherwell, George Woodman, Max Ernst and Man Ray. Historically there are many male artists as well. Art history itself is an ongoing source of inspiration and reinvention for me.
What do you hope viewers of your art works will feel and take with them?
When people view my work I hope that they will connect with their own history, reflect upon a little part of themselves, their own familial histories and respond based on their own experiences.
I also wish that this process of connection enables individuals a way to reflect on their own genetic and personal past to support the preservation of our collective social histories.
- Forthcoming exhibitions?
I will be exhibiting at Carriage works within Paper Contemporary as a component of Sydney Contemporary Art Fair (September 7th -10th with 5 other Hunter based Artists.)
- Other interests?
My family life, son, home, encouraging the next generation of art makers and I do love my garden and cooking for others when I get a chance.