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Portrait Of Australian Artist Jemila MacEwan, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Jemila MacEwan | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Jemila MacEwan

Portrait of Australian artist Jemila MacEwan, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Jemila MacEwan, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Jemila

Jemila MacEwan, b. 1985 is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in New York.

Jemila was born in Scotland before emigrating to Australia with her family, and this sense of displacement has informed her work as a comfortable outsider. In her recent works, MacEwan inhabits the role of various forms of destruction within the natural world—meteorites, volcanoes, fault-lines and glaciers—as a way to reflect on what it means to be human in the age of the Holocene Extinction.

MacEwan is a frequent collaborator with other artists, film-makers, performers and dancers. Her work has been exhibited at The Australian Consulate-General (NYC), Pioneer Works (NYC), Victori+MO (NYC), BRIC Media (NYC), The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (NYC), Governors Island Art Fair (NYC), Skaftfell Center for Visual Art (Iceland), and the Gertrude Street Projection Festival (Australia).

Jemila’s Artwork

Interview with Jemila MacEwan

How do you describe your work to others?
I usually say something along these lines…

My work seeks out an empathetic approach to humanities destructive habits. In recent works, I have mythologized various forms of destruction in the natural world­ – meteorites, volcanoes, and melting glaciers – as a way to make sense of the emotional pressures of being human in the age of the Holocene Extinction. By using sculpture and performance in intimate communication with the environment, I insert myself within the landscape, inhabiting the permeable boundary between culture and nature.

Though, it doesn’t always sound like that when I say it out loud.

Do you have a preferred medium?
All the mediums I work in perform in different ways and each brings its own brilliant joy and painful challenges. Sculpture exhausts and satisfies me; painting heals me; performance transforms me to the core, and I am never the same afterwards.

Choosing a medium has never been decision I control. The work chooses the medium and sometimes that means working in a process that is totally unknown to me. For instance, I recently made ‘The Wake’ in Iceland, my first narrative film work. I had no idea when I went to Iceland that I would end up making a film, and maybe if I had known, I would have been much more concerned about doing it the right way. There’s a common perception about how a film needs to be made: very expensive with many people and fancy equipment. As it was, I had to work within the limits I had – no crew, no special gear and no script. But I had a work insisting it needed to be made. The work told me what I needed to do, and in the end, I think that was the correct way to do it. I loved working in this process and I hope to make more films.

How do you begin new work?
Is there a more mysterious question? Do I begin the work or does the work begin me?

But the question is ‘How?’

Hmmm…

I go to the place that the work needs to be made and play there while I wait for instructions.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
I see all the work as continuous with my life as I try to understand what means to be human at any given moment in time. In that way, they are all one body. I have a few ongoing bodies of work, such as my paintings and geological ceramic sculptures, and I have a few bodies of sculpture work that I think of as families rather than series. I love when various works of mine that were created at different times and in different mediums are curated in conversation with one another – so much more is revealed. I would love to have a retrospective one day and see it all together.

What attracts you to your subjects?
I don’t know what attracts me, but it always feels like a giddy, feverish love.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
With the greatest respect, I take a hard tool to the surface of reality and treat what I find inside with absolute tenderness.

What do you use as reference material?
I cultivate my practice through focused observation of everyday transformation: silence being interrupted on the subway, a cactus slowly growing toward the window, the smell of rotting seaweed, a worm responding to the warmth of my palm, a rock transforming at a rate too slow for me to perceive. In this practice of observation, I resist searching for meaning; the purpose is to nourish my intuitive imagination with felt sensations.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
Intuitively. I have spent years examining, cultivating and listening closely to my intuition. If I work too critically, the work is too harsh and anxious, and it suffers. If the work doesn’t surprise me then frankly it’s going to be boring. I’ve thought a lot about cultivating a harmonious relationship between my intuition and critical faculties. I respect them both but when it comes to the creation of the work, the critical mind is quietened. When I reach a stopping point in the work, the critical mind is invited to respond, and if a problem is identified that the critical mind does not solve, the problem goes back to my intuition. This conversation goes back and forth, night and day, until both critical mind and intuition are satisfied.

Where do you create?
Wherever I end up.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Depends on the kind of process:

Sculpting: Missy Elliot, Santigold, Erykah Badu, Robyn, Janelle Monae, Sudan Archives, Princess Nokia, Ween, Connan Mockasin, Still Woozy, Club Kuru, Metronomy, Lijadu Sisters, Bassekou Kouyate, Tinariwen, Lhasa.

Writing: Todd Terje, Four Tet, Darkside, Lindstrøm, Beethoven, Pantha Du Prince, Forest Swords.

Painting: Björk, Yamasuki Singers, Laurie Anderson and Eden Ahbez.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
If a work doesn’t name itself then it’s a struggle, but I try not to sweat it.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
When I am deep in the middle of it. This is the only time I feel truly free. It’s always important take a moment to remind myself to look around and feel the ecstasy of it, even if I have blisters on blisters, or I have been stoking a fire all night, or the work has collapsed and needs to be remade, or I am filthy, or freezing cold, or heart-broken, or in deep conflict. There is no freedom I know like being in the middle of it.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
I’ve been given plenty of advice along the road, and I try to remind myself of it whenever I need it. These are not exact quotes but close enough:

Enjoy the process.

Follow the weirdest ideas.

If you are uninspired, you aren’t paying attention.

Be without expectation.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Celebrate the successes of your peers.

The lesson you are learning now is the lesson you need.

The question of ‘What I am?” is never personal.

Leave loose ends.

What is being transformed?

Look for what is lacking in the world.

If you find yourself flinching, look again, and again, and you will find it there.

The work is not yours and it is not for you.

Work generously and you will be closer to the truth.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
Yes. I think this is a really important part of an art education. When I moved to New York, I did a two-year mentorship with Janine Antoni, a hero to many female artists in my generation. It was a long mentorship and my role within the studio changed in the time as Janine moved between big projects. I absorbed so much in that time that I could never separate the artist I am now from what I learned under her mentorship. There is a natural friction that can occur within the mentorship dynamic, and it became important for me to go my own way and find my independent voice. This was not so easy to do, and it broke my heart a little.

Recently, I had a shorter mentorship with Jamaican performance artist Jodie Lynn-Kee-Chow which evolved into a more reciprocal and mutual friendship. I’ve also had important mentorship from peers, collaborators and senior artists beyond the formal arrangement of an official mentorship, which have had just as significant an impact on me as an artist. I think artists develop weird, intense and vital relationships that would seem abnormal to most people.

How do you alleviate the down times?
I’ve been very public about my own mental health challenges. The conversations that arose through opening up on social media put me in intimate conversation with artists and others who were also struggling.

This past year was difficult for most people I know, and I was sensitive to the collective struggle whilst enduring my own. I feel the heaviness of this moment in history. As artists, it is our duty to stay with the trouble. Sometimes I wonder if we might imagine ourselves as superhuman and forget the toll it takes to attend so closely to the damage. I recently held a panel discussion with some other deeply thoughtful creators on the topic of creative practice and mental health. It became evident that artists can have their own very specific forms of medicine that is part of their creative process. Artists who have this medicine can unexpectedly find themselves in the role of an unprofessionalised mental health worker. I’ve experienced this kind of creative care from other artists, and I’ve also provided it. My own work is driven by my need to transmute the most uncomfortable aspects of being human into a form that offers some relief.

To answer the question though, my main go-to methods include: meditation, somatic therapy, dancing at home, exercise, listening to calm and intelligent people, tending to plants, writing, having a bath, consulting the I-Ching, cooking, talking, sleeping, laughing, watching brilliant films, spending significant time in nature, listening to and helping others, staying home if I need to, deleting Instagram, reading. I think it’s good to acknowledge that you need many strategies for dealing with all the challenges. I have accumulated many techniques and approaches for taking care of my mental health, and they have changed over the years depending on their efficacy. I have tried and rejected some approaches even though I know they work for others. I think taking care of one’s mental health can be demanding work, but it can also be creative and experimental. What one needs is entirely individual.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
Two performance works that defined my limits were ‘Maiden Grass Voyage’ (2013), which I performed in the months after moving to New York, and ‘Human Meteorite’ (2017). Both were physically arduous and highly vulnerable. I had no idea what to expect and because both performances were very public, I just had to trust they would work. I found people easily connected with these works, and although the labor in them was very heavy, the ideas they conveyed were weightless.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Trisha Brown’s Floor of the Forest (1970) at Documenta 12 comes to mind. I was entranced by it. I think it set my imagination to think about sculpture, performance and landscape as intertwined. I remember how spellbound I was by the performance, simultaneously thrilling me and easing my soul.

What does the future hold for you?
The present, and eventually the past.

Jemila’s website

Portrait Of Australian Artist Victoria Reichelt, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Victoria Reichelt | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Victoria Reichelt

Portrait of Australian artist Victoria Reichelt, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Victoria Reichelt, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Victoria

Victoria Reichelt studied Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art, graduating in 2005 having completed her Doctor of Visual Arts. She has been short-listed for a number of major art prizes including the Gold Award at the Rockhampton Art Gallery, the RBS Emerging Artist Award, the Fletcher Jones Art Prize, and in 2013 she won the Sulman Art Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She has been awarded an Australia Council New Work Grant and the Linden Innovators Award from the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Canberra Contemporary Art SpaceSherman Contemporary Art Foundation and at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Brisbane, and she has served as a board member on the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Victoria is represented by the This is No Fantasy in Melbourne, VIC and Jan Murphy Gallery in Brisbane, Qld.

Victoria’s Artwork

Interview with Victoria Reichelt

How do you describe your work to others?
Investigations into the overlooked, or soon to be obsolete.

Do you have a preferred medium?
I have always painted oil on canvas, even at art school when they encouraged everyone to try new things I’d stick with oil on canvas.

How do you begin new work?
I hate starting new work! I’d prefer to be half way through a work – and I love that victory feeling you get when you finish something

What attracts you to your subjects?
I like simple objects but I like to play with numbers to make an interesting composition. I am attracted to objects that I can source a lot of!

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
The process of photography is just as important as the painting – I like to set the objects up to be photographed and then leave them out for a few days and keep pushing the arrangement until I find one that will translate to paint in an interesting way. Once the photos are done the actual process of painting is quite meditative. I usually paint in one or two layers and keep the paint pretty thin. I feel like my greatest skills is patience as the works take a long time to make and they can’t be rushed.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
At the moment I am loving white on white, as well as greys and blacks, occasionally with a splash of red. I have worked with the colour spectrum for my past few shows so it is nice to be paring it back a bit at the moment.

Where do you create?
I divided my garage down the centre and I have a studio on one side and the other side is a play room for my kids, so that I can paint while I look after them :‑)

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
Coffee, coffee and more coffee.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
I listen to a ton of podcasts while I paint. At the moment I am loving anything by Slate, Pod Save America, The Empire Film Podcast, The Dollop, How Did This Get Made, Keep It, The Wired Podcast, The Signal, NPR Politics, Fresh Air, Reveal, Revisionist History, Hidden Brain, The Daily, Steele Wars, Pop Culture Happy Hour and of course This Wild Song :‑) I have also been loving one called Last Seen which is an investigation into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist in 1990, by the Boston Globe.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Go easy on yourself, work hard but know that you will have failures and it’s not the end of the world.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
I have had some wonderful mentors in my life, most notably Donna Marcus and Rosemary Hawker. I also have a great group of friends who are also artists who I email for advice and to bounce ideas off quite regularly.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
The Gerhard Richter exhibition at GoMA in Brisbane last year was amazing. It was quite overwhelming to see so many of Richter’s works in Australia. In particular the paintings of his family and his Atlas (a collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings and sketches that he has collected over the years, often to use as source imagery for his painting) were amazing.

What does the future hold for you?
Not sure. Coffee? :‑)

Victoria’s website

This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.

Exhibition essay: Anonymous Was a Woman by Sophia Cai

Anonymous Was a Woman

Exhibition essay for This Wild Song, by Sophia Cai

I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929

In her pioneering essay of 1971, art historian Linda Nochlin opens with a perennial question that strikes at the very core of the canon of Western art: “Why have there been no great female artists?”1 Nochlin recognised that while women have been creating art for as long as men, they have not historically received the same recognition due to a range of institutional and societal barriers such as social class, education and their domestic role in the home. In other words, art making operates within a wider social sphere, and it is these social and institutional factors that determine what art is shown, recognised, and recorded in the art history books.

Nearly half a century later, these issues of gender representation and equality are still highly relevant. Recent statistics published by the Countess Report show that while approximately 74% of visual arts graduates are women (as of 2014), disproportionately it is their male colleagues who get shown more in major institutions, receive more media coverage, and win more major art prizes.2 Notably also, women occupy less senior and leadership positions, the roles that invariably make these decisions. The Countess Report is not alone in raising attention to these entrenched inequalities faced by female and non-binary artists, and many artist-run initiatives including the Women’s Art Register and the Artist’s Guild in Melbourne, and international activists such as the infamous Guerrilla Girls continue to highlight these topics while bringing attention to female artists and their work.

It is in this spirit of identifying, recognising and celebrating female artists that Melbourne-based artist Ilona Nelson first began This Wild Song. As a multi-platform project encompassing photographic portraits, interviews, exhibitions and events, This Wild Song celebrates a diversity of contemporary women artists working and living in Australia today. At the heart of This Wild Song is a focus on collaboration and female agency; Nelson works closely with each artist to create unique photographic portraits that are a “honest and true depiction of who the artist is as a person.”3 More than merely documenting the artist as an individual, the portraits also reflects a specific concept related to the artist’s creative practice, resulting in intimate and highly individual depictions.

For this exhibition at Town Hall Gallery, Nelson has chosen 26 portraits to be shown alongside selected artworks by the portrayed artists. As a group show curated on a community network rather than a theme, the show is ostensibly varied and includes artists at different stages of their careers and working across a range of mediums and practices. As This Wild Song is an ongoing project, with more portraits to come, works selected for this exhibition have been based on portraits not previously shown in Melbourne. While there are visual and thematic links that can be drawn between some of the artists, as a whole the exhibition arguably celebrates the plurality and diversity of the individual artists’ practices, and provides a focus on authorship and self-determination.

Presenting Nelson’s photographic portraits alongside each artist’s own work paints a richer picture of both, while simultaneously asserting the artist’s individual practice. Many pairings in the exhibition feature strong visual correlations between the artist’s work and their portrait often explored through materiality or form. Hannah Gartside’s portrait, draped in fabrics in front of a cloth wall echoes her soft sculpture made from a found nightgown in both colour and texture. Similarly, the colourful and fantastical aspect of Kate Rhode’s work is expressed through the artist’s portrait and her dress. Nelson’s portrait of Charlotte Watson likewise evokes a link through its materiality, with the surface and blackness of the velvet mimicking Watson’s charcoal works.

A number of the portraits also feature the artist directly engaging with materials from their studio, emphasising a close relationship between the artist and their work. For instance, the portrait of Freya Jobbins sees the artist surrounded by the toys and dolls that she reassembles in her art practice. Cyrus Tang’s portrait directly references her corresponding time-lapse photograph depicting a clay city in ruin. By having her hold the same ceramic buildings in her hand, her portrait of Cyrus offers a contemplative response to her photograph series. In a similar manner, Danica Chappell’s portrait and her artwork both utilise photography to construct abstract spaces through layers of transparent materials. These similarities offer a viewer an introspective view into the process of artistic deliberation and making.

In other instances, the pairing of the portrait with the artwork leads to some unexpected correlations and interpretations. One particularly striking portrait is of artist Michelle Hamer, who appears almost floating on her back, her body draped in bright orange safety barrier mesh. The significance of using the barrier mesh can be understood in relation to Hamer’s art practice, which interprets urban environs and city scenes through hand-stitched tapestries as a commentary on everyday life and built environments. By picturing herself with the mesh tape that one can find frequently find at construction sites, Hamer inserts herself into the visual landscape of her art practice.

Viewed as a whole, the most remarkable thing about This Wild Song is its emphasis on female-embodied presence. Portraiture is utilised as a means to give visibility to the ‘who’ behind the work, and also gives direct agency to the artist in how they are depicted, or chose to represent themselves. Themes of identity and the self naturally emerge through this process, as seen for instance in the portrait of the late great Polixeni Papapetrou, which mirrors her artwork in its stylistic approach and imaginative execution.

This Wild Song is informed as much by the existing art community as it is an attempt to create new network and opportunities. It is imaginable that This Wild Song could continue as long as there are gender disparities, and it does so by highlighting the remarkable individual narratives and approaches of artists on their own terms. But the work in tackling representation should not rest on Nelson’s shoulders, or for that matter, any individual effort or project. We must question the very structures and institutions that have created a narrative of art history that excludes as much as it includes. We must keep our eyes open, we must pay attention, so that these names do not become anonymous in the history books we write today.

Sophia Cai is a Melbourne-based curator and arts writer with a particular research interest in Asian art history as well as contemporary craft. sophiacai.info
This essay was commissioned by Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn.

1 Linda Nochlin, Why Have There Been No Great Female Artists, first published in ARTnews, January 1971

2 Elvis Richardson, The Countess Report, Last accessed 14 August 2018, thecountessreport.com.au

3 Excerpt from This Wild Song project statement, thiswildsong.com.au/ilona-nelson-this-wild-song

This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.

Photos of TWS Exhibition at Town Hall Gallery

Photos of our exhibition at Town Hall Gallery

This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.
This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.This Wild Song Exhibition At Town Hall Gallery - Install Shots.

Exhibition Curation and This Wild Song portraits: Ilona Nelson
Exhibition design: Catherine Pyers
Install photos: Christian Capurro

The exhibition runs until 21 October 2018.

Town Hall Gallery

360 Burwood Rd
Hawthorn, VIC 30122
Australia

See a programme of events for the exhibition on our events page.

Portrait Of Australian Artist Lucy Hardie, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Lucy Hardie | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Lucy Hardie

Portrait of Australian artist Lucy Hardie, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Lucy Hardie, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Lucy

Lucy Hardie specialises in meticulously rendered ink drawings on paper. Her intricately constructed, evocative works explore the continuum between life and death, offering intimate portrayals of the transformative power of death in catalysing new life. Her work is exhibited in Australia, Europe and the US, and is featured in numerous art and literary publications worldwide. She is represented by Port Jackson Press Australia and PG Printmaker Gallery in Melbourne.

Lucy Hardie’s artwork

Interview with Lucy

How do you describe your work to others?
Hyper detailed ink drawings combining the real with the unreal.

How do you begin new work?
I begin by sketching and writing down ideas in my journals, and collating inspiration and reference photos, including inspiration for composition, lighting, colour, and mood. From here I either create some more finalised studies, or move in to the final work. A final piece begins with sketching out my central composition, which I then ink over, allowing room for new ideas to be incorporated as I go.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
Both. When I work on a specific series for an exhibition, I find it shares common thematic threads with all my work, so each series can be seen on it’s own as well as an extension of a larger body of work.

What attracts you to your subjects?
I’m attracted to subjects that evoke in me a sense of connection, intimacy, beauty, otherworldliness, tenderness, and power. This isn’t necessarily dependent on physical attributes, although the human form, natural elements, and religious iconography are subjects I am drawn towards for their symbolic potential. Creating an experience of the intangible for viewers is primary, and I choose subjects I feel can best facilitate this.

What do you use as reference material?
I refer mainly to photographs I’ve taken of models. I also draw inspiration from fashion, photography, and the work of other artists I may be looking to at the time.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
My primary mode is intuitive, and is what drives me to go with a particular idea or use a medium in a particular way. Then I consciously organise this information to plan the work, and create guidelines for the process to unfold.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Black, although technically not a colour. To me it represents all colours at once, mystery, somewhere to get lost in. In particular, I’m drawn to variations in black – blue-black, red-black, green-black.

Where do you create?
In my studio at the Abbotsford Convent

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I start most mornings with meditation, exercise, dancing, which helps me feel energised for a day in the studio. Music, drinks and snacks at arms reach, are also musts before I sit down at the easel.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Depending on the mood I’m in or want to create, it could be anything from old blues, to soul, to dance and electronica – any music that facilitates my being in flow in any given moment.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Yes, they’re extensions to the art.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
Seeing an image come to life when I’m just past half way.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
I’m here, I’ve got you.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
Several along the way. My mentors include the artists I’ve learnt from in books as well as creative connections I’ve made in person. Each have helped me grow in different ways, both in the creative and business aspects of the role.

How do you alleviate the down times?
Challenging times, self-doubt, are a natural part of the process and something to be expected. The key for me is acceptance. It’s not always easy, but when I fully accept a challenging experience as it is, without trying to change it, I suddenly become aware of the next thing to focus on; the new idea or creative opportunity becomes self-evident.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
At the moment it’s the realisation that each artist has their own way to go that works for them. Mine is unique to me, yours is unique to you. There is no “right way”, just what works for you. I’m going with what’s working, and it’s working!

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Seeing Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night Over The Rhone’ at the NGV was extraordinary. All the brush strokes seemed to be alive and moving towards me. My mind was blown. Also seeing Ernst Fuch’s work at the Ernst Fuchs Museum in Vienna in 2009 was a transformative experience. I could not see how a human hand had created it. It was as if the middleman had been taken away, and there was just me experiencing the mysterious place where the art had come from. It was a life changing experience for me, and set me on an artistic trajectory I would devote myself to wholeheartedly.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
How did you navigate the transition period between the style you were first known for to the style you are currently known for?

What does the future hold for you?
2019 shows at Outré Gallery in Melbourne and at Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art in the US.

Lucy’s website

Portrait Of Australian Artist Catherine Nelson, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Catherine Nelson | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Catherine Nelson

Portrait of Australian artist Catherine Nelson, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Catherine Nelson, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Catherine

Catherine Nelson is an Australian artist, living in Belgium and the Netherlands,  who uses digital technology as her paintbrush creating landscape ‘paintings’ and animations.

After completing her art education in painting at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney Catherine quickly moved into the world of film and television. She created visual effects for films such as Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter, 300 and Australia. Her job as a visual effects artist has taken her around the world having lived in Milan, London, Rome, Reykjavik, Bratislava, Brussels and Australia. In 2008 she started her own art studio in Gent and Amsterdam and has since dedicated her time fully to creating her own art.

Catherine Nelson’s artwork

Interview with Catherine

How do you describe your work to others?
Nature inspired photo collage.

Do you have a preferred medium?
Photography and video.

How do you begin new work?
With an idea inspired by a either a memory of a place or the place itself.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
Both. I try to create new series whilst continuing older ones.

What attracts you to your subjects?
Beauty. There is also a temporal aspect – the idea that what I am witnessing won’t remain the same.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
I take photos, hundreds of them. I always shoot too much and enjoy the looseness of the shoots. Bringing them into the computer is more time consuming and involves a lot of editing before I can even start the collage process.

What do you use as reference material?
Other photos where ever they come from.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
Both. It’s always a combination. At a certain point the skill reaches a level where there is less thinking involved.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Impossible to say – am still trying to figure it out.

Where do you create?
At home in my studio on the computer.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
It varies but generally it’s something like this – make some tea, sit down and start!

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Silence.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Sometimes.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
When I have the idea and I have worked out how to do it and am about to start.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Take it easy.

How do you alleviate the down times?
Move with it. Stay quiet and remind myself that nothing lasts forever

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
Many. The more you do it the more they happen.

I think my favourite yet also the hardest defining moments are when I learn from mistakes. And they will keep happening. There are few givens for artists and the playing field is ever changing so I am always learning and relearning.
Like I said, it’s hard but at the same time I love it.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
There are many but the latest was a recent animation by William Kentridge called More Sweetly Play the Dance. Powerful work. It is a huge multi projection work with animation, live footage and music. His work always has so much humanity. Always beautiful. Special artist.

Catherine’s website

Portrait Of Australian Artist Maree Clarke, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Maree Clarke | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Maree Clarke

Portrait of Australian artist Maree Clarke, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Maree Clarke, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Maree

Maree Clarke, a Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, BoonWurrung woman from Mildura in northwest Victoria, is a multi disciplinary artist living and working in Melbourne.

Maree Clarke is a pivotal figure in the reclamation of southeast Australian Aboriginal art practices, reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that were lost over the period of colonisation. Maree’s continuing desire to affirm and reconnect with her cultural heritage has seen her revification of the traditional possum skin cloaks, together with the production of contemporary designs of kangaroo teeth necklaces, and string headbands adorned with kangaroo teeth and echidna quills.

Maree Clarke’s multi media installations of photography, painting and sculpture further explore the rituals and ceremonies of her ancestors.

Biography courtesy of Vivien Anderson Gallery

Maree’s artwork

About Maree

How do you describe your work to others?
Reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that hasn’t been practiced for a very long time and passing on cultural knowledge to the next generation.

Do you have a preferred medium?
No, I work in lots of mediums and love what I’m doing at the time.

How do you begin new work?
I don’t sketch and I don’t write…I think of every angle of making my work…once I can see it completed…I’ll then make the work, whatever that may be.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
A bit of both…but at the end of the day my work is about telling my story of my family and the impact of the colonsiation/invasion.

What attracts you to your subjects?
It’s about telling story through art. You might not know what the work is about until you read the artist statement.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
I tend to think an awful lot and then bounce ideas off of my friends and family and then I make the work.

What do you use as reference material?
Museum collections and story from my family

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
A bit of both I think

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
I tend to work with earthy tones and ochre, white, black and red dirt.

Where do you create?
In my back yard or at the kitchen table or the lounge room. If I’m making big multimedia works. I tend to work at Footscray arts if they have available space.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
No…but I do like things neat and tidy when I start..

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Depends on what it is I’m making…but I tend to like silence when I’m making work.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
No…I find that harder than making work sometimes…

What’s your favourite part of creating?
Installing the new work in the gallery.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Never doubt what it is you’re doing.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
No.

How do you alleviate the down times?
This is very few and far between. But if it does happen…I talk to my gallery, Vivien Anderson Gallery, and a select group of friends.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
Involving my family in the performance pieces at my openings and involving my family in my multimedia artwork and international collaborative projects. Sharing the space with them and taking them on the journey. It’s very exciting.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Melbourne Now. I think it was a fantastic exhibition that showed the creatives living and working in or connected to Melbourne. We are the Art capital of Australia.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
How do you get major sponsorship for major productions/exhibitions?

What does the future hold for you?
Sharing my knowledge and skills with my family and the younger generations through art mentoring programs. Hopefully, I have inspired them to continue the work that I do by them telling their story through art. And also, working with Melbourne University to create a digital archive of my work over the last 30+ years and sharing that information and knowledge with the Aboriginal community and the wider community.

Portrait Of Australian Artist Cyrus Tang, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Cyrus Tang | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Cyrus Tang

Portrait of Australian artist Cyrus Tang, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Cyrus Tang, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Cyrus

Born in Hong Kong, Cyrus Tang moved to Australia in 2003. Cyrus completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) at Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne in 2004, and her Master of Fine Arts (Research) at Monash University, Melbourne in 2009.

Cyrus has received numerous residency programmes including Helsinki International Artist Program 2013; The National Art Studio in South Korea in 2012; Cite International de Arts, Paris in 2009 and The Banff Centre, Canada in 2008. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia and internationally including Helsinki, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, France, Shanghai and Sweden. Cyrus has also received prizes and grants such as Highly Commended Award of Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2016, Asia Link Residency Programme 2012; the Australian Council for the Arts : New Project in 2016, Skills and Arts Development Grant in 2011 and New Work Grant in 2009; George Mora Foundation Fellowship 2008; Theodor Urback Encouragement Award 2004 and The National Gallery of Victoria-Trustee Award 2003. She is currently represented by Arc One Gallery, Melbourne.

Cyrus Tang’s artwork

Interview with Cyrus Tang

How do you describe your work to others?
My work examines the paradox between ephemera and permanence.

Do you have a preferred medium?
I don’t stick to a certain medium, it depends on the concept of the project. I often use clay because I am fascinated with the form and status when it changes temperature or reacts to water. I also use other materials like wax, resin, steam, crystal and water in my work.

How do you begin new work?
It depends on the situation. If there is a particular collaboration project, I start with some research. I often have a very brief idea of what I want to try to achieve and then I work in the studio and let the process guide me to continue developing the work.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
When I graduated I tended to develop a new project for every solo show. In the past few years I’ve tried to drill into a certain idea until I’m unable to find any room to develop, then I feel like it’s finished. The book series for instance, I started in 2003, I parked the idea for 13 years and went back to redevelop it again in 2016 until the exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art in 2017. I felt like the book series needed to have an end.

What attracts you to your subjects?
I think every artist has a certain kind of obsession. Some artists are obsessed with colour, I’m drawn into capturing the disappearing.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
Material and process always guides me to develop new ideas. Very often, when there is a certain incident (something that’s out of my control or an unexpected incident), my brain starts to work. I feel like idea development is a dialogue between control and letting going of certain things we hold on to.

What do you use as reference material?
When I studied at Uni my favourite books were Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and Susan Stewart’s On Longing, and the author Haruki Murakami. Now, I like to refer to different material like movies and music.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
Kind of both. I always come in with a simple idea, and then continue developing the idea during the work process.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
White and black.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I clean my studio before I start to work.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Classical music. I find it calms my mood in my work.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Having a title of a project is like making an artwork. Sometimes the title comes with the work. Like my recent work Golden Hour, it came up when I wrote my proposal.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
The uncertainty, place of unknown.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Step away from your comfort zone.

How do you alleviate the down times?
Talk to my artist friends.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
There are a few moments I feel I’ve grown and changed. One moment was my Masters exhibition at Linden. I feel like I owned the space and let the space be part of the work. Therefore I only put my video and the water sculpture in a huge room and let the work breathe. I think I feel confident to work with emptiness after that show. Another moment was my recent show at TarraWarra, Victoria Lynn gave me a lot of trust on how to build the show. It let me play and decide what I wanted to achieve in the space. I think that trust gave me a lot of confidence in my art practice.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Christian Boltanski : No Man Land and Last Class. The work itself is simple but very powerful. The power just got into my heart. When I walked into the room, looking at the machine throwing the clothes on the mountain, it was like throwing all the dead bodies from the Holocaust. The sound was like many peoples heartbeat bounding into my body. It was an incredible work. The Last Class was an installation at a primary school and used the entire space. It was like a memorial of a hundred little children share their job and moment there. Something beautiful about his work is the soul. I feel like my heart melted when I walked into his installation.

Another one would be Unconditional Love at Venice Biennale 2009. The video by AES+F totally absorbed me. It took me into another strange romantic world.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
What keeps you going?
I think a lot of people have the talent to make art. I don’t think that success is talent. I believe what makes an artist become successful is their attitude in making art.

What does the future hold for you?
Just want to do what I love. I think we are very fortunate to have a chance to do something that we enjoy. Not many people have this privilege. They may never think of what they really want to achieve in their lives. Or they may simply live for survival. We are lucky to live in a safe place and have the time to think and work on our dream.

Cyrus’ website

Portrait Of Australian Artist Sonia Payes, By Ilona Nelson For This Wild Song

Sonia Payes | Portrait by Ilona Nelson

Sonia Payes

Portrait of Australian artist Sonia Payes, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Sonia Payes, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Sonia

Sonia Payes is a conceptually-based artist working with several mediums including photography, multi-media, animation and sculpture.  A strong environmental narrative permeates Payes’ works and the cycle of re-creation is explored in her wildly dystopian landscapes.

Her works are held in numerous public galleries in Australia and prestigious private collections in Australia, Shanghai, Beijing, Switzerland and Belgium.

Payes was born and resides in Melbourne, Australia.

Sonia Payes’ artwork

Interview with Sonia Payes

How do you describe your work to others?
Futuristic and dystopian, almost apocalyptic/dark

Do you have a preferred medium?
Photography and now sculpture which is all derived from my photographic work.

How do you begin new work?
I always have too many ideas. I always feel that ‘new work’ is really work that I didn’t complete for my last show. I actually have a table top full of notes and scribbles of what my next idea is. Then I cut and paste to create a mock up just for me to see if I like it, if it’s sculpture, otherwise I print up works and blu tac them to my studio walls to see if I like the images day after day.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
Oh definitely both!! My landscapes are a series of worlds, my worlds, but they are all a continuation just as life is a continuation.

What attracts you to your subjects?
Humanity in general. People living within their environment. Portraits and landscapes are all about the surrounding environment. The variety of life, the endless changing landscape of our world.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
My imagination, using my camera, pen, paper, scissors well before time spent using computer programmes.

What do you use as reference material?
My imagination, my family, my world, travel, museums.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
Definitely intuitively. When I started shooting portraits, the light and shadows all made so much clear sense to me without even having to work at it. My training taught me how to understand the old masters and how they used window light. There was no turning back for me. The light is what makes my work sing. The images (most of the images) have the depth in them that the light is the clear focus.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Colour? What’s that? Colour… very dark blue.
Tones … black, grey, all shades of dark.

Where do you create?
Permanently in my head. Every design I see, wherever I go I can see possibilities to adapt ideas to the presentation of my work.
Mostly at my studio. I also spend time with my computer genius, my foundary guys etc .

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
Always clean up first then start.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Need the sounds of silence, I crave that.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
No
Don’t like the idea of actually naming work but I do.
Don’t like putting ideas into the viewer head before they make their own.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
Showing my finished work to people.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Do a business course first.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
Not in the true sense but I am open to opinions from my art friends.

How do you alleviate the down times?
Gym, sleep and more sleep and food.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
Winning art prizes … best feeling ever.

What is the most memorable exhibition or artwork you have seen and why?
Richard Avedon in London about 17 years ago because the portraits were larger than life at eye level and extremely confronting.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
Want to swap work?

What does the future hold for you?
Growing family and a growing body of work spanning over many countries.

Sonia’s website

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