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Filomena Coppola

About Filomena

Filomena Coppola’s work is a response to being born in the regional Victorian town of Mildura to Italian immigrants. Her work explores the complexities of duality and what it is to navigate a journey between two cultures. Her delicate pastels capture these moments of duality – of being a hybrid of Italian/Australian cultures. This is represented in her work through presence/absence, plant/animal, and internal/external. Together these elements subvert their original forms and create a new context which infers to a possibility of nature morphed, changing and mutating.

Filomena has exhibited widely over the past ten years and has been included in several drawing exhibitions including JADA Drawing Award, The Robert Jacks Drawing Award, the City of Banyule Drawing Award and The Hutchins Drawing Prize, where she was awarded a Judges Selection in 2001, and she was awarded The City of Hobart Art Prize in 1994. Filomena has been the recipient of several awards and residencies including Regional Arts Victoria Project Funding in 2012, the Vermont Studio Centre Residency and Part Fellowship, Vermont, USA in 2004, Ian Potter Foundation Individual Grant in 2001, Arts Tasmania Development Grant in 1999 and the Rosamond McCulloch Scholarship to the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris in 1997. Her work is represented in collections including Artbank, Parliament House Collection, Canberra, Print Council of Australia, University of Tasmania, Launceston and Hobart, Mornington Peninsula Gallery, The Hutchins School, Banyule City Council and the Devonport Art Gallery.

Filomena’s artwork

Interview

How do you describe your work to others?
My work is my preferred language of communication.  Born to Italian parents in regional Victoria, I always felt that I was between two cultures, languages and expectations.  Making images was the only method of expression that was the most honest and complete.

Do you have a preferred medium?
Not really, although I do love drawing, I tend to go where the work takes me.  And for the moment the work is becoming more sculptural, sometimes it requires the use of photography as a means of documentation and even stitching.  I like to think that I don’t have to confine myself to a medium that is for other people to decide.  I am more interested in the making and the ability to convey what I feel needs to be expressed through the work.

How do you begin new work?
There is never really a beginning as one work or idea leads to another.  Making and creating for decades means that there really is no beginning – it is just a continuum.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
The sculptural works are in series as they respond to specific sites and locations and the works are made from materials specific to each location, however each series does lead to the next so it is a continuum.  The drawings are more of a continuation but you can see the exploration of ideas, which may take several years to work through.  I think of each drawing as a word in a sentence as often they relate to the drawing I made before and the one that comes after.  Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine them separated.

What attracts you to your subjects?
Mostly I work with natural forms and in the drawing they are nearly always flowers or plants.  I feel that they are the perfect base to add expression, emotion and personality.  I want the work to invoke an emotional response by the viewer and this influences what and how I create.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
I definitely work more intuitively, I usually see what I want to make in my mind and then have to work out how to make it or draw it.  Sometimes this can take a long time and a lot of research into materials and process especially in regard to the sculptural works.  The stitched works with the leaves are all intuition and it starts as something small and then develops on its own into something completely different.  The older I get the more strongly I trust my intuition to lead me in the right direction.  I am also big reader and am constantly living in the other worlds that words allow me to create.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
I love colour and it is hard to pick a favourite.  However there are colours that I find more challenging to work with, but it doesn’t mean that they are a lesser favourite.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I always start with with my biagletti coffee maker – the ritual of making the coffee, the smell and then the taste.  It’s the Italian in me – very grounding.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
My favourite part is where my mind goes when I am making work.  It seems to go to a wonderfully nebulous place where there are infinite possibilities.  Where thoughts, images, feelings and insights move freely with out limits or boundaries.  All things become possible.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
It’s not what you think it is going to be and only listen to people you respect.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
The defining moments are the personal achievements.  Making something that I never through I could – that would be Chasing the Disappeared where I firstly had to make an easel to hold the roll of paper (at the bottom and top).  Then working on the drawing whilst only seeing 80cm at a time of and 8 metre long drawing.  Working with sound and collecting voices for the alphabet piece in Mother Tongue.  Or grinding and sanding petrified redgum to make it feel like delicate weathered pebble forms and then having the courage to paint on them in Fish out of Water – Murray Cod.  Stitching though gum leaves to make an alphabet.  These are all personal achievements which are more encouraging, inspiring and sustaining than the things I thought at the start of my art making.

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