Q&A with Teelah George

Teelah GeorgeLessons from Craigslist Mirrors #2, 2016, offset lithograph, 42 x 29.7 cm. Image commissioned for the cover of Imprint Autumn Vol. 51 No. 1 and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 posters. Photograph: Tony Nathan. Posters available for purchase for $15 each through the PCA website.

‘I still don’t really know what being an artist actually is, except that it involves doing many different things. It kind of breaks down all these categories that we use to make the world seem less strange and I like that.’ 

Visual artist Teelah George lives and works in Cottesloe, WA. Photograph: Thomas Rowe

What (or who) informed your decision to become an artist?

I’m not really sure. I was always into making things as a child, but never had enough confidence to proclaim any desire to be an artist when I was at university (perhaps not a good disposition for an art student). I went overseas immediately after finishing my studies, where I spent time working and travelling – not making anything.

After a couple of years I realised something was not right and that I wanted to make things, that making things was part of my thinking, so I got back into it. I came back to Perth mid 2012 and became obsessed with the studio. I started having shows.

I still don’t really know what being an artist actually is, except that it involves doing many different things. It kind of breaks down all these categories that we use to make the world seem less strange and I like that.

Can you tell me a little more about your work Effect of Dose on Taste (New Phase), which was awarded the non-acquisitive prize in the 2015 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award?

It developed from an obsession with an old banner I would pass on my way to the studio. I would get off the bus to look at it as it clung to a wall in North Fremantle and it just resonated with me in terms of the ideas I have about life and what I think about through my work. Here was this object that had been manipulated by the weather and by time: its original meaning and physical form was transforming – I wanted to continue the shifting of materiality and context.

After procuring the banner I tentatively sewed a boarder around the sparse threads and documented it in collaboration with Bo Wong. I knew as soon as I started thinking about it that it had to be in the print award.

I am really interested in collections, archives and the materiality of such places. To me collections are imbued with the loveliest contradiction – they attempt to keep objects fixed in perpetuity, knowing full well that everything changes.

The object itself is ephemeral and the work now exists as a print of the object’s documentation. The University of Western Australia Art Collection has since acquired it, which is conceptually relevant to the work.

What does a day in the studio look like for you?

It varies. At the moment I am going between painting, ceramics and textile-based making. It is always pretty messy. Other studio days involve more research based activities or office duties. Walking, cleaning, looking – everything informs the studio.

How did you approach the March 2016 cover commission for Imprint?

I was working on the project while undertaking a residency at Artspace last year. At the time I was doing a lot of painting and the residual scraps of linen from this process became the initiator. I am very interested in peripheral processes, objects and observations and wanted to create a situation where I could bring this into a new material and context.

The object that is represented is intimate, tactile and unfinished, but it changes context and materiality within the printed medium of the magazine. From each process something is transferred but it also changes. I am interested in the malleability of materials and stories, so conceptually printmaking has a strong bearing on my practice.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working towards a couple of solo shows in Melbourne.

After coming back from my Sydney residency at the end of last year, I became focused on Cottesloe, where I live. It is a wonderful place, I love it, but I am always thinking about what it was like before white settlement and what it meant to the first Australians and how much we don’t know about this.

I have been doing a lot of historical research and the shows are very much influenced by this. The first show, Sleazy Vignette, in April at Rubicon ARI, will be a series of small but heavily worked paintings that laminate my present day experience with imaginings of history and myth.

My second show, in May at Schoolhouse studios, is directly influenced by a specific crow man myth of the Cottesloe region. It revolves around a changing of forms, again this idea of transformation. The show will include ceramics, textiles, prints and paintings – that’s what I have planned for now anyway.

www.teelahgeorge.com.au