‘I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.‘
How did you start out as an artist?
I started out as an artist by doing VCE art then completing a fine arts honours degree at RMIT. I was always encouraged to be an artist by family, friends and teachers from very early on so it gave me a strong sense of what I wanted to do with my life. It hasn’t always been easy to pursue an art career, as most artists will attest, but it’s never been boring! It’s very fulfilling and at times absolutely thrilling.
What is it about printmaking that attracts you?
I love the marks, the directness, the chances, the accidents, the absolute joy of the first proof, the satisfaction of completing a challenging piece, the unique possibilities of expressiveness, the relationship printmaking has to drawing, the integrity of the medium and the fact that, for me, the subject and the medium are often the same, interconnecting quite often with the themes I pursue and the manner in which I create the plates.
I love the way it feels to gouge deeply into a plate to create powerful and rich velvety blacks, and the contrast of sensitivity that a light touch allows. Each plate offers a new passport to exciting new worlds … and, of course, it’s plain great fun.
Can you tell us about the process of making work for New York Mythic?
It all began with my first trip to New York in 2007. I have made several trips to Manhattan over the years. This is a very large show. It features three bodies of work and around eighty-five artworks.
It pulls together a selection of the 2008 drypoints from the series Citscapes of New York. Also it includes a body of etchings that were started in 2013 but etched this year and will be shown for the first time in Australia as part of New York Mythic. Then there is the forty or so artworks made just this year, a collection of paintings, charcoal drawings, drypoints and mixed media.
To create New York Mythic I started by making sketches in situ in New York from various vantage points such as the Chrysler Building but also, for the first time, used photos as a reference. These were snapped whilst white knuckled and terrified (I’m afraid of heights!) in a helicopter flight over the City of New York.
I wanted this show to capture New York as an imagined and expressive construct, views that may give the viewer a new perspective not only literally but also in the use of mediums and approaches.
Some of the works are very big – up to eleven and a half feet. I think this engages the viewer in a way that smaller works don’t.
With these big images I poured ink and water and built layers over and over until the images started to guide me. I wanted to have a sense of scale that I had not previously explored. I also have drypoints in this show that are four by six feet. They are deeply gouged and were incredibly physically challenging to scratch, ink and print – though I think this physicality, this exertion of energy is fitting. The subject and the medium, as mentioned earlier, become one. New York has this monolithic sense of imposing power and a formidable presence and I was driven by these feelings in making the work.
Do you have particular rituals or routines that contribute to your creative process?
Yes I do. If I have time I like to start with a coffee at my local cafe and write in my journal. Sometimes I like to plan my day and have an idea of what I may tackle but other times that may change completely. I like to be organised but it generally doesn’t last longer than two minutes, and that’s if I’m lucky! When I’m right in the middle of producing a whole body of work it’s often a bit chaotic with a constant reordering to make sure I’m on track.
I like to have all sorts of music playing, classical, pop and lots of jazz or sometimes the football … I’m a sad Collingwood supporter, but it offers me a nice break from the studio. Cricket also gets a run at times.
I like to work regularly in my studio but also have great enjoyment making paintings and prints in situ on worksites or in landscapes.
I don’t tend to wait for inspiration to strike, I just go in my studio and work. I do, however, take time away to restore my energy and allow space for new work to come into being.
What do you hope people will get from the experience of viewing your work?
I hope people get the feeling that they are not only seeing an image that represents the physical place but also a sense of what it’s like to be there, what your body might feel like when it’s in front of these cities or landscapes. What your senses tell you about a place. I hope the viewer might feel a sense of connection to the marks that represent the subject as much as the subject itself. I hope that they also may get a sense of me in the work too, and of themselves as much as the places I draw.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new book with the great author John Hughes.
Previously we worked on the book The Garden of Sorrows together, which featured sixty of my etchings, and are now collaborating on a new book. I have been making new drawings for that project.
Also, The Garden of Sorrows is in early production to become a theatrical performance by the wonderful Snuff Puppets. The first introductory performance was performed at the NGV Australia last year and the further complete performances should be ready for touring next year.