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Q&A: Susanna Castleden

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From top:
Susanna Castleden, 1:1 Airplane Wing (2015), frottage on gesso on maps, 4.16 x 12.69 metres. Photo: Susanna Castleden
Research trip in Arizona.
Susanna Castleden, 1:1 Wing (detail)
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Wing, Artwork by Susanna Castleden

Arising from a curiosity about how the world is encountered and represented, WA-based artist Susanna Castleden is interested in how the consequence and affect of global mobility has changed the way we see and perceive the world, and how this has necessitated alternative ways of visualising our position within it. Recent projects explore mobility and mapping specifically associated with leisure travel, examining the phenomenon of mobility and what it means to be part of a world on the move. Working in drawing, printmaking and text-based works Susanna creates large-scale works that often include sculptural or multi-part elements.

1:1 Wing and 1:1 Gangway are part of a series of works that consider moments of stillness within our mobile world. Created using a labour intensive process of rubbing – or frottage – these works require a time-based connection with objects that are usually in motion or are only encountered through mobility. The frottage is made on maps as a way of reflecting the geographical and cartographic relationships of travel whilst referencing the sites in which the work was made – an aircraft boneyard in the Mojave Desert and the Passenger Terminal at the Fremantle Port.

IMPRINT: What are some of the foundation ideas for your latest body of work?

SC: The works developed from my research into global mobility and mapping, looking at ways in which we come to know the world by moving around it. This then moved to look at stillness, particularly in relation to air travel. So, these ideas took me to an airplane boneyard in Arizona where I had access to stationary airplanes.

IMPRINT:  Scale is a notable feature – what sorts of challenges does this present?

SC: All sorts of challenges! There is a lot of time needed to prepare the gessoed paper – the work is made on maps layered with gesso and then rubbed to make the frottages. Then there is the time to actually do the rubbings, which in the case of the Wing is 13 metres and the Gangway is 16 metres. The wing was in the Mojave Desert, so heat and wind was an issue too. I also work with a wonderful assistant as there is a lot of planning, handing paper, and measuring that I can’t do alone. Then finding a gallery that will fit this scale works in is also a challenge!

IMPRINT: What are some of the most liberating aspects of printmaking for you?

SC: I love knowing a process really well and then thinking of ways to upturn that process.

IMPRINT:  What do you consider your most important innovations in your career?

SC: Working at large scale, questioning and  techniques, and finding out the amazing things paper can do.

IMPRINT: How has your work evolved in recent years?

SC: I have been really lucky in receiving funding for two of my larger projects, which has allowed me to do some things that I would never have been able to do otherwise. This has allowed my work to evolve in ways that are perhaps more adventurous and experimental.

Susanna Castleden’s work is in SPAN at Fremantle Arts Centre, Western Australia, until 26 March
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Susanna Castleden is an artist and senior lecturer at Curtin University, where she is
Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Design and Art. Susanna completed a
PhD at RMIT University, Melbourne in 2014. Susanna has received several awards
including the Linden Art Prize (VIC) in 2015; second place in the Fremantle Print
Award 2014; Joondalup Art Award in 2011; the Burnie Print Prize (TAS) in 2013 and
the Bankwest Art Prize also in 2013. Susanna was shortlisted to exhibit in the 2014
International Print Biennale in UK and most recently held solo exhibitions at the
China Academy of Art in Hangzhou China and at Turner Galleries in Perth.