tony bond

Photo: Anne Graham

Tony Bond OAM, is the Director, Curatorial at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), where he has collected international works for the gallery since 1984. In this interview, Tony discusses current international perceptions of Australian art, the benefits of collecting international art, and the challenges he has faced in building the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of New South Wales over the past thirty years.

Interview by Elinor King

How do you think the current Australian visual art sector is perceived by the wider international community?

Australian visual art is far better known now than it was 30 years ago.  A number of artists, writers and curators have made important contributions overseas and today they tend to be acknowledged as Australians, whereas they often used to disregard their place of origin and even disguise it.  However it is still difficult to have an international profile and live in Australia. This is partly a matter of visibility.  Even in an electronic age face to face encounters matter. Collectors often like to socialise with artists and if dealers can’t deliver this they tend not to make the artist a significant player in their stable.

I have also noted that international curators will often talk about the importance of a given Australian artist and how shocking it is that they are not better known overseas but when asked what they plan to do about it, they nearly always side step the issue. Artists one meets routinely at openings and dinners are more likely to get included in exhibitions and collections. While this might sound very unprofessional it is none the less a factor in human behaviour.  Some artists manage to shuffle back and forth between continents but it makes normal relationships hard and it is an expensive and uncertain way of doing things.

Having said this I should acknowledge that the Asian region has created new opportunities.  Japan and now China have become very open to Australian artists. In Japan the combination of Art Front and the Triennials organised by Fran Kitagawa have been very welcoming to Australians and in some cases opportunities to make permanent public artworks through Artfront have also been created. The Embassy in Tokyo is also very proactive as the opening of a new Australia House in Echigo testifies.  In China it has been expats who have created openings. Redgate residencies have a long history of helping Australian artists make work and find gallery spaces to show their work. China Art Projects also works to bring Chinese artists to Australia and vice versa.  Both these agencies are run by Australians and they make spending time in Beijing surprisingly easy and enjoyable.

Do you think that the current Australian arts sector represents international perspectives well? What would you change or improve?

I think that the best of Australian art is thoroughly engaged with the international art world.  Communications are so good these days and so many people in the arts travel as a matter of course that it is difficult not to be part of the conversation.  Recently a few commercial galleries have become far more international.  In the past dealers could not afford the risk of acquiring international work to exhibit in Australia but that was the only way they could get a serious body of work here.

Part of the problem was also that as collectors started buying overseas, they also became part of the art crowd turning up regularly at White Cube dinners for example –   why would they buy from a gallery here when the best work had already sold in London or New York and the artist was usually not around to socialise in Australia.  Some dealers have taken this head on and not only made sure the artist comes but have also taken the extraordinary risk of bringing out major works. One extraordinary case was Anna Schwartz commissioning Antony Gormley to build a monstrous steel figure that filled her vast Carriageworks gallery.

Some dealers have been regular participants in international art fairs representing Australian art in Europe, USA and now more and more in Asia.  This is an important way of bringing our artists to the attention of collectors and curators but it is also an expensive exercise. So far I have not mentioned the Australia Council whose programmes of residencies and involvement in biennales, especially Venice, has made some headway. I have always thought that there should be a sum set aside to support artists selected by overseas curators for significant exhibitions almost as a matter of course.  Most overseas artists get some support from their arts agencies or dealers.  The geographic isolation of Australia does add to the costs both for the artist and for the exhibitors so some assistance is a big incentive.  Such inclusion of Australians in critically reviewed exhibitions is worth any number of national flag ship exhibitions which tend to remain curiosities not always sought out by opinion leaders.

What do you believe are the benefits of representing international perspectives of art within public art collections in Australia?

It would be unthinkable not to represent a broad range of international art here.  While getting Australians out into the world is important, many more developing artists and students will encounter international artists in collections and exhibitions in Australia.   This exposure should be an important part of their early engagement with the best examples of the art of their time.  Isolation is not a good thing – you can see examples of it particularly in regional centres where many artists feed off their own community and spiral inevitably towards a form of repetitive craft activity that speaks only to a quirky local audience. The same would happen to Australian art as a whole if it did not engage. I hasten to add that there are some very fine artists living in relative isolation in the bush but who have maintained an expansive vision of the world. Brian Blanchflower is one of these.

Unfortunately there are far too few significant collections of international art on display in Australia.  In some cases it is lack of space allocated and this is a major issue for the future.  In other cases there just has not been the continuity and focus on contemporary art collecting.  This is why Biennales still have a place and why spaces such as ACCA in Melbourne and Art Space and [the] MCA in Sydney play such an important role.  Permanent collections are none the less important because if they are well made, well deployed and interpreted they form a lasting opportunity to reflect on the meaning and place in the history of art that exhibitions which come and go do not allow.  Generations of school children may then learn not only what is hot but what has been significant in getting to where we are today in terms of ideas and powerful experiences of objects from around the world and over time.

As head of curatorial at the AGNSW, you have been in charge of collecting international art for the permanent collection. What is the process to acquire a work and what are some of the challenges you have faced in acquiring international works?

The collection I have built is rather special because in 1984 there was no international contemporary collection so I had the opportunity to start one from scratch. That is a rare privilege that I have taken very seriously.  The first step was to decide on the scope of such a collection. Neither funds nor space permitted a comprehensive representation of art movements or individuals. The collection would start from 1984 rather than attempting a contemporary history from the 1960s or Avant Garde precursors of the early Twentieth Century.  This remains the most serious gap in the collection today.

I needed a framework to narrow the field and to allow for coherence in both display and interpretation which is essential for a collection to function in the gallery. I decided that the collection should explore key ideas in the recent history of art. The single most important figure in this history would be Marcel Duchamp. It was not the anti-aesthetic Duchamp I was interested in but the inventor of a language of objects and materials that had an affinity with the subject rather than making a picture of it.

This idea of Duchamp’s could be summarised as employing an ‘ontological communion’ between signifier and signified. It was to liberate art from the limitation of pictorial illustration for coming generations and this had become widely understood through diverse art movements such as Nouveau Realisme, Arte Povera, Minimalism and other forms of Neo Dada and conceptual art. This was the philosophical territory that allowed artists to explore the relation between mind and matter, embodied memory, affect as embedded in the object and liberated by the responsive observer.  It constituted a narrative about key issues in late twentieth century art.

In practical terms it involved a lot of travel to most parts of the world, but I confess most often to Europe in the early days. It was necessary to let the most relevant dealers know we were collecting seriously and to convey the ideas that were driving the process.  This involved multiple visits not only to dealers but to artists’ studios and major exhibitions.  Finding the right work by the right artist that would talk to other works in the collection was of paramount importance. Getting to know artists helped define the ideas I was to work with.  I have learnt far more from artists than from more academic sources but it is also true that most of the artists I admire turned out to be fantastically well read and profoundly engaged with art now and with art history.

How do major exhibitions at the gallery tie in with the permanent collection?

The major exhibitions I have curated provided fantastic opportunities to meet more artists and work with them.  All of them have fed into my ideas about what art is and thus to my interpretation of the collection.  I also often acquired work from the artists I exhibited.  Not necessarily straight away, our funds trickle in slowly and in any case the best works for an exhibition were not necessarily right for the collection.

Milestones have been The British Show (1985), Boundary Rider (the 9th Biennale of Sydney), Body, Trace (the inaugural Liverpool Biennale, UK), and Self Portraits: Renaissance to Contemporary.  The British show happened while I was thinking out the philosophy of the collection and helped me to get my head around a number of fundamental ideas such as ‘ontological communion’, the void and the horizon which I now see as paired manifestations of the boundary between consciousness and matter which is where art is the most powerful instrument for investigation. Artists I met then became lifelong friends and many of them came into the collection over the years including Gormley, Kapoor, Law, Houshiary, Deacon and Willats.

Boundary Rider used the idea of bricollage and found objects as a language that might transcend cultural difference.  Artists who came into the collection subsequently were Doris Salcedo, Perejaume, Haim Steinbach, Svetlana Kopystiansky, Adrian Piper and Rachel Whiteread.

Body was the natural sequel to Boundary Rider. It explored the principle of embodiment and embodied memory.  I included Salcedo again and we now have two very important works in the collection. I also acquired portfolios of Ana Mendieta, and Wiener Aktionismus artists, Videos of Abramovic, Acconci and Paul McCarthy.

www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au    

Gerald

Gerald McMaster with co-artistic director Catherine de Zegher

This year’s 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations, is all about collaboration and conversation. Its co-artistic director, Gerald McMaster, speaks with arts interview about how he helped bring together more than 100 artists from around the world to exhibit across five iconic Sydney venues.

Interview by Heather Jennings

What are the challenges in working with artists and other stakeholders from around the world for a major arts event?

Communication is the most complex issue, though it’s partly solved by the latest generation of computer connectivity, something old-school curators had to live without from the 1970s to the 1990s.

We worked with over 100 artists from all parts of the world, each with challenges unique to their project: whether it was trying to raise additional monies to realize a large-scale idea; managing the complexity of shipping works from across the globe; or finding enough volunteers to help install the works in Sydney.

What sort of cultural differences have arisen in developing and implementing the event and how have you overcome these?

Cultural difference has been particularly interesting, especially in addressing contemporary art from different regions around the world. We visited at least 44 countries, so you can imagine the cultural differences we encountered. What helped along the way was talking with local curators, who often provided not only logistical assistance, but also conversational support to explore ideas and intellectual connections.

We assume today that cultural diversity is much more accepted worldwide. John McDonald of The Sydney Morning Herald recently said this is the “least Eurocentric Biennale”, which speaks to the fact we wanted to show great work from unusual sources. Australia prides itself on being a multicultural society, but this isn’t the reason we made the selections we made. The world is changing rapidly so it is counter intuitive to stick to old paradigms.

What time management methods have you employed to successfully travel and work in different countries in the lead up to the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations?

I would have to say that recent trends in social media usage have reified our notion of collaboration and conversation. Without it we would not have been able to do an exhibition of this scale. Time has shrunk so much of what we do that many more details can be handled at once.

The Biennale staff were exceptional. They were organised in all aspects of creating a large and complex exhibition, so that helped to take away much of the worry from the artistic directors.

How does spending time in different countries inform your curatorial practices and ideas for future projects?

I find it almost obligatory to be in the country where the artists have lived most of their lives. In some instances, artists now live elsewhere, which made it difficult for me to visit, but on the whole it was important to visit the many countries if only to acquaint myself with the art and culture of the region.

“How much did I learn from others about their regional artistic practices?” and “What is it that I’ll take away from all this?” are questions that have guided me along the way, that will have a profound effect on how I see artists living and working in various parts of the world. I saw a lot that made me take notice.

The thing I take away from each of my visits is the many stories that were exchanged. Storytelling is such a beautiful human quality, and this is an idea that formed the basis for the exhibition.

The Biennale of Sydney: all our relations runs until September 16. http://bos18.com/

Leigh

Photo: Alex Makeyev

Leigh Warren is an incredible talent in both the Australian and international dance scenes. His award winning dance company, Leigh Warren and Dancers (LWD) are touring the prestigious Edinburgh festival and New York Summer Stage Festival. Leigh Warren kindly shares with arts interview his thoughts on dance in Australia and the rest of the world.

 Interview by Vanessa Anthea Macris

You established Leigh Warren and Dancers in 1993 and next year will mark its 20th anniversary, which is an incredible achievement. What do you attribute to the longevity of the company?

Well I think it’s a little bit of passion and madness really. We are just dedicated to what we do and have been very lucky to receive support along the way. We really have followed our hearts performing what we want to perform rather than be dictated to. Sheer passion drives you through the more difficult times.

How would you describe the difference between the contemporary dance scene in Australia compared with Europe or the rest of the world?

The Australian tradition is not so long established in a way. There were some fantastic people in the early days, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s when Elizabeth Dalman established the Australian Dance Theatre that Australia got anything that remotely resembled dance companies that were in Europe.  I think we are certainly on our way but we have had a slower start because we are such a young nation. One of the major differences is our physical isolation from the rest of the world and the great thing is that we have managed to turn it into an advantage. Our isolation has allowed our dancers to develop our own way of doing things, of staging and conceiving performances. Whereas my generation of dancers went overseas to study and join companies before returning back home to Australia, young dancers these days have a variety of companies to join here in this country. Another difference is that we are not saddled with a long tradition in the same way as the Americans or Europeans and so our dance is far less pressured and this really impacts on the type of performances being made. When I was in Europe recently all the performances were really dark and when we took the stage it was like a room full of sunshine.

Is that how you’d describe the latest performance ‘Pari Pasu’ that you are touring to the Edinburgh festival and the New York Summer Stage Festival?

Well to a degree yes. Lets just say it will be a very uplifting performance. It was originally created for the outdoors for the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival and so the whole focus is to recreate the sense of being outdoors and to really loose any sense of being in a theatre.  Audiences and performers are at times very conscious of being in the theatre or on the stage, but this performance really transports you. We hope that the performance will be very uplifting for an international audience and quite a surprise for them.

What are the challenges you’ve encountered in preparing for touring a production internationally?

Well the first challenge for us is that we are not a full time company and as such we always have very short rehearsal periods and to get the production up to international standards is always a huge task. Its tough work as you need to get the dancers into condition and then into a stylistic mode so the greatest challenge for my company is getting the dancers working to the best of their ability for the production in a short period of time. Right now we are rehearsing three productions, which at times is a little chaotic but I have total faith in the dancers that everything will come together. Everyone is so focused and all the dancers in the company are so passionate about dancing so they don’t really need reminders about where they are there which makes my job easier.

What are the key differences between dance audiences in Australia compared with the rest of the world?

I think every audience is different, but having said that there are certain cultures that are what I would describe as more ‘dance literate’. The most wonderful audience for me was in Indonesia because dance for an Indonesian audience was not abstract or disconnected from the body, but rather an extension of communication. Performing for that kind of an audience was wonderful. When I compare this to a more Western audience, they have a tendency to be more intellectual and analytical in nature and seem to always strive to derive meaning from the piece as opposed to just enjoying the piece.  Having said this, each culture is exposed to different forms of dance and so this will most certainly affect they way an audience responds.

www.lwd.com.au

Chrissie

Chrissie Ianssen’s work as a practicing community and visual artist spans over four years; in her work for the New Neighbours’ Project and the Refugee Art Project, Ianssen has been influential in expanding Parramatta as a community cultural hub in Western Sydney.  Ianssen talks with arts interview about her work on these projects and her upcoming project which will see her relocate to her childhood suburb of Ryde.

Interview by Janette Gay

Can you tell us about the New Neighbours’ Project and the Refugee Art Project?

In mid 2011 the New Neighbours’ Project got started here in North Parramatta with funding and support from Parramatta Council who sourced disused demountable buildings from Housing NSW.  As part of Pop Up Parramatta these buildings were then converted into studio spaces and the project provided an opportunity for artists interested in working with the community to showcase their artwork.

I had been getting involved with a loose collective of people, mainly academics and artists who, with Safdar Ahmed, were the driving force behind the Refugee Art Project. These committed people go into Villawood Detention Centre and work with detainees on paintings, drawings and sculptures and then assist them to put on exhibitions. At that time a number of the asylum seekers had been released from detention and were keen to secure a studio space to continue their art.  The idea of expanding the space for exchange in visual arts arose.  The art space is run by the refugees who work here, hosting open days and organising exhibitions.  Through this project they get to be part of Sydney’s art world.

The New Neighbours’ Project continues to collaborate with the Refugee Art Project which recently held an exhibition, titled “Life in Limbo”.  One innovative piece in the exhibition, produced at the North Parramatta studios by recently released artist, Majid Rabet portrays the Anzac Bridge constructed partly using an angle grinder from spaghetti.  Finding tools is always a challenge, and whilst in detention Majid did not let this stop his creativity and he collected cat’s fur to make paint brushes.

The Refugee Art Project in many ways grew out of the frustration with government immigration policy and people wanted to take action that is positive and meaningful.  Detention runs roughshod over people’s ability to take part in everyday life and this project is a real antidote, enabling their experiences to be expressed through the medium of visual arts. 

How do you involve a diverse range of people in community arts initiatives?

Engaging people, particularly the specific refugee and migrant community is really organic, often ad hoc and chaotic, often with very little happening for months.  Community arts development needs to be evolutionary, keeping the community project alive and open ended during quiet times is critical.  That is why later this year we are aiming to broaden and reinvigorate participation through workshops run partnering with Majid, Cicada Press, College of Fine Arts (COFA) and DLux Media Arts.

What community arts projects are next for you?

I am now returning after 17 years to my home suburb Ryde, using this as the base for my next community project. Parramatta, Redfern and Darlinghurst might be seen as artistic hubs, but rarely Ryde.  When I was growing up, there wasn’t much happening for artistic people like me, so I am now keen to activate more awareness of contemporary arts in the area.

In many ways the idea for this Ryde project started back in 2010 when I was awarded the Parramatta Visual Artists Fellowship, which provides a 12 month stipend. There I created art based on the diversity of architecture and ornamentation, and the different ways the styles of other countries are placed over the top of the English architecture, such as Greek columns stuck on Federation houses.  But I mainly took photos of houses and didn’t meet the people inside and to be honest I felt a little like a trespasser.

In the Ryde project, I want to engage directly with people and the (Ryde) Council is assisting me to meet with a broad range of community members, many born overseas.  Their homes are showcases for keepsakes and ornaments they have bought with them or were handed down from family members.  They show the “migratory paths” of many Australians.  I am exploring past periods of design that are carried in mass produced objects and the narrative that is underneath.  The project is a real stretch for me as a painter but it indirectly builds on my Masters of Visual Arts which was about the abstraction of Norwegian knitting patterns. This work will come together in an exhibition in October this year at Brush Farm House, in Eastwood.

www.chrissieianssen.com

 

Zhang Di

Executive Director, Zhang Di (pictured on right)

Established in the 798 Art District in Beijing during 2004, White Space Beijing is a professional art agency that seeks to promote contemporary Chinese art to an international audience. With their long lines of groundbreaking curatorial projects, it is the gallery’s intention to establish a professional and stylish platform between artists and collectors, and play an important role in its cooperating artists’ respective careers. Executive Director Zhang Di talks to arts interview about the role of diversity in shaping the gallery and its exhibitions.

 Interview by Iris SiYi Shen

Tell me a little about the mission and activities of White Space?

“Mission” includes a lot of things. White Space is aimed at representing as much Chinese contemporary art as possible, and introducing great contemporary art to more people. It intends to establish a professional and stylish platform between artists and collectors, and to play an important role in its co-operating artists’ respective careers. The vitality of White Space lies in its youthfulness and diversity. The cooperation between our vigorous and creative team in collaboration with our young artists has created a whole new picture of Chinese contemporary art.

What does diversity means to you and White Space?

 The above mentioned “diversity” is still in the context of contemporary art, which means the plurality of human beings.

To elaborate the last question, what quality do you look for in selecting artists in terms of diversity?  

It’s a very specific question, but I don’t think there can ever be any quantitative criteria. We are very open-minded when choosing cooperating artists, that is to say, we don’t set limitations in any artwork’s genre, media, value system, culture or form. We encourage our artists to experiment in various things and try to explore the possibilities within them. We also give them as much support and convenience as we can. We find that a broad vision, a clear mind and great execution are important attributes for artists.

How do you find balance in representing artists that are culturally stimulating as well as commercially viable?

We won’t put special emphasis on this question. In the art industry, business is not contradictory to art in professional hands. We believe that art is a progressive social force. Even though business is a very important sector in the art system it can never be the ultimate goal.

Therefore we are very discreet in dealing with business issues and try to control this relationship. It is very subtle. For a gallery with solid attitude, sales could happen during the process of exhibiting and promoting artists or artworks. This exchange can also promote communication and education. It is serious and constructive.

As a commercial gallery, do you find it difficult to be consistently showcasing a diverse range of artists and their works? What are the challenges?

Chinese galleries often share certain responsibilities with art museums. We regularly hold 6-10 exhibitions every year, including various art forms. Of course we’ll meet a lot of difficulties, but it’s also interesting and much more fun this way.

To be frank, we find the public to be less responsive to mediums of performance such as installation and video art than they are to painting. We need a rather long time to promote it, to make more people understand and care for them. It needs quite a lot expertise, patience, and perseverance.

http://www.whitespace-beijing.com/

Andrew

Andrew Clark, Deputy Director, Programming and Corporate Services, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Andrew Clark is the Deputy Director, Programming and Corporate Services at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Clark joined the gallery in 1989 and has worked towards and witnessed QAGOMA’s continuous growth in audience numbers and its importance as an international institution. Clark talks to arts interview about audiences and diversity.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

 QAGOMA has become well known for being an audience-focused institution. How important is audience engagement for the success of contemporary art institutions?

Successful -but also meaningful -audience engagement is at the core of our role. In the last two decades, art museums have undergone enormous shifts in the ways they consider their roles and the potential role of museums in people’s everyday lives. Even more than our desire to do this – our audiences have demanded that we change. There have been many theories, dissertations and critiques as to the nature of this shift, but essentially, it can be summed up quite simply: in the twenty-first century, museums are no longer primarily about objects, they are for people.

What are the most important considerations in your role when developing public programming?

There are a few key considerations: Art, artists, museum and audience. We see the role of the gallery to put audiences in touch with artists and their ideas – to take on different roles for different audiences. The art museum today must have multiple voices and work on various platforms to engage their audiences.

We try and extend audience engagement as far as it can go, constantly thinking about ways to innovate. The overarching philosophy of the gallery’s Children’s Art Centre, for example, is that ‘art is for everyone’, but this notion drives all of our programming, for visitors young and old.

Increasingly, art museums are becoming aware they can  extend their role into the social realm, offering new ways for people to meet one another and have a meaningful experience in the museum while also simply enjoying a good time.  ‘Up Late’ Friday night opening events incorporate live contemporary music, talks and a bar into the exhibition-viewing experience, while theGOMA Talks evening discussions include social media into live events that tackle contemporary topics beyond the arts. Both of these enable a broader engagement with our audiences, and provide interactive opportunities that respond to audiences’ interests and address the competitive market of social interaction that museums now operate within and must acknowledge.

How do you rank the importance of attracting local audiences compared with attracting outer state or international audiences?

All audiences – local, regional, national, international and even virtual – are crucial to the life of the art museum. We are trying to not only attract visitation to the gallery and boost cultural tourism, but also offer ways for those who cannot be here in Brisbane. We are increasingly webcasting our public programs (lectures, discussions and talks) online so that people who can’t make it to the gallery can still experience the program live. We also run a very successful touring program of Children’s Art Centre activities, which is developed specifically for children and families in regional and remote Queensland. This is a very rewarding program that aims to extend the gallery into the home and the community more broadly, and aims to make art a part of the whole community of Queensland, beyond Brisbane. As I mentioned earlier, we have many stakeholders, but we are the state gallery and take our responsibility to the people of Queensland very seriously.

What are the broad diversity considerations and goals for QAGOMA?

Audience diversity is extremely important and we are always looking for new avenues to develop stronger connections with audiences. We do this by providing an incredible array of programs and events including our Toddler Tuesday, New Wave Teens and My Gen 50+ programs to involve the young, the old, and everyone in between. We also undertake a number of initiatives to engage with those who have a disability or impairment, such as our Auslan-interpreted tours. It’s vital we seek avenues to broaden the cultural diversity of our audiences.  Exhibitions like the Asia Pacific Triennial are key to this.

qagoma.qld.gov.au

Since the date of this interview, Andrew Clark has taken up a new position as the Deputy Director at the National Gallery of Victoria

Lisa cooper

Photo: Harold David

Dr Lisa Cooper is a Sydney-based artist who works in video, paint, sculpture and flowers, whose works have included custom-sized crowns for the Sydney Theatre Company, video projects on Cockatoo Island and a jewellery range called ‘The Butcher’s Daughter’. She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Fine Art from the College of Fine Arts at UNSW. Dr Cooper spoke to arts interview about diversity in her work and the challenges faced by artists working in different mediums.

Interview by Elinor King

Can you tell us about yourself and your experience?

I am equally motivated by the conceptual and philosophical concerns of art and the material and perceptible aspects of art making. In my practice I work with video, paint, sculpture and flowers. My most recent ancestors have worked in trade; a boner, a butcher, a milkman, a seamstress… I have worked with a charcutier [a type of butcher that generally specialises in pork], bakers and florists. I consider my work in sculpture and by extension my work with flowers to be a powerful link to my father’s work as a butcher and to my great-great grandfather’s work (he was once the quickest boner in NSW – the most adept at ‘sculpting’ a carcass). Through much undulation and application the strands of my quotidian life (floristry) and my work as an artist have seemed to converge in my third decade of life and my instinct is that this is right.

You have worked in a diverse range of mediums in your art practice. What draws you to working in a particular media, for example gold?

The mediums that I work in are mostly intuited as well as being dictated by the statement or intention of the work. As in painting where one chooses a colour to make a mark, I am both seduced by the material itself and compelled by the intention of the work. Bodies of work in repetitious medium such as my work in gold do however border on obsession. Obsession and repetition are the same for me as concentration, which in the context of art has the quality of a prayer.

Obviously I am drawn to materials for their inherent symbology and associations, for example the grand poetic metaphor of flowers and the myriad significance of individual blooms.

What are the challenges that you face when working with different types of mediums?

Though the mediums may seem disparate and are of course materially distinct, they kind of harmonise the logic of a body of work as well as my practice as a whole. There is a strong thread of concerns and intentions that links the interdisciplinary output of my practice.

You currently work a lot with flowers. How did this come about, and what are you currently working on?

I have always found the scope of flowers to be extraordinary as they may be ‘divinely’ beautiful and so evidence some kind of unearthly or sublime inception, and yet they are thoroughly of the earth. At the pivotal moments of life we give flowers as a gift, I think a comfort, for their elegant description of the phenomenon of life and the certainty of death – a powerful Memento Mori.I am currently working on ‘Memento Mori tattoos’ in paint and video. I am also running a flower business called DOCTOR COOPER, for bunches of flowers, installations, and flowers in all and every context.

Do you think that it is important for an artist to be diverse in the ways in which they express themselves?

I think it’s important for an artist to be whoever they are. What make you distinct are your instincts and proclivities.

Do you believe that being flexible can hinder your artistic practice?

I think that both flexibility and inflexibility well placed are fundamental to artistic practice. In the very act of making art there is a type of elasticity that occurs whereby one is kind of drawn away and then pulled back to the original and central concern of the work. From the nexus of a project, through research and experimentation comes a labyrinth of new concerns and points of departure. In order to sufficiently develop an idea from inception to completion (or as close as one can get to it) the quality of flexibility or fluidity is essential. Within my own practice an inflexible kind of obsessive theme such as abstract and material ‘gold’ will lead me toward seemingly unlinked production.

 www.doctorcooper.com.au

mark moore

Current collection shot. Photo: Sam Crawford

Marc Moore is the Creative/ Design Director and one of the founders (along with Dan Gosling and Luke Harwood) of New Zealand label Stolen Girlfriends Club (SGFC). This uber cool cult label is expanding rapidly, with stockists in fourteen countries and a full ladies, men’s, jewellery and accessories collection. Moore talks to arts interview about stress in the fashion scene and the future for SGFC.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Can you tell us about SGFC and about your own background?

I came from competitive surfing, got old (too old for competitive surfing), so started working for one of my sponsors on the marketing side of things, I also started helping out on the design side.  I started painting in my spare time and had an art show called Stolen Girlfriends Club; the show was a success and everyone loved the name.  We started thinking about making tee-shirts – ones we couldn’t find in the market, so started a small line of tee’s, jeans and jewellery and called it Stolen Girlfriends Club because everyone loved the art show title. Boom, here I am seven years later (still making tee-shirts).

Do you think that fashion is one of the more stressful creative pursuits?

Yes definitely.  Fashion moves so fast, you have to keep up with it otherwise you risk stagnation.  So there is constant stress- not being able to sit still.

What are the broad stress factors of working within fashion?

Production lead-times – getting your product designed in time for shows, and getting bulk product made in time for store deliveries.

How do you balance the realities of running as a business whilst maintaining creative integrity?

We have to apply a ratio/percentage to all the collections we do now, to maintain enough commerciality to sustain our business. We work on around 20% more forward/directional product- this product works well for editorial / fashion shoots. Then we have the core part of the collection which is around 60% of the range, this product is true to brand, wearable yet still cool! The bottom 20% is semi-basic product- accessible in wearability and also price.  This ratio generally will ensure we can sell enough product to survive but also keep the fashion media happy with novel product for their magazines.

What do you do to relax?

I go surfing.  It’s hard to stay stressed when you’re in the water.

What is the future for SGFC?

We are in the process of setting up our own retail store in Auckland which is exciting.  If you’re ever in the neighbourhood please stop by and say hello, it will be our very first retail venture. We are also working on our new Winter 13 collection to release at New Zealand Fashion Week in September; I always get excited to show the collection on the catwalk, we get to show everyone what we have been working on.

I have been talking to the artists Kozyndan from LA about collaborating on our next Summer range which will be amazing- fabric prints like you’ve never seen!  I also have an upcoming collaboration with a musician from the US which I am excited about.  I can’t say anything more – I don’t want to jinx it!

http://www.stolengirlfriendsclub.com/

Felicity

Photo: courtesy of IMDB

Felicity Price is an Australian actress with a long list of television, film and theatre roles. She recently co-wrote and played the lead role of Alice in Wish You Were Here, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2012. The screenplay is her first collaboration with husband, Kieran Darcy-Smith, and was filmed shortly after the birth of her second child. Felicity discusses the process of making their first Australian feature film under such potentially stressful circumstances.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

What were some of the most stressful parts of making the film, Wish You Were Herepre-production, filming or post-production?

When I look back on it all through my rose-coloured glasses – once we were financed and in production – I don’t remember it as stressful. It is such a big deal to get a feature film up and running in Australia, and I was just so happy to be making our film and to be telling this story. The writing process (about four years prior to this) was fantastic, but the sheer effort of spending a number of years writing a project and earning no money from all that effort was at times stressful.

I do know that while we were shooting I lost a heap of weight and got very used to having about two hours sleep a night – it was taxing. When we started shooting the film, our baby was five and a half months old and our son was a two. We had a live-in nanny, but because my husband was directing the film the most difficult thing was that both of us were away from the kids so much. Both of us were on set everyday and after we wrapped Kieran was going off to view rushes and prepare for the next day’s shoot – so for him it was a 22 hour a day job. I was still breastfeeding as much as I could AND we took the kids with us to Cambodia when we shot there – so the shoot was pretty chaotic!

In what ways did having your family together help the process?

Because film is such an all-consuming job I think it was wonderful that Kieran and I got to experience making our first feature together. This was the first feature he directed and I loved being on set to experience that with him. This project was our baby and we were bringing it to life. The whole experience -including the writing – has been wonderfully enriching for our relationship.

Often people will ask, “Wow, how could you do that as a couple, weren’t you fighting all the time? But it was exactly the opposite. We loved having this project that we were all-consumed in together. We’d love to do it again. And with the kids – they will always be part of the experience. They have grown up with us making this film, they came with us to Cambodia and we’ve all moved over to LA now – the film has made their lives more adventurous.

Were there any times where you felt like giving up? When you thought that you faced insurmountable obstacles?

I never felt like giving up, but there were tears. With our fourth or fifth draft we were accepted into the Screen NSW Aurora script development program. That was a real turning point for the film’s development and after that program we got financed pretty quickly. But previous to that, we were knocked back from a couple of similar script development programs and funding rounds, and at times like that it all felt very hard. But we always picked ourselves up and got back into it – usually with more vigor!

What strategies do you use to keep life in balance?

I’d like to say – yoga, meditation, good cardio exercise, regular day spas, massage – but who has time for any of this with toddlers?? In reality, I eat pretty well, try to drink lots of water, try to get good sleep, try to get in a good long walk a couple of times a week, try to have a stretch every once in a while and occasionally get in a dinner out with hubby and friends. But sometimes I don’t do any of these and I am a frazzled mess!

Finally, what is more stressful being busy or not being busy?

Hmmm… Such a good question. For me personally, I struggle with not being busy. That’s when my mind goes into overdrive. When I am busy, I am focused and all those other petty little worries fly out the window.

To find out more on Wish You Were Here:

http://www.hopscotchfilms.com.au/films/out-now/wishyouwerehere-thefilm/

Willow

Willow Neilson’s adventures as a Jazz saxophonist have taken him from Nimbin, to Armidale, Melbourne and the Sydney Conservatorium, to Jazz competitions from Brussels to Montreux and now to China thanks to Asialink /Australia-China Council funding. Willow chats to arts interview about the stresses of not only adjusting to life in China but also about juggling life as a professional musician.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

How would you describe what you do? Does Saxophonist or Jazz Musician adequately cover it?

Saxophonist and jazz musician covers part of it. These days we can’t just lock ourselves in a room practicing and then step out into gigs anymore. My career requires me to be a promoter/personal pr person, writer/blogger, teacher and then I have had stints being a tv host, voice over person, and am about to go train to be a yoga teacher.

I have a lot of interests and feel that in order to evolve as an artist these days I need to become more of a renaissance man, both in terms of my ability to make money- earning from a variety of skills other than just those associated with performing and teaching music, but also learning new skills such as multi media software applications and visual art concepts. All of these are centred around my primary passion- music- and it is my hope that all of them feed into one another. The playing is the fun part, dealing with all the other stuff is the drag.

What are the most stressful aspects of working the way you do? Do you find that being stressed affects your work?

Some people think that being a musician is all fun and messing around but many aspects of the job are stressful. Dealing with abusive personalities on the bandstand (whilst still having to smile), dealing with terrible sound teams, terrible agents and all manner of people that often seem hell bent on undermining the effectiveness of your performance is a constant hassle. In China we have a thing we call “hurry up and wait,” where an agent who knows nothing about music asks us to be at a performance 3 hours early, rushes us around only to then have to sit and wait for everyone else.

The unpredictability of freelancing is also a stressful factor, it is hard to turn down work as you never know when a dry patch will arise, sometimes I will work a series of 18 hour days including multiple shows and teaching. Finding the right balance is a constant juggle.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced developing a career as a musician? Did you ever consider studying something else or moving into another career?

In Australia the biggest challenge was simply not working enough. I went back to school to study education but hated it, not the teaching but all the other stuff around it. That’s why I live in China now. If I could find something reliable that I loved I would do it but music is my passion and as much as I would like to find something else I will have to make this work because it is all I have.

What strategies do you use to keep life in balance?

I like to meditate, exercise (a huge part of my life now) and have started praying a lot recently, I never thought I would get into that but it has really been making me feel good. I also have a group of people I meet with regularly where we talk about life etc. at great length.

Visiting my friend’s kids also helps to feel more grounded- kids know how to enjoy life effortlessly. Lately I have been playing chess with an 8 year old that trash talks when he takes your pieces. Good fun.

How did you find adjusting to life in China? Has moving to China changed the way you deal with stress and anxiety?

Life in China comes with positives and negatives. Positives are cheap massages, cheap cost of living, easy work and good food (although the produce is not so great but it is cooked well). The negatives are pollution, cultural differences and very different ways of handling issues, pollution and noise, noise, noise, traffic, traffic, traffic, chaos.

Learning the language is always fun, Chinese people are really supportive of others learning Chinese and life changes more positively as your language skills grow.

I think Shanghai is a bit of an emotional/spiritual accelerator. Whatever your issues it will magnify them and you will either fall into a frustrated heap or you will deal with what you need to deal with. China has made me change in more ways than I maybe am even aware of, one of them is I’ve learnt to not freak out, to just stay calm and if you have done what you need to do then let other people do the freaking out.

http://willowneilson.com/music/