Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I moved to Canberra in 2001 to study at photomedia at the ANU’s art school and finished my three-year visual art degree in 2008. Being one of that odd breed – the shy extrovert – I’m as terrified as I am fascinated by other people. I live for big, involved conversations and arguments, but self-consciousness also makes them excruciating. For a long time I found it too difficult to ask anyone to sit or model for me, so I’d find ways to have objects make the point I wanted instead. That objects can speak, and be understood so easily, is an example of what I find most interesting about people; the layers of meaning we impose on every thing around us. We’ve built vast, complicated imaginary worlds over the top of the matter we inhabit. We can spend our entire lives chasing or being governed by ideas that have no more substance than a mirage.
I tend to think of almost all my pictures as portraits, even if there are no people in them. All of them are concerned in one way or another with asking, “What the hell are these creatures that call themselves human beings? Why do we act and interact according to one particular set of rules instead of another?”
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming exhibition?
It’s called Not/Portraiture and it opens 24th June at Canberra Artworks. Almost all of it is figurative work, and almost none of it is a portrait of the person in the picture. The different series are all tied together by illustrating the ways people can physically or psychologically inhabit the world. All explore what human presence or absence reveals about our attitudes and motivations.
No One Lives Here is made up of pictures from inside the abandoned Jerangle Hotel about thirty kilometres from Bredbo. Alternate Endings is what you might expect: characters from literature and fairy tales being given the opportunity to choose different paths. Paper Dolls illustrates the dichotomy of innocence and eroticism in the way we build ideas about femininity. Happily Never After is an idea that Frances McNair came up with and helped me put together. It’s a pretty absurd little series, really fun to shoot, about buying into the idea that we’re all princesses and stars in our own private reality shows.
What do you hope to communicate with your work?
The bodies of work I’m making right now are all about how people, specifically women, build our identities inside wider cultural narratives. We’re all told stories about who we can and should be. Some we recognise as deliberate fictions, some we absorb as truth without even being aware of it. Stories that are told and played out often become our “normal”.
I hope to show that normal/acceptable roles or plots depend upon who’s telling the story. There are no immutable physical laws that determine what a woman should wear…or whether she should marry a man who’s found her shoe on the stairs.
What has been a highlight of your time as an artist?
I haven’t made a lot of work that I think of as art since I left ANU, but I’ve never put the camera down for long either. I’ve been lucky enough to work as a photographer with lots of really talented, creative people: fashion designers and stylists and makeup artists, models, and performers of all kinds. Seeing all the amazing things they were so passionate about putting out into the world was a big part of what pushed me to start making things that were mine again.
Where can people see your stuff or find out more?
I have a Facebook page that I don’t update nearly often enough. At the moment it’s mostly commercial work, but that’s about to change! Having an art practise is addictive. There are plans in the works to add to Paper Dolls and Alternate Endings, plus a couple of other projects that I’m not ready to say too much about yet.