Friday, 30 January 2015

ARTIST MARISA PURCELL







“Art allows me to indulge my very varied interest base,” says Sydney-based artist Marisa Purcell. “I can be into anything and filter it through art.” The big questions of science and philosophy are core to her work, and inform the latest series of paintings she is about to exhibit at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane. She started out painting in the evenings and school holidays while teaching art at high school. But Marisa reached a point when it was time to quit her day job and enrol in a Masters course at COFA. She then got a studio and committed to the "daunting task" of creating a body of work. “It’s been such a slow burn,” Marisa says, “but there’s been consistent little positive things that have happened ever since I started exhibiting. Nothing overwhelming but enough to be encouraging.” Once she gained representation from Edwina Corlette it didn’t take much longer to be picked up by two other large galleries, including Olsen Irwin in Sydney. Her latest show, Unbounded, runs at Edwina Corlette Gallery from February 3 to 28.

Which five words best describe you? Committed, curious, disciplined, excitable, student.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? It’s been incremental, and there hasn’t been one thing that started it all off. Getting my first studio was a significant thing for me - and since then I have taken a path of showing my work very regularly - in both artist-run spaces and commercial spaces in Australia and overseas.  Moving overseas and undertaking residencies allowed me to explore European art and see painting from an international viewpoint. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? That I’m not in control. To always play - and let the painting guide me (not the other way around).

What’s your proudest career achievement? To have the opportunity to be represented by three major Australian galleries.

What’s been your best decision? To quit my full-time job and explore the urge I had experienced since I was a child.

Who inspires you? David Lynch for his unrelenting creative curiosity and his commitment to meditation.

What are you passionate about? So many things but mostly ideas, especially the big questions asked by philosophers and scientists throughout time: who are we? what does it mean to be human? 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Bjork - I love her approach to the creative process. She has broad interests and collaborates with such interesting people.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I don’t really think like this - I feel utterly privileged to be doing what I am doing, so for now I want to be producing the best work I can.

What are you reading? The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman. It’s a recent book that explores the emotional and philosophical questions raised by recent discoveries in science. The author looks at the dialogue between science and religion; the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature; the possibility that our universe is simply an accident; the manner in which modern technology has separated us from direct experience of the world.

images courtesy of marisa purcell and edwina corlette gallery

Thursday, 29 January 2015

CERAMICISTS REBECCA + LAUREN CHUA







“Clay is such an amazing medium to work with,” say sisters Rebecca and Lauren Chua. “On some days it is unpredictable and temperamental, but most of the time the making process is incredibly therapeutic.” And it is why four years ago after starting a course in pottery they stuck with it, learnt some more, took a space in a shared studio, and have gone on to launch a ceramics business, ChuChu. The Sydney-based sisters have also exhibited as part of a group show at Claypool and had a range of their cups chosen as dining ware for Erskinville eatery The Copper Mill. While Rebecca, pictured left, graduated with a Bachelor degree in Engineering (focussing on sustainability) and commerce,  Lauren studied a Bachelor of Design and is completing her Masters in Architecture. Together they continue to create for ChuChu. “Getting our hands amongst the clay, and creating something from nothing is just so satisfying,” they say.

Which five words best describe you? Two sisters who love clay.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? We enrolled in our first ceramics class four years ago for fun and to try something new. We have been mentored by some amazing ceramicists along the way and have said yes to every opportunity that has come by, so far. We are reaching a point where we can start talking about the possibility of solely making a living of our brand Chuchu, which is a pretty mind-blowing concept.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Take risks and give everything a go – you never know what will happen!

What’s your proudest career achievement? There have been so many Chuchu moments that we are proud of, however, the one that we have gotten the most excited about recently is having our cups sipped from by Sydney breakfast-siders at our favourite local, The Copper Mill, Erskineville.

What’s been your best decision? As predictable as this is, coming together to form Chuchu has been our best - and most exciting - venture yet. People say to never mix family with business, but we beg to differ!

Who inspires you? Our biggest inspiration is most definitely the studio environment that we work in, a large converted warehouse in Sydney’s Erskineville. We are part of a collective of 50 or so makers called Claypool, including clay professionals, amateurs and hobbyists who come from all walks of life with a common - dare we say - obsession with ceramics. The open plan, shared studio space creates a wonderfully social, collaborative and, above all, inspiring environment to be a part of.

What are you passionate about? Chuchu has provided us with really cool and challenging opportunities with other locals, small businesses and creatives. We are extremely passionate about supporting small businesses and supporting local so we do our best to tailor our projects accordingly.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? We have huge respect for Grayson Perry – someone who has managed to put ceramics on the map in the art market. Maybe we need to start cross dressing to get noticed...

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Building our online presence and making Chuchu a household name.

What are you reading? Murakami’s Colorless Tzukuru Tazaki. The book is based in Japan, which is high on our hit list for our next “research trip”. And one of the characters gets whisked away to Finland to marry a potter and becomes one herself. Sounds pretty good to us.

images courtesy of chuchu

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

DESIGNER + PHOTOGRAPHER RICK CARTER






When emerging homewares brand One Another approached its second collection they changed their approach slightly. The Sydney-based husband and wife duo of Rick and Annette Carter decided to focus less on what was on trend, and more on timeless design that celebrated the artisanal qualities of their products. “Once that mind set changed I think the design and aesthetic of our product matched the compelling ethical story, and we knew that we had a product that was both beautiful and meaningful,” Rick says. The couple engage women from countries such as India and Africa to create homewares using their traditional skills. One Another is a finalist for the best ethical brand at the Gift and Life Instyle Awards (GALA), and will be exhibiting their next collection at Life Instyle on February 19. 

Which five words best describe you? Optimistic, determined, traveller, creative, happy.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I studied advertising in Sydney and worked as a graphic designer here before travelling and working in London. I was addicted to travelling and during this time my passion for photography developed. I returned to Sydney and studied photography before launching my own design and photography business nine years ago called Jimmy Too. I mainly work with not-for-profit companies and it was with Opportunity International that I travelled to the Philippines and India to document women working their way out of poverty. On these trips we met so many inspiring women using amazing skills to support their families. However, as much as we loved the colourful designs they created, Annette and I felt they didn’t really translate to our home back in Australia. This sparked the idea to start our own label with a vision to create a collection that brought together their traditional artisan techniques with a modern aesthetic.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? It’s a saying that goes back to my Grandpa that my Mum passed on to me, never say CAN’T - cross off the T and you can.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Apart from now being stocked in some of our favourite stores we are a finalist for best Ethical Brand at the Gift and Life Instyle Awards (GALA). We are also proud to be launching our new collection Intersect at Life Instyle on February 19 with some exciting new products that we have been working on with the women, including woven bowls, clutch bags and amazing woven pendants.

What’s been your best decision? To start my own business.

Who inspires you? My wife, Annette and our son, Zach. Though it’s the women we work with in India and Africa that are the biggest inspiration. Starting a business is challenging and if they were not at the heart of what we did I think I would have thrown in the towel.

What are you passionate about? I guess, ultimately, I am passionate about people and the belief that all people deserve the same opportunities that I have been able to have living in Australia. It’s a bit Miss World of me but ending poverty in my lifetime.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Robin Williams.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? It would be great to increase the impact we are having by working with more and more groups of women. The big dream is to eventually open a One Another store that will showcase some of our favourite ethical brands from around the world and be a place where consumers will know every purchase makes a difference.

What are you reading? I am reading Half the sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. It is a very sobering book about the struggle for equality for women. These heartbreaking and inspiring stories all point to women being the solution to how we change the world. 

images courtesy of one another; styling bettina mcilwaith

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

DESIGNER + ILLUSTRATOR EVI OETOMO








“Reading has been the one constant that I haven't tired of since since the age of two," says Sydney-based book designer and illustrator Evi Oetomo, "so books ignite passion and hold a sentimental value for me." Since joining Penguin Books Australia six years ago she still loves all elements of book design - from designing layouts, creating visual narratives, choosing paper stocks and finishes, and collaborating with talented people. "I just love obsessing about the tiny details of the book-making process," Evi says. This dedication and assiduity paid off when one of the books she designed for Penguin won the 2012 Book of the Year and Best General Illustrated Book at the Australian Publishers Association (now Australian Book Designers Association). Evi was also awarded the Young Designer of the Year. 

When not working at Penguin, Evi is busy with several other side projects. She is art director for Alphabet Family Journal and about to exhibit in Art Vert Sydney, a group exhibition at Saint Cloche from 31 January. Evi also has plans to launch a design range this year under the name Anekka.

Which five words best describe you? Curious, always dreaming, always tinkering.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I grew up in Surabaya, Indonesia, and when I was 17 my parents generously sent me to study graphic design - and to experience a new culture - at UTS in Sydney, Australia. During my studies, I did internships with a handful of different design studios and ad agencies. 

It was actually a dream come true, a too-good-to-be-true moment, when after graduating I saw a junior design position ad for Penguin Books, applied, and got it. It's been my one and only real graphic design job since graduating six and a half years ago. And I'm lucky that within Penguin Books I've experienced various book design projects, from children's, fiction, non-fiction and illustrated books. 

The first time I had a taste of the complex process designing illustrated books, I knew I had found my true passion and never looked back. For the past three and a half years, I've been lucky to be exclusively working and designing illustrated books under Lantern Books imprint.

I'm naturally restless and always have more than one thing happening at once. Therefore, I never stop seeking other creative outlets, from drawing, art directing magazines for Alphabet Family Journal to designing objects under the label Anekka, launching this year. I find that experimenting on other design discipline projects injects creativity into my graphic design practice, and vice versa. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To embrace change.

What’s your proudest career achievement? To score a job that never makes me feel I have to go to work.

What’s been your best decision? My husband, Sonny.

Who inspires you? My Grandma. My gang of very talented friends and collaborators who I deal with in daily basis - you know who you are! And I find creative inspiration from the work of Bruno Munari, Henrik Vibskov, Peter Mendelsund, Yayoi Kusama, David Band, Haruki Murakami, Iela Mari, Paul Rand, Philip Guston, Irma Boom, Hella Jongerius, Alexander Girard, Kenzo, Martin Scorsese, Ettore Sottsass, Fabio Ongarato, Romance Was Born, Guy Mirabella, Osamu Tezuka, Geoff McFetridge, Naoki Urasawa. The list grows.

What are you passionate about? Books, beautiful objects, fashion, art, big cities, social studies, history, religions and science.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I'd like to just hang out with the Beatles. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? There are so many. But currently, I'm dreaming to see more of the world, to have a fashion-related gig, and be a New Yorker.

What are you reading? I'm on a Haruki Murakami marathon, currently reading Kafka on the Shore. His writing has given me surreal escapism to “be away and rest” from the real world.

images courtesy of evi oetomo

Friday, 23 January 2015

ARTIST + PRINTMAKER DAMON KOWARSKY





“I started as a classical musician but it seemed the artists were always cooler. There was also the issue of portability – I played tuba. Art travels well. It is also more solitary and self-contained. We absorb so much of the world through our eyes. I wanted to be part of that conversation.”

Melbourne-based artist Damon Kowarsky has not only established himself as an artist, but he has managed to travel the world extensively in the process too. He has taught drawing in Lahore and printmaking in Karachi - both in Pakistan, and he held a residency in China in 2014. But it was when Damon won a Toyota Community Spirit Artist Travel Award in 2009, allowing him to travel to Cairo and New York, that he felt he was making inroads with his art-making. “Building a career is a gradual process though,” Damon says. “And there have been many, many steps along the way - a solo show, a commission, a grant or award that have made the difference and allowed me to continue making art full time.”

Damon, who is currently in Oman on a residency, studied printmaking at the Victorian College of the Arts and Glasgow School of Art and completed Advanced Figure Drawing at RMIT University. He has also worked as a courtroom and archaeological illustrator, and assisted on digs in Egypt. An extensive collaborator, his work can be seen alongside Kyoko Imazu’s in the form of murals in Aesop stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo and Hong Kong. "The best collaborations seem to need humour, a certain healthy direspect for the other person's work - politeness never makes for a good conversation - and a solid work commitment," he says.

Damon also exhibits through Otomys

Which five words best describe you? Determined, curious, restless, focussed and obsessed. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? While a career in the arts is largely self-driven there have been a lot of people along the way who have stepped in to make things possible. The key moment was probably when David Salter let me work in the print studio of the local TAFE in the year after I graduated from art school. A lot of people drop out in the first year. It can be a lonely time.

Those three months back at TAFE led to volunteering at Museum Victoria, led to working on an archaeological dig in Egypt, led to my first residency at Townhouse Gallery Cairo, led to the APW Collie Scholarship, led to…

But my primary focus has always been making work. Making pictures. Looking at the world and reflecting it back in an image.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Don’t take no for an answer. There is always another way around.
2. Be prepared to do it yourself. No one has as much passion for your projects as you.
3. Build a network of friends and colleagues to work with and support.

What’s your proudest career achievement? To be making art full time. To have a network of friends and colleagues all around the world. To be able to call on this network but also to offer support to younger and emerging artists. Everything in art is always being handed on.

What’s been your best decision? To do this full time. To make things happen you have to put in the hours, but the rewards are amazing.

What are you passionate about? Art, travel, architecture, excellent design. Julie Forrester's amazing mango kasundi.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? The really good ones you half know through their works or writings anyway. I'd love to sit at a dinner table with Clive James or Gore Vidal and listen to them talk. Robert Fisk, but again to listen.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'd love to spend six months living in New York. I'd love to visit Paris again for the first time in 25 years. I'd love to set up a printmaking studio in Melbourne.

What are you reading? I'm working my way through Salman Rushdie's back catalogue. At the moment I'm reading a certain rather notorious 1988 novel. So far it's good, but nowhere near as excellent as Shalimar the Clown.

images courtesy of damon kowarsky and otomys; portrait malcolm hutcheson




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