In December 2014 Leonie Barton started on an ephemeral-based art project that was only supposed to last a year. She set herself the task to every day create and photograph a work based on what she found. “I like that it can’t be perfect, because I am such a perfectionist,” Leonie says. “I can’t control what I find or if it’s a bit rough around the edges. I like that it can be achieved no matter where I am. I like that everything has to connect in order to make something visually pleasing to me: the materials, the backgrounds, the elements of the weather, the light, even me. I’m looking for harmony and balance.”
In many ways the project is an extension of her childhood, growing up in the country. Leonie says she was always either outside collecting treasures or inside drawing. After growing up on the Ross River in Northern Queensland, Leonie came to Sydney at the age of 10 and after school worked in the film and advertising industries for many years before starting a family. It wasn’t until 2005 that Leonie started an art practice, initially focussed on drawing, which has seen her become a finalist in many prizes.
In 2012 Leonie had the opportunity to go to Namibia in Western Africa to drive around the deserts, which changed her life. “I had one of those cliche moments,” she says. “I came back pretty determined to commit to a creative life because I could and because I lived in a country where the only thing holding myself back was me.”
On her return to Australia, Leonie became the backgrounds painter for the photographer Anne Geddes. And started photographing the ephemeral work. What started as a side project has led to invitations to exhibit in exhibitions and get hung in prizes. She was also featured on ABC Radio National’s program, Off Track and invited to give a TED Talk on “The Art of Saying Yes”. In October she will be exhibiting as part of Artisans in the Gardens at Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens and in The Other Art Fair in Sydney.
Which five words best describe you? Happy, patient, loyal, analytical and reclusive.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? At the end of 2014 I began a daily practice of creating an ephemeral artwork every day, with the aim of doing it for a year. Every day, regardless of the weather, how I felt or where I was, using only what was found on the ground and in the moment. It wasn’t an original idea, but the discipline appealed to me and as I was such a perfectionist - my personal drawing work could take weeks to complete, so I liked the terms of making a work and it being complete within an hour or two all up, including the walking, the finding of materials and making the work. It was so liberating, because it couldn’t be perfect. I had no real control of what the materials would be and I had to make something regardless. I really loved working this way and it has become my main focus. I am well beyond my 365 days now and have completed the work not only up and down the east coast, but far north west NSW at Fowlers Gap, San Fransisco and Shanghai. Now I am also applying the assemblages to my painting and even exploring other ways of extending the work, through sculpture, etc.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To get over my own ego and fears and just get on with it.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Being invited to do a TedX talk on the “Art of Saying Yes” and how life changed once I did. I wasn’t very good, but people were genuinely interested in what I had to say and forgave me, for my obvious extreme nerves.
What’s been your best decision? To sell my shop and our house and take the family camping for a few months through Europe. A special time, never to be recaptured.
Who inspires you? This changes regularly but today it’s JR, a semi-anonymous French artist who instigated the InsideOut Project.
What are you passionate about? My family, my art, my garden.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Henry Moore, sculptor.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To be travelling from place to place, creating everywhere I go with whatever I find there.
What are you reading? A plethora of information about e-commercing my website. I wouldn’t say this is my forte.
images courtesy of leonie barton