Out the back of Norman Lindsay’s Place 2010 Oil on linen 96 x 109 cm
Dark Gully/Psychic War is a stunning exploration of the Kantean sublime tickled with Freudian sexual psychological undertones all the while rendered with such delicious proficiency. Have you abstracted literal landscapes you know here or are they stills from the cinema of your mind?
It is always a cinema of my mind that draws from what surrounds or inspires me, grabbing at will. A monstera that is in my lounge room, or on my driving route, the cabbage trees from my balcony, the sea and confusion of love, mountains as sexual and relationship hurdles. It all somehow gets assimilated, assembled and falls into the paper or paint somehow. I feel a mild obsession with drawing a repeated form – a kind of half circle – it becomes all things if you push it far enough, a hill becomes a mountain becomes a penis becomes a ghost and back to a hill again. At the moment it’s a landscape of sex both literal and psychological. I know it makes little sense to others but it makes sense to me.
Trees 2010 Oil on linen 122 x 152 cm
Congratulations on winning the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2008. Where did your travels land you and what sorts of things blew your mind along the way?
Thanks! I spent time in Vancouver, then road tripped to California before heading to Montreal, Paris, Sweden and New York. My mind was blown every day by the beauty of my friends; how amazing, talented and what beautiful creative lives they lead. I was inspired to live a more creative life. I was blown away by beautiful love affairs. I was blown away by Brooklyn, Kristen Baker, Kandinsky and Caragh Thuring.
Dash Snows Ghost 2010 Oil on linen 110 x 105 cm
Some consider the Australian art market to be quite provincial and self-reflexive when it comes to nurturing the minds of young emerging artists. Do you think your time in the USA and beyond triggered something for you that you may not have got from staying put?
I’m not sure. I think that anyone or anything that gets stuck or stayed in any kind of reflexivity will go around in circles and kind of eat itself. I think the establishment defiantly doesn’t nurture young artists that don’t have a noticeable Australian cultural frame of reference, yet we live in a diasporic world. For me, leaving Australia meant dropping that elephant in the room and created the space to get free. It was a confirmation to continue to create, be inspired and live an inspired life and try to follow your own artistic path or language regardless of convention. Yet maybe more than anything being away from Australia enabled me to reference it with more subjectivity, however oblique.
Install Shot: Dark Gully Sex Mountain Hurdles 2010
Charcoal and pencil on paper with magazine collage (triptych) 110 x110 cm each
What were some highlights along the way?
Um I think I kind of mentioned them above, but apart from my friends, meeting amazing new friends and loves I was thrilled to find myself dancing with Arto Lindsey, see and hear Tracey Emin talk and find a great local in Brooklyn, a 24-hour Mexican Diner where I had a burrito and coffee every day. Walking the streets and riding bikes through strange towns is always amazing. It’s the little things that are always the highlights.
Install Shot: Amber Wallis at Chalk Horse
I recently spoke with an artist who works across painting and collage and he described to me how the two are not as dissimilar as first meets the eye, simply that collage is more immediately gratifying. Quite an unusual response I thought. In your practice, what is your relationship with collage?
Collage is very immediately gratifying. With collage I feel like I can create new unexpected stories out of old ones, you can create them quickly and they often surprise you. By this I mean I chop up old drawings, which to me are stories and reassemble them into new stories. Whereas painting is so constructed often it feels like one story laboured over, yet collage has that instant flint of an idea and tale that drawing has.
I hope to be able to merge my drawing and collage and the tales they tell mixed with the beauty and delicacy of the drawn line into my painting, but it’s proving illusive. Sometimes you just need to go where the materials lead you and accept the process and outcome.
Install Shot: Amber Wallis at Chalk Horse
Your erotic drawings are full of abundance and movement and yet seem to be masked by a purity of abstracted formation; Rather than rendering a distance between us and the image as a foreign body, it actually serves to immerse the viewer within the moment. What goes through your mind specifically when pen or brush goes to surface and creates form in your erotic work?
Obviously something crazy sexy dirty! Ha, no not really. But the line needs to have the magic the same way that making love does. It’s the same thing. I want to try to create something that has feeling, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know if much goes through my mind at all, it’s rarely a process of thinking when you are creating. Yet you think about it constantly when you are not doing it. I think my art and my erotic drawings are more a form of exorcising my thoughts and mild obsessions and somehow the line just tends to know where to go.
Dark Gully/Psychic War 2010 Oil on linen 135 x 203 cm
What’s next for you in 2010 and beyond?
I have another solo show opening September 30 at Utopian Slumps, Melbourne called I Fuck Mountains. Then I will be in New York for a month before the great unknown opens up again.
Amber Wallis interview with Chalk Horse 2010