September’s Dragon’s Lair Gallery exhibition, In the park: Georges River Artist in Residence, showcases the works of Michael Ambriano, Kassandra Bossell, Elder, Jill Samera, soupsue and Dawei Xu, who have all undertaken residencies at Carss Park earlier this year. The Carss Park Artist Cottage, located in the former ranger’s house, provides a studio and accommodation in a picturesque bush setting on the Georges River.
This month on the blog we will be featuring two of these artists who took some time to tell us a little more about their artmaking process and inspiration. First we have multimedia artist, soupsue (Susan McInerney), who works as an art educator and blogger, and was born in Western Sydney. Her works explore themes of media saturation, waste and the human condition.
Can you explain your technique; how you manipulate the medium?
I use a variety of mediums to express my ideas. During my artist residency I worked predominantly with embossed paper collage and clay to produce two distinctly different artworks. When I wasn’t working in the studio I used a digital camera and go-pro to document performance pieces I made in the surrounding landscape of Carss Park.
soupsue creating clay oysters. Image courtesy soupsue.
For the clay oysters I considered the way oyster shells build layers over time, their individual unique shell characteristics and the effect age, sand and water have on their exterior and colour. They are irregular, unique, odd, ugly and intriguing. To reproduce the shell layers small balls of clay were smeared thinly across circular mounts. Once the layers were formed, the clay was given 24hrs to firm up. Then the clay was removed from the mounts, and using my hands and burnishing tools, I pressed the layers into irregular organic shapes. Over the following week the clay was rubbed (burnished) to recreate the smooth interior of the oyster. Imperfections are important for this piece and I was not concerned with making everything the same or regular. Once dried and fired I experimented with under glazes and applied different layers which were then rubbed back. This pushed the glaze into small cracks and highlighted the imperfections.
For the collage and embossed artworks I used First Fleet Lieutenant General Watkin Tench’s early maps, which recorded the English explorations of the NSW coast line and waterways. By documenting Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), Botany Bay and Broken Bay, Tench unwittingly recorded the fastest route the 1789 small pox epidemic would use to catastrophically spread throughout the NSW indigenous population. While researching the disease I discovered a Japanese textured illustration from the 1720’s which used embossing to demonstrate the stages of small pox. By adding hand embossed figures and then collage to the maps I wanted to provide an aerial view of the destructive hidden force and reach of the epidemic.
Collage work in progress. Image courtesy soupsue.
Can you give us an insight into your artistic process? Is your work pre-planned or created intuitively? How long does each work take to complete?
My work is definitely preplanned and is a part of a long process of research and experimentation. I have been working with these ideas for over two years and continue to explore and research them. I have a keen interest in history and often spend months researching my ideas before I commit them to form. Both the shells and collages have taken many months to create as they are labour intensive and methodically produced. Even during the making process I take my time to deliberate on the artwork’s message and look, often taking a break from the piece to work on something completely different so when I return to the work I can see and feel it with fresh eyes.
Do you keep some kind of ongoing drawing book or diary? Or a collection of images or photographs for inspiration?
I’m an information hoarder and obsessive list maker and because of this I save my research, planning and imagery in a variety of ways. I’m always jotting down notes for myself either digitally or in a journal. I am constantly copying or emailing links to research or collecting images to work from. I photograph things that inspire or interest me and I keep an artist journal. I have a massive collection of paper images such as posters, 1970’s wallpaper and untold numbers of National Geographic magazines.
Who are your favourite artists? Who do you draw inspiration from?
I don’t know if I have any particular favourite artists so to speak but I am definitely influenced via a large range of sources such as musicians, writers, documentaries, popular culture, politics and history. If I had to choose an artist it would be someone whose work is multi layered, thought provoking and humorous. If you look at who I follow on Instagram (@soupsuemc), as examples of people I admire or am influenced by, the artists are often dealing with colonialism, body politics and the environment.