Exploring place and identity – Soupsue

With our regular Dragon’s Lair Gallery programming suspended due to COVID-19, Soupsue’s exhibition has been postponed until later in the year.

In the meantime, we talked to her about her techniques and her approach to her artwork. Soupsue is a trained visual artist who works in mixed media across many forms including, but not limited to, writing, installation, performance and works on paper. Soupsue also creates digital and analogue collages and drawings which often utilise recycled materials. Her work explores identity, society and themes such as global warming and what it means to be Australian. Soupsue often seeks to explore and provoke thoughtful conversations through quirky humour and symbolism inspired by advertising, history and politics.

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Soupsue exhibiting in the collaborative exhibition In the park: Georges River Artist in Residence in September 2019 at Hurstville Museum & Gallery.

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 heavily researched and planned but of course there is always room for a little experimentation and play. I am very interested in history and the environment so I often draw upon these to help guide my creative process.

Usually I work with collage in the more traditional sense, i.e cutting up and incorporating found imagery to create a new image, story or meaning. These can take a few days to make. But for Water Ways, the large embossed collages which will feature in the exhibition, I was influenced by my research into the Australian smallpox epidemic of 1789 and the publication of the massacre maps by Newcastle University. The maps used in the artwork are from Watkin Tench’s ‘1792 Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson’ and the embossing’s take their inspiration from a 1720 Japanese small pox illustration. Each embossed collage in the exhibition has taken many months to complete and they are very labour intensive.

Can you explain your technique; how you manipulate the medium?

The large collages are all hand embossed. To make them I push damp paper into lino cut outs. My tools were spray bottles, towels, elbow grease, lino printing tools and surprisingly crotchet needles, they are perfect for pressing into thick paper. After the embossing I usually ponder the image for a while and once I have found the correct colours and paper I start to collage, using the coloured paper like paint. I often have to leave a work for weeks at a time so I can get a better understanding of what I want to do next.

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Close up of Waterway Broken Bay, Soupsue.

My digital images are usually pre-planned or in response to something I have already photographed. I love using Photoshop to make quirky advertising-like images. They are often cheesy and tongue in cheek. I find digital art a great way to play with messages and present them like the mass-produced images I use in my traditional collages.

Invasive Species uses a mishmash of popular culture quotes combined with images of plastic waste photographed along the Kogarah Bay shoreline. For Who Stood Here I wanted to explore the millions of undocumented experiences people have had in the local area especially in and around Carss Park. I photographed rocks, the keepers or voyeurs of the experiences and created faux postcards to capture the memories.

Do you keep some kind of ongoing drawing book or diary? Or a collection of images or photographs for inspiration?

I have a visual arts diary where I write notes and ideas for inspiration. I also have a massive collection of magazines, paper clippings and of course lots of National Geographic magazines.

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Soupsue’s studio.

When I’m on the internet or looking at social media, I am always bookmarking an interesting web page or emailing web links to myself. A local librarian pointed me towards TROVE an Australian online library database hosted by the National Library of Australia and it is a brilliant place to find primary resources. You can spend hours discovering local or ancestral Australian history.

There are many books I have found useful for this body of work such as ‘The Colony’ by G. Karskens, ‘The Sydney Wars’ by S. Gapps and ‘A complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson’ by Watkin Tench. I have also relied heavily on local publications especially those of the Kogarah and Hurstville Historical Societies, these have been an excellent way to get an insight into the local area and its people.

 

Visitors can meet artist Soupsue at Hurstville Museum & Gallery on Sunday 28 June 2020, between 2.00 – 5.00pm. For more information please refer to the Georges River Council website.

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