Where did you grow up? How did it shape you into becoming an artist?
I grew up in Geelong. My mother was an active member of the National Gallery and Geelong Art Gallery and was a bit of a collector of local works. My innate desire to draw and photograph people from an early age was encouraged so I imagine that was a powerful catalyst. Mum did a degree majoring in Australian Art in later life, so much discussion was had on art and I accompanied her to many an exhibition openings over my life. (We both loved the free wine and cheese!) She was very encouraging of any artistic pursuit I followed as well as of my career as a photographer. The same could be said of the influence of family friends and relatives such as the ‘bohemian’ aunt who came to stay from the Dandenong Ranges, who had lived in a well-known artists’ colony in her youth. This fascinated me no end as a young person. When art is valued in family, school and your community the appreciation of it seeps into your pores often without consciousness.
Did you choose your art subject or did it choose you?
Chicken or egg. Life has thrown out many opportunities to follow artistic pursuits and life has brought me into contact with many artistic types. When I chose to follow these pursuits and be inspired by people, then art became entwined in the very fabric of my being. Also my art (both painting and photography) has reflected the physical and social landscape of wherever I have lived at the time so it becomes a main form of self-expression. There has always been a compulsion to record experience. Is that choice?
What attracts you to your subject matter?
At present, living in Central Victoria, the landscape has a craggy majesty about it which I am compelled to photograph and paint. For the festival however, I am showing Flawed Landscapes, a photographic exhibition of six women’s medical scars and the impact on their lives. Looking at the ‘landscape of the human body’ it deals with themes surrounding wounding and regeneration…not unlike the Goldfields. Why I am attracted to this theme is complex I’m sure.
What is art for you, what does it do for you?
With Flawed Landscapes, my photographs are perhaps a way of honoring a process of suffering, scarring and redemption through both imagery and the subjects’ written word. In general, photography and painting connects me with environment and culture and allows me to ‘digest’ and ‘regurgitate’ it, so to speak. Again, there is something of a compulsion to capture or ‘freeze’ the essence of people or places that otherwise would be in a transient state. The very act of painting is also very meditative. And there is the practicality of earning money!
What’s in store for you in 2017?
As much as one can have any control over what life brings, I hope (and will work toward) it being full of creative surprises, new techniques learnt, new and interesting places painted and photographed, and some good financial outcomes to keep all these endeavors afloat.
How do you make your work?
In photography I am now relying on the technology and mystery of the digital image made in camera, processed in Lightroom or Photoshop and then printed. With painting I use acrylic paint on canvas or cotton rag paper but am about to enter the brave new world of oils.
What is the integral work of an artist?
There are as many answers to that question as there are artists. As many political and socio-cultural movements have been heralded (or accompanied by) art, especially in turbulent times, the artist’s work is to convey ideas, challenge ideologies, or present diverse ways of thinking, through a different level of consciousness. Sometimes the work of an artist is to convey beauty to those who may not ‘see’. Sometimes it is to entertain and sometimes it is to express unspoken pain, grief or confusion. It seems Indigenous people in many nations used art for extraordinary and life- sustaining things we can’t even contemplate with a Western mindset. The common denominator of all the above is the work of communication.
What is it that informs your work and how is it expressed in your art?
Many things inform my work, depending on what the type of work it is and why I want to do it. Sometimes it’s just wanting to capture what I feel about a subject; the beauty, magnificence, quirkiness or sadness of our visual world whether it be nature, urban landscape or humanity. Sometimes it’s communicating or expressing a human process or experience such as in Flawed Landscapes. Other times I am not consciously informed by anything other than the felt need to photograph something, post a picture, draw or paint. More often than not, I want to make a gift for someone by producing something they will love.
How do you feel that your art fits into the world at large?
This question could be likened to pondering ‘how do I fit into the world at large?’ It could be a vehicle for reminding others of beauty or interesting qualities in all realms of life, an encouragement to pursue curiosity plus generate philosophical questions of culture and humanity. It may act to promote discovery of foreign cultures or beauty in things overlooked. It can facilitate healing or clarity in a complex situation. In less esoteric yet vital ways it serves to record the important moments in life, capture the joyous essence of a pet, aid in the telling of a story or reveal facts. It is a consumer product. It is a job. It is so much more. It narrates my life and therefore gives meaning and connection to the world and others.
Who are you most influenced by in the art world?
At present I am doing art lessons with Richard Baxter, local artist and photographer who is influencing me greatly to learn and grow. As the art world has so many inspirational folk, both historically and currently, I hesitate to name any one person. So many photographers out there, especially now in the digital world.
Who is your favourite artist?
I love the work of Ballarat landscape artist Lars Stenberg, who does painting of the Goldfields and surrounds, plus Sydney artist Chris Langlois’ majestic sea and skyscapes. I also appreciate the chaos and vibrancy of Margaret Olley’s domestic scenes. The Heidelberg school of Australian impressionist painters such as McCubbin, Roberts and Streeton has always had a special place in my heart. In terms of photography, I admire the rawness, spontaneity and lack of self-consciousness of Vivian Maier’s American Streetscapes. Ai Weiwei’s work is powerful as a political tool. Ansell Adams and Peter Lik for their majestic landscapes and their ability to be in the right place at the right time. Way too many too mention…plus I’m not good at remembering names!
How has your practice changed over time?
The nature of my photographic work has changed significantly over the years, reflecting various stages in my life and place in the world. In Melbourne in the early 1990s I focused on weddings, portraiture and publicity work as well as the urban landscape, from which I produced a range of photographic cards. A youthful, vaguely naive optimism permeated my work. Now I’m trying to be a bit less ‘postcardy’ and more experimental and look at deeper themes, especially with Flawed Landscapes. Digital processing has made that more possible. In terms of painting I am experimenting with more abstract work alongside photo realism.
How would you like people to view and interact with your art?
With Flawed Landscapes at the Castlemaine State Festival, as well as engaging with the photographed women’s personal stories and marvelously written pieces, I would like people to reflect on their own stories of dealing with physical or psychological injury or imperfections and how themes of redemption and self- acceptance may have emerged over time. I would hope that the imagery somehow communicates directly and metaphorically the themes expressed.
Marion Williams is taking part in the Castlemaine Festival Open Studios