John, Mark and Jeremy NSW
What was the inspiration behind the piece that is a part of the SWELL Sculpture Festival 2021?
Less than 200 meters east of where we are standing right now is a nesting colony of endangered little terns that travel back and forth across the globe each year. It’s one of those incredible journeys and amazing feats of nature that sparks wonder and imagination.
Sometimes even with our best intentions and grand aspirations all we seem to do is get in the way, left alone nature seems to do just fine. Despite all that we do to make it difficult for them, the little terns manage to navigate the challenges of our changing world. Every time they arrive safely they carry messages and parallels we can all sit back and learn from.
Many ancient cultures tell common stories of great floods, tales of ships appearing from over the horizon, as well as their own travels across the ocean and a dramatically changing environment. Those same cultures have studied movements and patterns of birds to predict the future, perhaps we should too.
In a nutshell – we wanted to make something really big. We love the sprit of the little tern… and who doesn’t love a boat!
Do you follow a process or plan for each new piece or do you ‘wing it’?
We always plan our work, except when there are birds involved, like this one for SWELL, then we wing it.
Would you describe your artistic journey as a slow burn or a wild ride?
It’s a wild burn, or a slow ride, or perhaps a blur.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how you became the artist that you are today?
Each of us had a past work life that sat on the edges of the art world, and slowly, over time we all managed to transition across to something we really loved and could could get excited about – making things that we hope will turn out to be ‘good big art.’ It kind of snuck up on us in some ways without us really having any idea of how we became the artists we are. One at a time we woke up on different mornings, looked in our respective mirrors, and saw some weird old guy looking back and thought ‘Wow, that must be an artist!’ In fact yesterday we couldn’t even spell artist, now we can all say I are one.
Describe your ideal environment where your creative juices flow?
John’s studio balcony, with a cool breeze on a sunny day and the birds and animals around.
Is there an artist or body of work that you would consider your muse?
Oh that’s tough, these are hard questions and that’s an odd one – a muse for us isn’t normally an artist. We think of it as more of an individual driving force or inspiration. Some experiences or fleeting moments, like a chance encounter with the ocean on a perfect day, become a muse for the rest of our lives.
If you had to choose 3 words to describe your artistic style, what would they be?
Make it up. Or, it’s all about……. Damn that’s three words already. There’s three of us – do we get nine words?
Beyond SWELL 2021, is there a forthcoming project you are most excited about?
SWELL 2022 of course! And the White Bluff Project – a collaboration between artists, scientists and the community that the three of us are involved in. It is a collection of responses to the Eastern Australian coastline and connectedness to place that will open at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery the month after SWELL.
What does exhibiting in SWELL 2021 mean to you?
Many things: Exhibiting in 2021 means we are allowed to go outside and do stuff again. The team at SWELL give a wonderful gift to the community and we are excited to to be a part of it, plus it’s great opportunity to surround ourselves with inspiring artworks, and see our own work in an ideal setting.
Is there anything you do to continue developing as an artist? Would you describe yourself as self-taught or formally educated in your practice?
There’s a few questions and answers in that one.
Most of our learning comes from a mix of experimentation and a willingness to make mistakes.
Learning from collaborations is definitely important for us, they are the biggest kick along as far as continued development and getting really enthusiastic again goes.
Then there’s everything added together, its an endless soup of learning things from people. We have each been formally educated and chase up people whose work we really like and shadow them, so the processes we use are formally learnt at times and self taught. But it would be hard to ever really say self taught, as we all learn this bit off that person and that bit off another person.
Overall, making mistakes is the biggest part of the learning process for us and the difficulty is knowing which is the mistake and which is not. Alongside this, experimentation is a great teacher.
If you were to go on a holiday, would you venture to the ocean or the mountains?
Ocean or mountain – is that a trick question – the ocean, or an ocean on a mountainous island ….. like Hawaii. We are going to a mountain near the ocean. It’s a given. The three of us live at the point where the great dividing range hits the coastline so we have the best of both worlds, and can draw inspiration from both.
Gourmet restaurant or home-cooked meal?
Home cooked meal. Ooh, perhaps we we need to know what they are serving at the restaurant wine wise…… if its crap wine we are not going, same for the food. We each like cooking, and eating of course. We tend to know what we feel like for dinner and what we want to eat. We can buy lots of really good food and stuff ourselves for the same price as a restaurant, without having to change out of our messy art making clothes. So it’s hard to beat that home cooked meal.
How would you describe your taste in music?
Variable. Unpredictable.. Loud….same as an angle grinder, with a touch of metal…same as the art we make. There’s three of us so it depends on who is closest to the stereo.
Courtney Stephens is an emerging creative event producer based in Tweed Heads. After a successful career as a Practice Manager, her passion for the creative arts industry has led her to study a Bachelor of Business in Convention and Event Management. She hopes to balance her love for the arts, culture and nature with her strengths in communication and management to create community based events.