Christian Newton NSW
What was the inspiration behind the piece that is a part of the SWELL Sculpture Festival 2021?
Two negative events in my world collided. In December 2020 the Tweed River flooded my town during border closures/COVID lockdown. Inspiration literally floated right past me in the shape of downed trees and driftwood.
Do you follow a process or plan for each new piece or do you ‘wing it’?
The spiral of a shell shape is vital. Once I carve that – the rest gets easier.
Would you describe your artistic journey as a slow burn or a wild ride?
Slow burn?! hahaha.. Have you been spying? To get my shell patterning I often set fire to my carvings. I’ve recently discovered my BBQ is a great way to char my work quickly.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how you became the artist that you are today?
My creativity started in high-school with drawing and clay, progressed to commercial floristry in my twenties, detoured, through a decade of rogue taxidermy before delving into wood carving.
Describe your ideal environment where your creative juices flow?
Chainsaws and power tools screaming, wood chips flying, Bluetooth earmuffs playing playlists of banjo music, neighbours complaining, I’m covered in sawdust, grinning like a madman beneath a full-face dust mask.
Is there an artist or body of work that you would consider your muse?
I really respect a first-nations wood carving cultures. I had the chance to see totem pole carvers of Queen Charlotte island in Canada first-hand. Gorgeous symmetry and beautifully singular designs on a huge scale.
If you had to choose 3 words to describe your artistic style, what would they be?
Naive, quirky, evolving.
Beyond SWELL 2021, is there a forthcoming project you are most excited about?
With more than a little luck I’ll be able get my butt over to New Zealand for a few wood carving festivals. I’m keen to encounter and visit with some Maori wood carvers not to mention get a chance to carve some NZ timbers.
What does exhibiting in SWELL 2021 mean to you?
Last year was my SWELL debut. To the SWELL artist selection committees credit, they really took punt on me to be able to deliver on my ideas. It swallowed all my time I was head down and too busy just finishing my work to enjoy the variety of SWELL-related talks, events and activities leading up to the festival. This year I’m planning to finish my works early and be free to really sink my teeth into everything on offer. the various SWELL compass sites, the artist talks etc. My mantra for SWELL 2021 is ‘say yes to everything’
Is there anything you do to continue developing as an artist? Would you describe yourself as self-taught or formally educated in your artistic practice?
Definitely self-taught. There is no school or class to teach you how to make art with a chainsaw. It deflects logic, commonsense and personal safety. I do go to life drawing classes sometimes, I’ve got a theory that a naked human form is basically just a bunch of sea-shell shapes stacked in the right order.
Where did you grow up?
Maroubra in the 1970s – beach culture was everything. School and occupations were just things people grudgingly did when the surf was no good. I was crap at surfing but the love of the ocean I kept with me to this day.
Have you got a favourite Art Gallery in Australia?
The Tweed River Gallery in Murwillumbah. I pretend Margaret Olley is my grandmother and go visit her standing exhibition every month or so. I’ve got a special spot in my heart for Dust Temple too. The vibe is great and you’re always bound to bump into a familiar face or someone inspirational.
Tea or coffee?
Greek coffee from the stovetop. Short, dark and muddy please.
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.