7×13 | 2021 | Series 3 | Gail Dawson

/ / Latest News, Meet the Artists 2021 7x13 Series

Gail Dawson QLD


What was the inspiration behind the piece that is a part of the SWELL Sculpture Festival 2021?

I’ve been fascinated by CDs for a long time – so pretty and shiny! I’ve always thought they’d make great fish scales, but never really thought I could readily get enough to make it work. When I learned that 4MBS had to throw away huge numbers of them, I was horrified by the waste and environmental damage, and then excited by the potential! Once I started on the track of this piece, it didn’t take long for me to see an opportunity to make a real statement about the amount of non-degradable waste we pour into the environment.

Do you follow a process or plan for each new piece or do you ‘wing it’?

On smaller pieces I often ‘wing it’, but when it’s a large piece I have to plan a bit more – the underlying structure is really important, so I need to consider what stresses the finished piece is likely to be subject to. I often spend a long time thinking about a piece, in my head it will shift considerably from my initial idea. I make a maquette first, and play with the angles for a while. I don’t adhere to it rigidly when I make the large work, but it’s surprising how close to it the final piece is.

Would you describe your artistic journey as a slow burn or a wild ride?

It’s definitely a combination of both. There have been a number of events in my life which have put my artistic journey on hold – I’ve learned to accept that, I don’t see it as a disadvantage. When I’m not making art I’m thinking about it – even if it’s years before I get back to it I have years of reflection behind me when I start work again. Sometimes opportunities come suddenly, and I have to respond quickly, that can be both exhilarating and stressful – I try to meet each new opportunity with energy and an open mind.

Can you tell us a little bit more about how you became the artist that you are today?

As they say, ‘I started out as a child.” Growing up in the bush, I had a strong affinity with nature. Making art has always been a driving force with me, and the times in my life when I haven’t felt free to do this have been difficult. Strangely, though, it has only been in the last few years that I’ve started expressing my long-held environmental concerns through my art. I’m finding this form of expression hugely satisfying, and can’t wait for the next project.

Describe your ideal environment where your creative juices flow?

I’ve always tended to curl up with a cuppa and a sketch book in a quiet corner when I wanted to create, but I’ve been surprised with this last project to find that a sunny day in my backyard with a huge pile of junk really fires me up!

Is there an artist or body of work that you would consider your muse?

For some time I’ve been following artists like Von Wong, Ilie Duta, Khalil Chishtee, and Alison McDonald. They each have a very different approach to how they use plastic waste, but collectively they illustrate both the threat and limitless potential of this problem.

If you had to choose 3 words to describe your artistic style, what would they be?

Ummm….that’s a hard one! ‘Big’ comes to mind. (Though I also make very small things.) Maybe ‘Exploratory’. I’d also say ‘Ethically Motivated’, but that’s two words.

Beyond SWELL 2021, is there a forthcoming project you are most excited about?

I’m just at the stage of being open to whatever comes up. I’ve just finished costuming a fun production that was to be an interactive play, until covid restrictions turned it into a film. I didn’t even know about it 3 weeks before. I’m a great believer in Tim Minchin’s philosophy of ‘Don’t get too focused on where you’re going, or you might miss the shiny thing just off to one side”.

What does exhibiting in SWELL 2021 mean to you?

This has been a great experience for me. It’s an opportunity to work as big as I like, alongside a group of highly talented artists, with a real community feeling. It’s exciting and humbling and a very big adventure!

Is there anything you do to continue developing as an artist? Would you describe yourself as self-taught or formally educated in your practice?

All of the above, really. I’ve experimented with art all my life, but have also attended formal workshops, and completed a 3-year diploma of visual arts 30 years ago. I started part-time study in a Creative Arts degree a few years ago, and really love working alongside wildly differing creatives, but I’m also very happy working alone. I’ve picked up a broad range of skills along the way, which means I can incorporate a number of different techniques in my art.

Do you have a must visit location for someone visiting the Gold Coast?

Well, obviously, the beaches. And then there’s the wildlife sanctuary right on our doorstep. The hinterlands have some absolutely beautiful spots, and…. I have to confess a weakness for the thrill rides at the theme parks!

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m actually re-reading the Terry Pratchett Discworld series. At the moment, Reaper Man. I’m so sad he will never write another book.

What best describes your creative space; organised or chaotic?

Chaotic….with occasional defiant pockets of organisation.

The Author

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.

Follow her on Instagram @courtneystephens