Blair Garland QLD
What was the inspiration behind the piece that is a part of the SWELL Sculpture Festival 2021?
Conversations and questions inspired “Delimitation”. 2020 saw enormous cultural changes in the psychological, economic and physical fabric of our society due to border closures, resulting from a deadly virus. All of a sudden our lives became a slow moving plot from a science fiction movie. Russell Solomon (my life partner) and I challenged ourselves to create an artwork that would provoke more conversations and questions around the moral dilemmas we as a society grapple with around border walls and border fences. This has been particularly amplified living in Australia.
Do you follow a process or plan for each new piece or do you ‘wing it’?
Over the years my ideas have evolved and changed with my interests and life’s focus. My work is diverse and has explored the notion of the domestic suburban experience. I am not loyal to any one process of making an artwork nor am I loyal to specific materials. However, I am loyal to my ideas. The ‘idea’ will dictate the materials used for a particular work and the final form it will take. My work is not however, didactic, as the viewer can read their own interpretation into it, bring their own ideas and associations to it. But, it does come from a specific place relative to my own experience at that moment in time.
I attempt to open a dialogue between materials and form and in some cases location, in order to expose a new way of thinking. I find it entertaining to transform the ordinary everyday object or scene into something extraordinary.
Would you describe your artistic journey as a slow burn or a wild ride?
The artist’s journey throughout her lifetime is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Observational drawing taught me from a young age to stop and take the time to contemplate and nurture your ideas in order to see things more truthfully. The myth of the artist superstar on a wild ride is just that, a myth. Things in the art world happen very slowly and we are mostly women working hard in the suburbs creating artwork nobody sees. Male artists have long dominated prizes, gallery walls, arts press and leadership positions in the art world, despite evidence that 75 per cent of art school graduates are female. So being female has had its own challenges over the years. For me this journey is a definitely slow burn and one not for the faint hearted. Mostly, we must be our own cheer squad to sustain our practice.
Can you tell us a little bit more about how you became the artist that you are today?
My Mother is an Artist and I grew up looking at and listening to her and her female friends discussing their work. During my high school years she was welding 3 metre high steel sculptures from recycled metal, when she was in her forties. This taught me that women can do anything! However, the history of art I was learning about didn’t include women. The galleries didn’t show any women either. After school I studied Visual Art at University where I was introduced to the idea of research and learned to delve deeper into art history and the contemporary art world. I learned about Feminist Artists like Judy Chicago, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, the Gorilla Girls and many, many more women who had been written out of history. My mind was suddenly open to the rich and complex history of women’s art and I was angry about their absence from my previous education. Since then feminism has always informed my art practice.
Describe your ideal environment where your creative juices flow?
I have always had a studio in my home. This is my sacred space where I can focus on my work. I enjoy listening to music while I work and particularly like hearing new music. The ABC’s Radio National is also a favourite station to help me feel connected to community. I also like to go for walks with my camera and take photos of the world around me which I share on social media.
Is there an artist or body of work that you would consider your muse?
I am a feminist artist so the history of women’s art has the greatest influence over my work. Also you could probably say my suburban experience is my muse, if a muse doesn’t have to be a person.
If you had to choose 3 words to describe your artistic style, what would they be?
Suburban, feminist, artist.
Beyond SWELL 2021, is there a forthcoming project you are most excited about?
I recently received a RADF Grant to have a photography exhibition of my Postcards from Redcliffe series. Postcards from Redcliffe are a contemporary collection of photographic portraits of houses with personality. The essence of Redcliffe is reflected in these images and they speak to a sense of place. The homes have been selected for their unique quirkiness, their qualities of quaintness and their nostalgic stirrings. Redcliffe is in a state of transition and my photographs are telling stories about its changing face. This exhibition arose during COVID19’s lockdown in 2020 when we were all in social isolation. I discovered people were looking forward to my social media posts of these homes and so I decided to create a series titled Postcards from Redcliffe. Differing from the traditional format of a postcard however, they found their place in the new world, through social media platforms. You can access my photographs on my Instagram page @garland.blair or this is the link https://www.instagram.com/invites/contact/?i=h72r4eridx0t&utm_content=5t1k39q
What does exhibiting in SWELL 2021 mean to you?
Exhibitions act as the catalyst of art and ideas to the public. They represent a way of displaying and contextualising art that makes it relevant and accessible to contemporary audiences. SWELL is the perfect vehicle for Delimitation as it is situated close to the border of New South Wales and Queensland and the community on the Gold Coast should definitely have an affinity with the work. However, on a more personal level, I grew up on Currumbin beach. I learned how to surf there, I got married at dawn on the beach next to Currumbin Rock and my son had his first swim in Currumbin estuary as a baby. Consequently, I feel very emotionally connected to this particular landscape, I know it intimately and think it is a perfect space for Delimitation at this moment in time.
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?
I went to University when I was young and this set a fantastic foundation to build my knowledge upon. I have never stopped learning since. I read, listen, watch, analyse, debate and challenge myself. I see it as my job to be intellectually informed and critically aware of my cultural surroundings and my place in it. I keep my visual language evolving by whatever means possible, through drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, canvas embroidery or an installation on the beach. The work needs to be produced to be relevant and it needs to be accessible by whatever means possible.
What would your autobiography be titled?
A suburban carnival.
Do you have any pets?
I have three chooks. A beautiful Wyandotte named Audrey Henburn (named after a scene from My Fair Lady at the race track where Audrey Hepburn is wearing a stunning black and white outfit) and two Sussex sisters named Cate and Blanche because they reminded me of the elegant Cate Blanchette with her peaches and cream complexion. I also have a black and white cat named Milly with the Billy, named because she has a little black goatie beard on her chin. Milly is 12 years old and sleeps on my pillow next to my head at night. We also have a Pee Wee couple who use our swimming pool at their leisure who have named Mr and Mrs P.W. There is a Pigeon couple who visit, the large male is named Dorian because he is all shades of grey and his sweet lover Ira whose plumage is iridescent. We have Granddaddy Crow who is extremely intelligent and softens stale bread in our birdbath regularly. I created a birdbath directly outside my studio window and there is a family of Noisy Minors who bathe there on a daily basis, too many to name. Recently, a Butcher Bird mother and her two babies have been using the bath too. There is always something colourful and entertaining happening around our home with the animals and birds. When I was a kid I wanted to be an Artist and a Vet. Consequently, animals have always been important in my life and regularly show up in my paintings, where they are often adorned with wings, reminiscent of gargoyles. In these works they symbolically represent our emotional protectors as we journey through life.
What go-to karaoke song?
Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog.
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.