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Wendy Johnson with the beginnings of her work Mothers Wisdom


Wendy Johnson is a local New South Wales artist. Her work “Mothers Wisdom” is a symbolic teapot, like mother’s wisdom that passes through centuries, across geographical and cultural boundaries. Down through time it is constantly being poured out and replenished. The ritual of tea drinking provides an occasion to pause from the fast-flowing current of life. The teapot and cup are made of mother’s nature and wisdom.
Writer Haley Smith spoke with Wendy about what inspires her art practice, her connection with nature and the land and how this transforms her art works.

Can you tell me one thing about your artwork that will make people stop and stare?

I hope the materials I’ve used in my artwork will make people stop and stare.  Seeing a commonplace object made from a collection of natural materials will highlight the beauty and versatility of these natural fibres. I am hoping people will reflect on what a teapot and mother’s wisdom have to do with each other. For me Mother’s Wisdom is something that takes time to brew and is poured out and refilled across generations just like tea. A pot of tea is nurturing, calming and regenerative like Mother’s Wisdom.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My Inspiration is drawn from many sources.  I am inspired by all the mothers before me who created utilitarian things from weaving, from the Land art movement of the 60’s and indigenous weavers of Australia. I am inspired by the art of slow design, the art of choosing priorities, the art of letting go, the art of knowing when to hold them and when to fold them. Art and life are intertwined. Being a mother has filled my life with inspiration and wisdom.  Being a mother has pushed me to art. I sit down, have a cup of tea and reflect otherwise I forget about these wonderful attributes I have earned. Pablo Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
Art does that for me.

What motivates you to create your art?

I’m motivated to create art from my local environment which is abundant with natural materials that ignite my creativity and I enjoy using the wisdom I’ve accumulated through the years. I   enjoy expressing myself in a 3-dimensional form and use it as a window to escape for a time from reality.

Do you experience self-doubt or fear when it comes to creating art and how do you overcome it?

I constantly work through self-doubt. I make lots of mistakes and am forever on a learning curve. There are no mistakes in art only learning experiences and opportunities to push boundaries.

How long has it taken you to complete your SWELL Sculpture this year?

I hate to think of how long it’s taken. let’s just call it a lifestyle approach. Most days I am out in the backyard observing the snake, blue tongue lizard, bush turkey and any other creature that comes visiting whilst I am working.

Can you tell me what impression you want your art piece to have on the public?

I’d like the public to have a sense of surprise followed by contemplation and celebration of the role mothers’ wisdom has played down the centuries and its ongoing importance in the modern world.

At what point in the day do you find you are the most creative and productive?

The most creative time is a couple of hours into commencement of work and your head is clear of junk. Ideas pop into your head but you must remain focused on the job at hand. For me this can be difficult because I love making a mess. When productivity begins to lag, I hear the bush turkey tending his nest and think of his extraordinary work ethic and I must keep going.

Are there any installations from other artists that you are excited to see this year?

I can’t wait to see all the sculptures. My curiosity goes crazy as I ask myself a hundred questions whilst looking at each one. However, there will be keen interest in the other female sculptors due to gender inequality when it comes to the art world.

Would you rather create art with your opposite hand or have a really annoying high-pitched noise play every time you try to do work?

I’d rather create with my other hand as there is spontaneity in it that captures the energy, of the moment getting the chance to play, be creative, being enveloped in the joy of making is what arts about not the end product.

If you could only use one material to make art for the rest of your life, what would you use?

Using one material is not in the vocabulary of an artist.  Natural fibres are fabulous but paint for me also holds a lot of mystery and is calling to be explored more.

Haley Smith is an emerging writer and creative from the Gold Coast. She has had an active blog for over ten years where she shares her short stories, poetry and travelling adventures. She has founded a podcast; Atomic Sunflowers. Here she shares stories about creative living beyond fear, mental health and balancing the creative mind.

Follow her on Instagram @haleylaurensmith or her blog www.haleylaurensmith.com