Friday, June 6, 2008

Melbourne's Moving Galleries PLUS Interview - Amber Wallis

Eamonn Verberne - Who Did That?
type c photograph

Magdalena Bors - Sunrise
pigment print

Both images above, and Amber Wallis' Untitled (Ghost and Paper Planes) below, are part of the Moving Galleries Autumn 2008 exhibition.

I got an email last week about a fantastic Melbourne initiative... Moving Galleries is a travelling exhibition of art and poetry, showcasing the work of young and emerging Victorian artists on Melbourne’s metropolitan trains.

The inspiration for Moving Galleries came from the success of public transport art and poetry initiatives abroad, particularly London's highly successful Poems on the Underground concept. Melbourne's Moving Galleries exhibition was first launched in 2005, and saw 480 artworks travel on 20 Connex trains. In 2007, the project secured long-term funding, enabling it to evolve from a ‘one-off’ exhibition into an ongoing non-profit initiative dedicated to promoting creativity in Melbourne’s public spaces.

Amber Wallis - Untitled (Ghost and Paper Planes)
mixed media on board

One of the contributers currently exhibiting in the Moving Galleries Autumn 2008 exhibition is Melbourne artist Amber Wallis. Her painting Untitled (Ghost and Paper Planes) (above) immediately caught my attention - I love the careful balance of muted and striking colours, and the forms which at first appear entirely abstract, but seem to morph into figurative characters the longer you stare... beautiful.

Luckily for me, Amber was open to answering some questions about her work and her involvement in the Moving Galleries project. I especially love the description of her creative process - 'I like to be clear headed, drink lots of tea and generally make a mess'. Fantastic! In this interview Amber also mentions many other incredible local artists to keep an eye on... Be sure to follow all the links! Thanks so much for sharing these great finds Amber, and for being so accommodating with my last-minute request for an interview!

If you have chance, please visit Amber's upcoming group show Thank God We Died Together at TCB - and of course keep an eye out for her work and the work of other local artists on public transport across Melbourne!

Tell me a little about your creative background – what path has led you to the style of work you are producing today?

I graduated in Photography in 2002 and began drawing around the same time. I found that with drawing I could capture my un-photographed memories and experiences in a succinct and cathartic way. To me my drawings and paintings have always been like photography somehow, a direct moment, flash of experience or an image that hovers in memory slightly distorted.

The style of work I produce today is really in its infancy but also remains fairly unchanged from the first initial doodles. It is just changing in size, colours and mediums. I remain interested in creating a great line, colour, form, composition and gestural energy. My work is fairly abstract to the viewer although to me it seems really literal. People often want to know what it is, or what its about but I enjoy the process of the viewer imbuing my work with their own meanings. Shapes and forms are slightly uncanny in their ability to morph into people’s own interpretations. I really enjoy that.

Amber Wallis - And My Brain Falls Out
oil stick, gouache, pencil, ink on paper

How did your involvement with the Moving Galleries project come about? What initially attracted you to the idea?

I had a show with Utopian Slumps gallery last year and Moving Galleries did a call out to Artist Run Initiative’s to participate in the Autumn 2008 series. Utopian Slumps put me forward as an artist and I was accepted.

I have seen similar projects in other parts of the world, art in the public arena can only be a good thing right? I also had seen the project where musicians and performance artists did a show on the City Circle route and I thought that was fantastic and exciting. A friend of mine sent me a poetry book from the New York project and it was really good.

What other exhibitions / creative projects have you been involved with in Melbourne?

Oh too many to name! Melbourne is a great city and there are some really wonderful curators and galleries and networks of people making art happen. I am lucky to be involved with Utopian Slumps as an artist and volunteer. I am also lucky to be involved with art doers like Amanda Maxwell, Conor O’Brien, The Contextual Villians and Melissa Loughnan, without a great group of art nerds around so much wouldn’t take off. I have a show coming up at TCB called Thank God We Died Together, with Nathan Gray, Dylan Martorell and others, which will be really fun.

Lucy's note - you must check out those links! Amazing work - I'm ashamed I haven't heard of all these names before... Nathan Gray especially - look here and here... amazing amazing.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

Cy Twombly, Tony Tuckson, Amy Sillman, Rhys Lee, Philip Hunter and absolute establishment like Gorky, Miro, Goya, Francis Bacon etcetera. I am really old school in my inspiration and output I think. I am not inspired by the design world at all.

Amber Wallis - Untitled (Clea and Rangitoto)
medium acrylic, oil, oil stick, pastel, pencil on linen

Where else do you find inspiration for your work – ie books, your environment, travel, your family and friends?

I find constant inspiration in music and writing. I really love Keri Hulme and Jeanette Winterson and trawl their work for images. Poetry is also really great for that. Day to day emotions and remembering certain situations or intense pivotal moments, just recollecting and almost getting into a trance of a remembered experience can be really powerful.

I tend to listen to the same music over and over while I paint. My mix is generally The Pink Mountain Tops, Black Mountain, Smog, Songs: Ohia, Set Fire to Flames and generally depressing ex lovers music.

I really love to travel, place is really important. I still draw alot based on my time in Canada, New Zealand and the Southern Highlands in NSW. I have only done a handful of drawings which may have some roots in the Melbourne experience and I have been here three years now so that gives you an idea how much I trawl through the past.

What does a typical day at work in the studio involve for you?

Well I like to be clear headed, drink lots of tea and generally make a mess. Sometimes the mess works and other days you just have to try again. I sit on my green comfy chair and stare at what I work on for great lengths of time. Hopefully a day involves a flourishing wave of productivity where the mojo is working. A day that pushes personal boundaries, breaks some habits and maybe involves a good line or two.

Amber Wallis - Untitled (Landscape)
mixed media on canvas

What would be your dream creative project?

To spend a few months every year staying at Corey’s Cottage at Clea, just outside of Captains Flat. I would like to work in the studio everyday, having a fire by night, bathing in the bath under the stars and walking with Odin to the dam for a swim every morning. Ah heaven!

What are you looking forward to - professionally or personally?

I would love to do art full time, be in love and travel…keep it simple ya know. Everything else would be a bonus.

Melbourne Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

This morning, baked eggs at Katy’s cafĂ© The Breakfast Club, St Georges Road, Northcote

What and where are your favourite shops for the materials and tools of your trade?

The mistints outside any paint shop sold cheap. Any art supply store that gives a student discount, Fitzroy Stretches are really nice and Omnus Framing, they always do a good job.

Amber Wallis - A Memorable Decline (Fear of Sheep) detail
black and white photograph on fibre based paper

Where would we find you on a typical weekend morning?

Drinking tea in my kitchen listening to some sweet record, cooking some huge fatty breakfast for friends.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?


Amber Wallis - Untitled (Landscape Clea)
medium acrylic, oil, oil stick, pastel, pencil on linen


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