Date published: 8/01/2013
In the lead up to Midland Open Studios 2013, we chatted to Robert Dorizzi, Julie Hein, Melanie Diss and Shelley Piang-Nee, who gave us a peek into their sketch books and divulged on everything from what inspires them to the lessons that have shaped their practice.
A Midland Studio artist since its inception, Rob is a printmaker who is dedicated to studio practice.
When did you first join Artsource and how has having a studio helped your practice?
I’ve always practised this way and doing it at home just wasn’t feasible. I saw an Artsource advertisement for the East Perth studios and grabbed it. I spent four years there and when Artsource’s Midland Studios became available I leapt at the opportunity. Having a studio has been fantastic, it has helped my practice hugely. I’m an ex art teacher and art lecturer and when I retired I thought that was it, but then I got the studio and my practice developed and snowballed from there. I’ve had two solo exhibitions since then and I’m very busy now.
Tell me about your art practice and what inspires you.
For thirty plus years, I’ve regarded myself a printmaker, but up until about two months ago I didn't have a press, so I’ve been drawing and painting instead of printmaking. Now that I have a machine, using it will be the next big challenge and I imagine it will be very gratifying.
I get inspired by a number of different aspects of my surroundings. Some of my early studio work that you can see hanging on the wall was inspired by crosswords. When I retired, I started doing a lot of crosswords out of newspapers and magazines which inspired me to start designing my own crossword artworks using the square layout. That grew into a whole series of work.
What led you to become an artist?
There was never going to be anything else. I was always interested in art and after school I studied at Perth Tech in graphic design, but decided I wanted to do printmaking. I finished at Tech and then got called up to go to Vietnam. After I got out of the army I started teaching at James Street Tech, I was a lecturer in printmaking and etching. After that, because I enjoyed it so much I went and got teaching training but couldn’t get back into lecturing. So that led me become a lecturer in art education at Greylands Teachers College, and then spent 30 years teaching in high schools in art and craft. I was at Swan View senior high school for many years.
What’s your routine with studio practice?
I’m in the studio every week day, from about 6am until midday. I drink lots of coffee and listen to classical music.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about being an artist?
Far too many art students presume that when they finish school they’re going to have lots of exhibitions and sell work. I’ve given that up because in reality it doesn’t always happen like that. You’ve got to make the work first. I’ve been lucky in that when I started all this, I had no presumptions. I didn’t think I was going to have an exhibition and I had no intention of doing so.
If there was one thing you could change about the art industry in Perth what would it be?
Art supplies are my major problem. Often what I need isn’t available in Perth or it’s too expensive so I have to look elsewhere like Melbourne or New York. There should be retailers here stocking a full range of affordable art supplies.
Why should people come along to the Open Studios event?
It’s an opportunity to purchase work that doesn’t incur a commission, like it would in a gallery. Also it’s a chance to see incomplete works that are just underway which can be quite interesting. It’s also a great chance to meet the artists.
Julie, who works across paper, jewellery and painting, runs the 'FRONT Studio Gallery' at Midland.
Why did you decide to join Artsource Midland?
I joined Artsource Midland in April last year because I thought I would enjoy the collective environment and also having a place away from home where I could have my stuff in one place and be able to focus on work. It's nice to have that companionship of likeminded people and be able to toss around ideas together.
How has it been managing Artsource Midland's 'FRONT Studio Gallery'?
It’s a wonderful space for working in, it’s very spacious. Primarily I use the gallery as studio space. I’ve also had work from the artists upstairs displayed in the gallery. That works really well as people wander in off the street who may not know about the studios upstairs, so it’s a way of telling them about our collective. I also do bookbinding and book repurposing workshops at local governments and in the gallery here.
Please tell me about your art practice.
You might’ve noticed that it’s very eclectic and I have a very broad interest. I’ve always been interested in paper as a medium and I have explored that from every angle. I quite like the idea of paper and I always had the idea of having an exhibition space just for works on paper, but I also like to explore other mediums. At the moment I’m working on still life. I really enjoy doing portraits, I really like to capture people. I do a lot of water colour as well, that’s completely different because that’s so free and there is a lot of movement. The water colour completely dictates where you are going to it can be quite exciting and fun.
Do you have a favourite artwork that you've produced?
Things come in and out of favour. There are lots of little things that are inconsequential things that perhaps don’t have a lot of merit but I might have got a lot pleasure from. Or they might have been a stepping stone – something to go further with. That little ink drawing up there of the person sitting, I have dragged that around with me for about 40 years. The fact that I keep putting it up here and there wherever I go, I suppose it is a favourite. I should just throw away but for some reason I don’t. I like that it is so simple. There is no agonising lines, it is just a brush and ink. It's impromptu and it’s spontaneous. Someone was sitting and I just got my brush and captured them. Which brings us back to where I am now, capturing still moments in a person’s life.
Why should people come to the Open Studios event?
It’s entertaining. It’s a glimpse into the artists’ world and it’s great fun. Particularly for people who don’t have any artistic aspirations themselves but are just curious how an artist might situate themselves and where they get their inspiration from.
Painter Melanie Diss uses ink, acrylic and water to explore the earth's colours and textures.
Please tell us about your art practice.
My work is mostly experimentation with acrylic, ink and water, using them to explore the colours and textures of the earth's surface. I am currently working on creating tactile, multi-layered surfaces, that attempt to capture the fragility and harshness of the earth's continually evolving landscape. As an artist I am inspired by the materials I use, they constantly surprise me and I love creating works with a large element of chance. I am constantly taking photographs and reading science journals, I tend to look outside the art world for inspiration.
What are you working on at the moment and what can visitors to Midland Open Studios expect to see?
At the moment I am using inks and acrylics to recreate the amazing textures and features of the landscape, as seen in aerial photography. I am attempting to replicate the land, in paintings on board and also painting on fabric.
What is your routine with studio practice?
I have really irregular hours. Usually after an exhibition I feel quite burnt out and I might not go into the studio for a while, instead working on another creative project, like drawing, until I feel like painting again. When producing a new body of work I am usually at the studio on weekends and most nights. I love staying up all night in the studio listening to music and working, the time just flies by and I get so much done. I also like having a big clean up of the studio after each exhibition!
When did you join Artsource Midland and why did you apply for a studio?
I moved in when the studios first opened, in about August 2009. I was really unsure about applying for a studio as I thought I wasn't experienced enough as an artist, only just having graduated the year before. Mark Springhetti, who worked at Artsource at the time, encouraged me to apply. That's what Artsource is there for, to help emerging artists!
How has having a studio helped your practice?
If I didn't have my own studio I'm not sure if I would have been able to continue my practice, as I don't have enough room at home to work or to store my work. It really helped me to take my work more seriously, having a dedicated space to work, and working alongside other practicing artists. Also the Open Studios events are a good opportunity to get feedback from the public about our work. My work has definitely changed over the past 4 years, and is constantly changing. I am still working with abstract textures mainly but also experimenting with aerial landscapes, photography, drawing and still-life painting.
Emerging artist Shelley creates intricate 3D works referencing nature and organic forms.
When did you first join Artsource and what was your motivation for getting a studio?
I wanted to continue on my arts practice because I’m a recent graduate of Polytechnic West. So part of this was to be on the lookout for a place where I knew I’d be surrounded by some like-minded people and be able to keep in touch with what’s going on in the art world. I was fully aware that Artsource was the agency to be with if I wanted to be serious about my arts practice.
Tell me about your art practice and what you're working on at the moment.
I’m mainly a 3D artist, not exclusively, but that is my focus. I usually draw inspiration from nature. I like the idea of referencing and creating forms from nature, placing them in synthetic environments and creating a juxtaposition. I like exploring organic forms in these sterile environments, I really get something out of that.
I’m working on some small sculptures at the moment, based on the idea of language in nature. Believe it or not they’re made out of sticks. Most of my work is about process, it’s very labour intensive and a long process, but I’m proud of the result.
How do you think having a dedicated studio space differs from working from home?
First of all I see myself as an artist when I come to the studio. It’s my workspace, I treat it differently from my home and I try to get my son to understand that concept as well. I’m a working artist when I come here.
What is your long term plan for your art practice?
I’m interested in public art, so hopefully down the road I’ll be working on some larger scale sculptures. At the moment it’s about creating a biography and working my way up to larger projects. Hopefully in five years’ time it will be more of a nation-wide thing rather than WA focused. Many people have said before that my work lends itself to larger public works, so I’m really taking that on board. That’s the bigger picture plan for me.
Did you always want to become an artist?
I’ve had about three different career paths but I was always interested in making. Some family members were carpenters and there was always wood and the smell of wood shavings around when I was growing up. I think on a subconscious level that influenced me quite a bit. Even though I’ve had different career paths I was always making and I liked the skills involved. So I took myself off to art school and I’ve been plugging away ever since. Now that I’ve acquired those skills – look out world! This is it for me now, it’s not a folly passing thing, it’s something I’ll be doing till I drop off my perch.
What can visitors expect to see in your space?
A lot of sculptural work. More than anything I hope people will engage with me verbally about what my work is all about. It’s about seeing work in an incomplete state rather than finished works that you would expect in a gallery. Hopefully that will inspire some kind of dialogue.