Rona Green – Visual Artist

Rona Green is from Melbourne and is represented by  Australian Galleries in Melbourne and Sydney, and Solander Gallery, New Zealand. You can see her website here www.ronagreen.com and her blog ronagreenblog.com

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How long have you been making art?

I clocked up a fine art degree in 1995 and have been working at being an artist since then.

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Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

I really enjoy listening to music, reading and going to the movies, and I adore reality television programs. As my art is concerned with narrative all these interests directly feed into it.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…

Printmaking, drawing, soft sculpture and painting.

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Artist’s statement… 

My work explores ideas about identity through a narrative approach. The pictures I make investigate the potential of the body to be a vehicle for story by means of transformative devices including anthropomorphism and body markings.

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How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other? 

It is representational, specifically figurative, with a narrative quality. The imagery is based on observation and twisted with imagination.

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What are you currently working on?

Producing a body of work for a solo exhibition to run from 27 August to 15 September 2013, at Australian Galleries, Derby Street, Melbourne.

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What fascinates you?

The strange and unusual.

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Why are you an artist?

I cannot envision an existence that does not include making pictures.

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How did you get into art?

It probably all stems from my Nana and Great Aunt introducing me to needlework and quilting as a youngster. I loved the processes of coming up with designs, selecting colour schemes, choosing materials – the fusion of the cerebral and the tactile. Then later, towards the end of high school, I first contemplated that being an artist could be a viable option.

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How important is art for you?

Not a day goes by when I don’t work on my art in some way, so I would say it’s pretty important.

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What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?

That a picture is perceived in a unique way by each person that looks at it.

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Your art education was…?

During high school I always took art as a subject. After that, I went on to do a year and a half of a Diploma of Photography, then switched to studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art at La Trobe University, Bendigo, finishing in 1995. In 1998 I went back to university to attain a Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts at VCA. And earlier this year I completed a Master of Fine Arts degree through the Monash University Gippsland Campus.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

I’ve been a full time artist for the last couple of years but prior to that while working part time at my art other employment included customer service at Kwik Kopy Printing, Technician at the Australian Print Workshop and teaching at Box Hill Institute of TAFE and RMIT University (where I still teach a drawing class once a week for a few hours to animation students).

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Do you have much contact with other artists?

The vast majority of my friends are artists or other types of creative people. I thoroughly delight in talking shop! Also, a part of my artistic practice is organising print exchange folio projects and this activity facilitates regular engagement with my professional peers.

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Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Alberto Giacometti appeals to the Existentialist in me. Peter Blake taps into the part of me that is a fan of things. Jean Dubuffet because he is super terrific at almost everything.

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Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

I’ve always got a few note books and sketch books on the go. I do find books a somewhat awkward format for storing and retrieving information from. In my studio I have a few large double-sided pin boards on wheels and I prefer to put stuff up on these so I can take things in all at once and ruminate.

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Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

In a nutshell, my work must amuse me (I’m not sure if technically that is a philosophy but it is amusement that drives me).

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Musical influences, okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?

A sound system in the studio is integral! I wouldn’t go so far to say I like all types of music but my taste is eclectic. Today, for example, I listened to Pink Floyd, Ghost, Quiet Riot, Wham and The Dictators. Musical favourites I’ve had since my teen years include The Cure, Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths. Other stuff that gets played quite often is Morrissey, Accept, Supertramp, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music, Mojo Nixon, Anvil, Jimmy Buffet, New Order, Jethro Tull, Rainbow, Spandau Ballet, Thin Lizzy, the list goes on…

 

What can you tell us about your creative development process?

To generate ideas my preferred methodology is gathering imagery, collecting words, joking around, constructing characters and personalities, manipulating esoteric information, collaging. Reference material for my work is gathered by picking through a variety of sources such as primitive and fine art, comics and cartoons, reality TV, film, music, magazines and books, and the internet. Popular culture in general and subcultures especially feed my imagination. I take a lot of my own photos to refer to (of animals and people). Brainstorming and stream of consciousness activities are valuable for me. Researching my interests and what captures my imagination is exciting and rewarding. I keep notebooks and jot down everything that catches my attention. And I incubate what I find and call on it as required.

 

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

Giving work a title is so much fun! It’s like the icing on the cake. I often think of a title for a piece early on, sometimes this becomes a working title and changes later, and other times the title comes last. The title of a picture can be used as an aid to enter into the work by the viewer which I think is a good thing.

 

Is your work process fast or slow?

S – l – o – w …

 

Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?

Both are equally important. It is difficult to realise an idea without technique.

 

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

Smooth. There is something comforting to me about smoothness!

 

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Have a vision, work hard and don’t give up.

 

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?

Of a sort, yes. I travelled to Borneo to investigate Iban tattooing traditions.

 

Do you have a group of artists that discuss your ideas with?

The person who I throw ideas at, brainstorm with, ask for advice and assistance from, is my partner Aaron – he is in tune with what I’m about and I can trust him to be completely and brutally honest when critiquing my work.

 

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

None what so ever! It certainly is a world of its own.

 

Do you have ideas turning over in your head all the time or…

Yes. I never suffer from the problem of being short of ideas. If anything I have too many. I’m not saying they are all good ideas though!

 

Did you have an inspirational teacher, and how did that affect you?

Over the years I have been so lucky to have had a number of inspirational teachers. In high school John Watts (photography teacher) and James Watt (art teacher) made me see that being an artist was possible. University lecturers Peter Jacobs, Julie Millowick and John Robinson were all pivotal in shaping my identity as an artist. And my Masters degree supervisor Rodney Forbes was such a generous contributor to my further development as an artist.

 

Do you collect anything?

Quite a few toys, dolls and figurines decorate my environment. It is not a collection with a ‘curatorial direction’ though, it is a fairly broad community of sorts. Favourite items include a RuPaul Glamazon doll and Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator figurine.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

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Rosa Tato – Visual Artist

Rosa Tato currently resides in Northcote, Melbourne and was represented by Axia Modern Art until they closed in 2012 Her website is www.rosatato.com and www.facebook.com/rosatato.com.au

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Interest you have other than art that you feel important to mention.

Cooking, learning about food and its historical evolution, Dreaming…

Did the place where you grow up have an influence?

I am a Melbourne gal through and through.  There were incredible rich experiences in my upbringing. My parents were founders of the Spanish Club on Johnston St., otherwise known as ‘Hogar Espanol’. I led a  double life of sorts… late nights (as all Spaniards do!) at the ‘Club’, and trying to keep awake at school!  Such fond memories of picnics, long lunches and dinners, Spanish ‘school’, live music, flamenco lessons, and fabulous aromas that came out of the Club’s Kitchen.

My first commission was the creation of a poster for a University production of “Pharlap”  directed by Peter Green in 1983.  A silk screen stencil made in my father’s garage. My process of cutting still exists. Some recent artworks have begun with an intuitive hand cutting process in paper, so my love affair with the stencil continues… I recently tracked Peter down and found the poster on his Kitchen wall!

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What or who inspires your art?  Have your artistic influences altered over time (eg artists?)

I am inspired by quality exchange with people, their stories, cultural dialogues as well as the investigation and research of cultural objects unknown to me. My own small art collection is about the artist’s personal triggers  – there seems to be a theme of intimacy & the unexpected impact of  relationships.

Munch’s sensibility of color + intensity has always impacted me whilst these other artists – Antonio Tapies, Anselm Keifer, Cristina Iglesias,  and Louise Bourgeous  – color, texture, textiles and scale are key indicators.

Can you name a fave artist or three?

Chillida, Oteiza, Basterretxea are 3 sculptors from the Basque region who have sought to make art that explores their Basque identity in such a hostile environment…under the Franco dictatorship. I admire them being able to create under such extreme and tiring circumstances. However, what resonates with me are their processes, and materiality, whilst passionately exploring the possibilities of abstraction. They gleaned inspiration from the human figure, nature and artifacts of ancient civilization.

Do you get creative glimpses of urges and how do you work with these?

I often reflect and yearn to be disciplined enough to work on my practice every day. A drawing, an entry into my diary, an experiment…  The reality is that I create when I am immersed in a situation when a deadline looms. Recently, a project I worked on stalled for many months, and fortuitously was able to have time and space to ‘articulate’ and review the artwork and the experience related to a dynamic social art project. This ‘time’ allowed for reflection, several changes and ultimately an outcome I was happy with. I often have several visual diaries on the go and when I take time to open them up and re read them, there is always an underlying thread  relating to a process that I am wanting to explore.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

I am acutely aware of the importance of keeping in touch with my art school friends. It connects me to similar issues and concerns that we are faced with. Following close friend’s art practices is very important to me – an intimate sense of following their process. By meeting and discussing things regularly has resulted in working on projects together. In 2010 after more  than 12 months of planning, I took part in an artist in residence program with fellow artists Alexandre Prado and Angela Leech in the remote community of the Shire of Menzies, in Western Austalia. Three distinct workshops were held at diverse locations throughout the Shire in conjunction with the Remote Community School, Menzies Aboriginal Corporation and Moropoi Station.

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http://www.visualarts.net.au/noticeboard/angeleechrosatatoalexpradomenziesshireartistresidence

I am a member of Artery Cooperative which is a Melbourne based artists initiative. www.acoop.com.au

Artery is filled with individuals that are committed to sharing knowledge and skills, and nurturing emerging artists. I have enjoyed being a part of this community on a wide range of levels. Artery started because there was a need to create an environment that was about sharing of resources and fostering a sense of leadership, and equality. Artery is filled with passion, belief and this resonates at meetings.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note? 

A permanent work based on ‘El Pañuelo series’ for Crown Casino was commissioned by Batessmart in 2010.

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Mills Gorman Architects commissioned me to create some designs for site specific functional features. A steel balastrade, floor to ceiling timber screen and columns have been integrated throughout Maha (part of the Press Club Group) in Melbourne. (A steel balastrade, floor to ceiling timber screen and columns)

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MAHA dining

In collaboration with recent arrivals from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka,  – & other CALD Communities, I was commissioned by the City of Melbourne and North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL) to create a sculptural installation. A 30-metre long steel panelled artwork incorporates patterns and motifs that represent the cultural diversity and personal histories of people from 16 countries.

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Have you had any big breaks?  All artists seem to have struggles….tell us about any you have had? 

There have been some really pertinent and timely ‘breaks’.

I returned to study as a mature age student. In second year I was the recipient of the George Alexander Scholarship. It enabled me to finish my studies (my two girls were 5 and 9 at the time). Getting through the next three years as a single parent was a definite struggle. The scholarship, guidance and financial assistance allowed me to keep studying & essentially stopped me from leaving University.

I assisted Melbourne based sculptor, Penelope Lee in 2006 & 2007 during the making of a large permanent installation (made of hundreds of Sherrin Footballs). Penelope’s belief in my ‘making’ skills meant that I walked into the world of Public Art. Hundreds of footballs were sourced from all over Australia, some signed, some dated back to the early 1900’s. Cutting, placing, creating patterns on steel structure was part of our process for well over 7 months. Project management, sub contractors, timelines, the world of budgets and pressures! The day the work was installed at the Members Area of the MGC (Melbourne Cricket Ground) will be one of my fondest memories – climbing up scaffolding with engineer. I felt at home. Penelope had a vision for a work that symbolized Melbourne to its core. It was not about an individual footballer – but about the game, it’s history, the object. I would thoroughly recommend any artist to assist or volunteer if the opportunity arises.

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On reflection, the ‘football project’ was the beginning of my preoccupation of creating a work related to a cultural object; an underlying theme in my work. The deconstruction of a cultural object  – works from a desire to create an understanding of a story.

In 2007 I received funding to partake in an RMIT Art Residency in Shanghai with fellow artist Kasia Lynch. This was a great surprise and as my circumstances did not allow for a 4 – 5 month residency, I was able to split the experience into two. This was the first time I had traveled abroad based on my art practice. A series of works were generated relating to the discovery of ancient Chinese lingerie.

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I received ArtStart an Australian Arts Council initiative in 2010. This grant enabled me to reflect and take action on professional limitations as an artist.

In 2012 I was invited by NGV Studio’s curator Reborah Ratcliff, to be a part of Fluoresce. It was an ideal fit for the NGV as our studio promoted new and experimental art forms – encouraging innovation and experimentation in content, context, interpretation, participation and display.  As a group we created an evocative works of color, fleeting shadow and light.

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What is the most unexpected response you have received from a viewer of your work?

Whilst in China during the second phase of the residency, the idea of installing preliminary works in the back streets of Shanghai meant for a great deal of preparation as I required an interpreter, and a local to take me to ‘zones’ away from the main streets. My interaction with women who remembered the object was crucial to my investigation -finding women over the age of 70. Weaving in and out of gates and seeing the ‘inside world’ of Shanghai, women came out of the shadows squealing with laughter and delight.

They were acutely aware of my presence, enthused by the work (in progress) and its meaning…crowds formed and followed us. Women wanted to wear the work, others wanted to hang the work on their clothes lines, others tried it on and began to perform. There was no language barrier…This was documented and my observations exquisite – those that hid, men who also came to show me their mothers lingerie.  I engaged with the Chinese clothesline, an intimate space in public chaos. The unexpected discourse and social interaction was unexpected.

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Do I have a connectedness to other art forms: dance, theatre, painting, architecture

A desire to create work for artists that can engage, dance, perform in, around, through or behind. Collaboration with choreographers/producers from the inception of a performance appeals, so that the work is site-specific, large in its aspect and has the capacity for interaction. Focusing on inherent shadows and materiality in the planning could be very interesting.

Most artists are more at home isolated in their creative process, whilst others revel in being a part of a group to bounce “ideas’..how about you?

I feel very isolated at times, as recently I have been working from my home studio. Subletting one’s space becomes an option at different times. I am aware of importance of being in touch with the outer arts community.  I like to have a few projects on the go and at least one where I can be a part of a collaboration. The latter means meeting, sharing processes, sharing ideas, feedback and dialogue and experimentation in thought.

How important is society, culture and history to your work?

Very… Looking back at Artist or Project Statements, submissions  and evaluations, the idea that work can capture a time and a place in our minds is important. I am interested in remembrance, memory and truth in that I am reminded of the potential of storytelling as a means to making art…the idea that the work can capture a time and place in our minds…  Such interactions with minority groups (see below) recently has created a cultural and important message.

There has always been an intrinsic need to learn about another place or culture. The unexpected impact is an important insight into my role when making work or in collaboration. I have been working as an Arts Facilitator in a wide range of fulfilling programs and settings resulting in short term dynamic artistic experimental outcomes. In 2012, for example, I worked alongside young offenders at the Juvenile Justice Centre. Personal histories were embedded in works and the desire to share culture and memory was integral to the individual artworks that were created.

My own artistic knowledge and discovery, equals a developing and positive art practice.

Currently working on 

Reorganizing my studio and space! Since the completion of the Public Art Project at North Melbourne Housing Towers, (and my eldest completing High School) I am tying up loose ends. This is proving itself to be a significantly big job, before I can work on a new project or create a new body of work. Gaining equilibrium through a massive clean out is crucial!

I am also resolving lighting issues with several private residential commissions, Crown Casino and the Embracing Distance North Melbourne Project so that I can document the work. Quality photos of all artwork is constantly on my mind. Recently I have created works in steel in small intimate spaces and documenting their ‘shadow work’ is a challenge.

I have been implementing, and creating fully operational Pop Up Art Studios in Supported Residential Service (SRS) environments around the North West region of Melbourne with Arts Access.  My time working at these studios has meant rewarding workshops requiring much fluidity and organically driven sessions including the observation of individual processes in art making.

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Successful Artists…

A recent survey of practicing Visual Artists gave some interesting results, the sort of information you need to know to be ahead of the game in Art

The question was posed as “What are the top things you need to succeed in Art?”  Some of you would probably think of a top level Education from the right institution, nope that didn’t rate, how about the ability to sell? Nope not that one either, how about a big stash of cash… nope. business skills nah not that either. Here’s the list.

Further down the list came these.

A great list of things to know. So how will you go about building your skills in each of these areas to ensure you are doing all you can to be a successful Visual Artist?