Friday, October 28, 2011

Meet Your Maker: Jennyfer Stratman

1 Tell us a little bit about your background. What path has led you to what you do now?

I have always been a creative person. If I look back I’d say it was in high school that a simultaneous interest in Ceramics and Earth Science/Astronomy classes captured my imagination. Working with my hands seems to have won out over pursuing a degree in science, but there certainly is a marriage somewhere in there. I continued with ceramics for years until my forms got skinnier and skinnier to the point where most of my work ended up broken. My ceramics professor suggested I take a foundry course and that’s where I fell in love. There are a lot of processes used to cast metal that teach you how to build and use other materials and tools. I really enjoy the hands on nature of sculpture and I think it’s somewhat empowering to know how to put things together and make something from nothing.

This path also led to meeting a certain someone backpacking through Europe many years ago, which then led to migrating to Australia, but that’s another story altogether.

2 Your studio practice is divided between Melbourne and Phoenix. How do you find balancing your time and energy between the two?

It is both exciting and exhausting. I have lived in Melbourne for nearly 11 years. I have found it challenging to make a full-time living from my work exclusively in Australia, so continue to practice from my studio in Arizona as well. My work is represented in five galleries in the US and Canada. I travel back 2-3 times per year for exhibitions or to bring new work to the galleries. The expense of shipping means it’s better for me to make my work in components to take with me to the US for finishing. By travelling there so often I can spend time with my friends and family and maintain my connection to that part of my life for which I’m grateful.

3 Do you find that your practice changes depending on whether you are in the U.S. or Australia?

I definitely work at a different pace when I’m in the US. Because I am on a fixed schedule, usually 6-9 weeks at a time, I work long hours and tend to make quicker decisions with form and composition. This sometimes works to my advantage and other times ends up being a project that gets put on the backburner. I have to say I think it has helped my sculpture evolve as I constantly work through ideas and move on to my next interest. It also means I continually have a deadline so I tend to be quite prolific. In Australia, I have more time to research and try new things, build larger works and also have a life!

4 Your work is an investigation into the ‘interconnections between all things from the subatomic to the galactic.’ Could you talk a bit more about this?

I guess I have always been fascinated with where we fit into the grand scheme of the universe. As an artist and nature lover, finding patterns and connections within the natural world is a constant source of inspiration. It’s a complex and elegant arrangement of essentially the same elements. While I’m mesmerised by things like quantum mechanics and string theory, my work is more of my own intuitive contemplation of these big ideas.

5 You tend to use metal as your primary medium, is there a particular metal that you are drawn to, and if so why?

I use a variety of metals for different looks and characteristics. For this show, I have primarily focused on aluminium for the wall-based pieces and bronze for the freestanding work. I love the reflective quality of aluminium. It gives the work an open, light feeling, which mixes well with the white pigments I’ve been recently using. The bronze works in this show have openness to them as well. I like to think of them as line drawings in space. Metal is a strong and durable material, but depending how it’s used can be soft, earthy and quietly contemplative.

6 What processes do you go through to get to the finished piece?

I could go on for days explaining the myriad of processes used in my work. This body of work is largely collages on aluminium. I cut, drill, nail, rivet, glue and paint pieces of metal to the panels. The collages are backed with wood, so there is the cutting, sanding and painting of the wood. A high-speed engraver is used to etch text and patterns into the metal. I cast my own pewter trees and other forms in my studio as it has a low melting point.

The bronze work is cast using the lost wax process. This requires specialised equipment and is done in a foundry. Having said that, all of my bronzes are still one of a kind. I make all of my waxes and do the welding and patina work myself.

7 A lot of your work tends to be suggestive of traditional two-dimensional paintings in their composition, but in reality are really quite sculptural. How would you describe these works?

From the beginning, I have used the wall or ceiling to install my sculptural works. There is a lot of freedom in these more painterly works because I don’t have to deal with engineering or gravity. I can paint or nail something on anywhere and it won’t fall over- it’s great!

While I have investigated the landscape in past work and how it was an influence on my identity, the landscapes in this show capture quiet moments of contemplation. While not specific landscapes, they interestingly look more like the Australian bush than anything I’ve previously made.

8 What does a typical workday involve for you?

Typically I start the day with a strong coffee and office work. This is the not so fun, but necessary part of making this a business as well as my life. I get into the studio between 9-10 and work until 6. Because of the nature of my work, I often have 20+ pieces on the go at one time. I may be working on waxes one hour, painting or gluing something the next and whilst that dries do some welding or metal grinding. Some of these repetitive processes can get tedious or tiring so I’m pretty fluid with the way I work. I also do my own photography, editing and website updating, so it’s more than a full-time job!

Thanks Jennyfer – what a fantastic insight into your practice, thank you for sharing with us!