Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Meet Your Maker: Lucy James

What better way to kick off a brand new year of exhibitions than with an artist full of potential and energy, and in the middle of a flurry of prolific creation and presentation. Lucy has recently had her work shown in Sydney, Adelaide and Berlin, and this year has exhibitions booked at the Rooftop Gallery, Anna Pappas Gallery and two collaborative exhibitions at Craft Victoria. If I was a gallery director I’d say she was just about the perfect investment.

So, in my capacity as an actual gallery director (ha!) I fired some questions at her while she busily kept cutting up old books with her medical scalpels.

SR: We were just talking recently about the materials you use for your collages and I think it's very intriguing the way you collect them and where they come from. Could you explain how you go about sourcing your images?

LJ: I initially started using books for materials when I was in art school, and in an effort to save cash I stuck scrap paper into old books to use as sketchbooks. I kept finding amazing imagery that I couldn't bear to waste, so I salvaged them and started to use them in art works.

Now all of my images come from second hand/antique/recycled books and magazines, which is often quite a contentious issue - so many people believe that it is sacrilege to cut up books. My view is that a lot of these books have already been rejected by their owner, and are collecting dust on a bookshelf (or worse, in landfill). I guess I try to breathe new life into these forgotten images and texts. These books come from op shops, markets, antiquarians, friends, online. Often I have a specific book that I'm using for one work, and I'll need more than one copy of it in order to get enough imagery. (Some of those leaf collages require a LOT of leaves!) That's when I'll venture online. I'm pretty anal about the kind of paper stock I use, the printing technique, the period in which they were printed etc - a lot of those reasons are purely material based, however I'm also drawn to books that are imbued with a strong sense of history.

SR: The other element to your work that is quite significant is accumulation. Often you have masses of flowers, butterflies or leaves in your works. What's the driving force behind masses of objects for you?

LJ: Hmm that's a good question. Um. I think initially it was a subconscious thing, I've always been interested in collecting. I think what I find interesting about these 'masses' is that individually, each flower/leaf etc, is quite different, in colour and shape and so on, but then collectively, these pieces become uniform and start to function as a single entity. Once you get to a certain point of accumulation, the objects/images as a whole tend to gather their own force and energy, similarly to swarms of bees, or crowds at a rock concert, that kind of thing. Which I reckon is pretty cool. And quite weird really, seeing as making work of this nature is a really solitary venture.

I wonder what that says about me: woman sits at home by herself, cutting out hundreds upon hundreds of pictures of leaves to glue onto paper. I sound like a creepy chick from a horror movie, that sings to herself and also has the power of telekinesis. Unfortunately I do not have the power of telekinesis. But all that other stuff, yep.

SR: Well, that leads me to pose another question to you. Your work often has these hybrid creatures in it, and for this show there's a few people with plants for heads. Conceptually, I find there's a lot in that. Humans with their intellect supplanted by brainless, yet thriving flora. Supplanted. Nice. Anyway, people sometimes see a dark edge to your work, due to the cutting up of the bodies - splicing body parts. What are your thoughts on that, and what's the intention with the hybrids from your point of view?

LJ: Well I think you've said it really! There is a bit of darkness in the work, though I don't necessarily see it as cutting heads off in a beheading sense. In a way these plants are representing a headspace (quite literally). In would I rather be a sunflower, I was referencing the song 'Sunflower' by Tinpan Orange. That particular aspect of the song talks about being solitary and alone, as a sunflower, as opposed to being a daffodil (which is what the image actually is of), blooming 'as one'. I thought that was a really beautiful way to reference the utter confusion of the desire to be altogether and alone all at the same time. Like we discussed before, so many of these works reference a mass of beings, yet to put them together, takes days of being alone. I don't sit at my desk and cut up bodies in a vicious sense - they are only made of paper Kent, they can't feel it. I think it's more of a rearranging and interpreting of images. Maybe in a melancholic longing sense.

Awesome. You can see more of Lucy's work at