Saturday, April 14, 2012

Remains Of The Day

A brief interview with me was published in Brisbane's U On Sunday, a new magazine supplement for the Sunday Mail newspaper, today. It's about collecting.
Others mentioned in the article collect designer high heels, sneakers, ballet memorabillia, snow domes or rocking horses. I collect skeletal remains. The magazine sent a photographer to my studio just before I was admitted to hospital.
The title
is, ironically, Group Therapy. Below is a transcript of my original interview for the piece:
What sort of reaction do you get from people when they find out about your unusual collection?

I think most people expect artists to have weird stuff strewn about their living and working spaces, so they're not really surprised. In any case, their attention is usually distracted first by my very large collection of sex aids, which I also collect (and which are sent to me by fans of my art, as far afield as Japan, the USA and Eastern Europe). These, too, are a source of references for my art – although that's not to say I haven't had a lot of fun trying them out!
How many skeletons do you have?

I suppose I have between 15 and 20 separate, full or partial skeletons or skulls. I only have a few displayed at any one time, usually in my studio, where I use them as references for paintings.
What sort of animals are they?

I have a soft spot for the long, narrow spines and ribs of snakes (I wear a snakes spine, bought in Thailand, as a necklace), but I also have a number of small birds and rodents. One of the birds skulls has been bronzed by a sculptor in the USA.
How did you start to collect such a thing?!

I grew up in rural Queensland, where carcasses and bones are pretty much everywhere in the landscape. Skeletons of humans and reptiles started turning up in my art about five years ago, when I started doing watercolours inspired by voodoo rituals. I think my collection began during that period.
What is the appeal?

I'm drawn to the delicateness and intricacy of the shapes, especially those of the snakes, which seem to tug at some slightly insidious, atavistic fear. I enjoy sketching and painting the details of them, and adapting them to the somewhat surrealistic scenes of my watercolours.
Where do you find them? Do you buy them or find them yourself?

I don't go out of my way to find them but occasionally, I come across a specimen in the wild that, providing it's old, flesh-less and bleached, I'll wrap carefully and take back to my studio. I find myself intrigued by each set of remains I find – what sort of snake or bird was it? how did it die? – and when I use them in my art, I feel like I am giving them another life.
Where do you keep them?

I keep them mostly wrapped, in boxes, in storage facilities in Sydney and Brisbane. I only have a few displayed at any one time, usually in my studio, where I use them as references for paintings. I also have jewelery made from some of them.


Shell said...

Me too! Well, sort of. I don't call it a collection but I like bones and will often gather them from the footpath or road - sometimes with bits of gunk stuck on them (gross!). Not too much gunk, just the kind of gunk that will disappear quickly. I also use them in my artwork. This is a fun interview - I enjoyed hearing about your collection. :)

artcanyell said...

I used to collect various editions / publications of Charles Beaudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mal" but only read from the small hardback pocket size version which I carried around with me. Some years ago I was in emotional/financial crisis and sold 3/4 of my entire life's collection of wonderful books including the several books of Les Fleurs du Mal, keeping the pocket size version only - to raise cash towards reducing my huge credit card balance. I so regert my impulsive fire sale of these treasures. Of course I was ripped off in the process by Grubb Street Bookshop in Fitzroy and returned to reclaim a few books as quickly as I could at hugely inflated prices. I was furious with them and learnt a harsh lesson.