Interview by Clare Press, VOGUE, Australia, March 2007
How did you start? Did you come from an arty family? At what point did you think: okay this is it, I am a going to be a painter (as opposed to a lawyer/doctor/nurse/botanist who paints in her spare time)?
My mum is an artist and as a child I was always allowed to use her materials, so I was constantly making things- and a mess! In kindergarten I decided I wanted to be an artist or a jockey, but my size and ability to fall off horses (still do) ruled out the last career option! I have always pursued a career as an artist and went straight from secondary school to the Canberra School of Art. I think I had a certain amount of naive optimism.
Your work has been called filmic – do you agree? It’s certainly hyper real, almost like a photograph…
I view my paintings like film stills, as though they are part of a story, so the viewer is left to wonder what happened before and after that moment. The women in the paintings tend to be caught up in some sort of internal struggle or thoughts that we are not privy to. I work from photographs that I stage myself. The photograph is integral to my working process as it captures those fleeting moments of light and shadow. Some paintings take many months to complete, so the camera is a necessary tool to document all the detail such as reflections, light and tone. I shy away from the terms hyper real and photorealism, as in the flesh, the paintings are full of brush marks, glazes and the painted surface is evident and an important quality in the work.
It isn’t afraid to be beautiful – how does beauty figure in your work and your view of the world?
Beauty is such a difficult concept to quantify as it is so subjective. In all my years of study the word “beauty” was often used as a pejorative term, to indicate something superficial or trite, but I have never been able to relinquish the desire to paint (what I believe to be) beautiful images. I see beauty in the everyday, in the simple grace of a movement or the curve of the lip of a bath, in the reflection of fabric on skin, it is everywhere. I rely on a natural beauty in the work. I photograph my models in their own homes and I prefer not to alter their environments to overly ‘stage’ the compositions. I don’t style the girls in any particular way. They choose their own clothing, make-up and accessories which we then discuss and agree upon the elements that will create the best effect. I rely on natural light to give beauty to the situation and the model. I paint images that I find appealing, depending on composition, colour and mood.
You’re friends are your models, right? How do you persuade them to sit?
Bribery works a treat! The gift of a lovely slip or a new set of bra and knickers seems to work well, along with a glass of wine to relax!! My friends are all very beautiful and patient girls. Because they are friends, they are more able to be at ease for me, which is so important as it adds to the degree of realism. For example, when I paint a girl in the bath, she needs to be able to relax and almost pretend I am not there, so that the resulting pose is as natural as possible.
Who and what inspires you?
I have so many influences! I spend a fortune buying books on art and film on the internet and I now have a great reference library. I find endless inspiration in the work of painters such as Carravaggio, Vermeer, Edward Hopper, Eric Fischl, Lucian Freud, and photographers Jeff Wall and Bill Henson. Film, both old and contemporary, also informs my work. Hitchcock has been a long standing favorite, because of the simplicity and strength of the framing of his scenes and the use of the single light source. Some of my closest friends are also talented artists and their working practice and artistic achievements keeps me on my toes! No conversation would be complete without mentioning my trusty Dalmatian, Pluto. He is a constant source of inspiration and regularly models for me. He also keeps me company in the studio all day!