By Celeste Hawkins
Welcome to Art Diary 10! I feel privileged to be able to share the artistic processes of Melbourne artist Erica Wagner. Having been exposed to many styles and approaches as an editor and publisher of children’s books; Erica’s mix includes painting and mixed media collage; with a focus on the figurative. And she will share her insights with you as you read and view her images…
However, if you’re in town and want to see her work up close-the opening to her show is on at No Vacancy Gallery at Fed Square tonight!
It starts at 6pm and continues till-9th of October.
Fed Square / Project Space
Tenancy 32, The Atrium,
Federation Square, Melbourne
BY ERICA WAGNER September 2016
For many years I have had this quote at eye level: ‘Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said that, and his words kept me going during the many years of squeezing my art into tiny spaces while juggling work and family. For the last 7 years, working part-time, I’ve had the luxury of more time, but when the juggling gets out of control, that quote still fires me up.
My recent collage work – at a solo show, ‘Sanctuary’ at No Vacancy Fed Square and in ‘Life that is Still’, a group show at Cambridge Studio Gallery – feels like a breakthrough to me, as collage by its very nature has allowed me to combine a love of form, space, line, texture and colour all in one image, while literally carving out space to breathe. The playful activity of cutting and ripping up old paintings and drawings to create new imagery that arises spontaneously has also informed the oil and acrylic paintings.
When I feel depleted by the demands of everyday life, I regain my mojo through the discipline of life drawing classes at the Hawthorn Artists Society. Yvonne Audette has been my teacher and mentor now for over 16 years and it’s taken me some time to really understand her when she said: ‘your paintings need more space and structure’. My paintings are rarely just one layer – if you look you’ll see evidence of a lot of search and struggle! But then that’s how I see the human condition – we are all moving layers of life experience, containing the full gamut of emotions and the vulnerability that allows us to connect with each other.
Another thing that works for me is going off by myself into quiet places in nature. This simple activity seemed impossible – greedy, selfish! – for years, until I understood that I was absolutely no good to anyone else unless I gave myself time and space to reconnect with what mattered to me. My favourite places for solo retreats are a friend’s beautiful house overlooking the sea in Walkerville South, the sanctuary of Fernholme Caravan Park in Tarra Valley where, if I’m patient, the platypus comes and my two garden studios at home in Brunswick West.
Going to 4WD school with my partner illustrator Craig Smith has led to the most fantastic adventures in the remote northwest of WA, drawing us back year after year. Much of the imagery in this show, including the image ‘One Day She Catches Fire’ from a poem by Kristin Henry, is a direct expression of these journeys.
Working with children’s books as an editor and publisher for almost thirty years has exposed me to an enormous range of creative approaches to writing and art Allen and Unwin and Twelve Panel Press. I feel the influence of the artists and writers I’ve worked with everywhere in the work I do.
Thank you to you all!
I’m also intensely grateful to Emmy Mavroidis, for her fantastic Artist in Residence Program at Nyora Studio Gallery that allowed me to examine my art practice in a way I’d never done before and Richard Birmingham of the Melbourne Studio School who introduced me to the creative power of colour and opened the door to my ongoing art journey, which for me is being who I am, with no holding back.