What would you say are the main influences and themes in your work?
I’ve always had a big interest in tourism – tacky trashy tourism. Just the cuteness injected into it with koalas, kangaroos. It’s quite grotesque. It was always quite exciting for me growing up in the country and being around pet kangaroos – then we’d come down to Sydney once a year and stay in Manly near all those postcard and souvenir shops. It was this exciting holiday trip but then really weird with all those ugly souvenirs. I just found that really appealing. The multiples, seeing everything all lined up and in my mind. I think that’s why I explore that theme to the max. Making it over the top and ridiculous.
Colour plays a large part in your practice. What does your colour palette mean to you and how do you work with it?
I guess I don’t just sit there and do a blue painting. That doesn’t appeal to me. I think a lot of the time, the brighter, the better. Sometimes I have to work with the colours available in the craft packs. I think the really bright, loud colours enhance what I’m trying to say in my work. I like how your work doesn’t take itself too seriously. It taps into ‘Australian’ humour without being overly ‘Australian’. I don’t really see my work as purposefully ‘funny’. It’s just really fun, and you’re allowed to do that. Sometimes people like it, sometimes they hate it. Growing up my parents are both quite funny. My dad is very quite theatrical and sings a lot of songs; joking around, collecting a lot of strange Australiana memorabilia.
Your work isn’t just sculptural, you also do large installation pieces and performance – what is it that you like about mixing pieces together?
I enjoy doing large scale installations and building an environment. I like to use the entire spaces to create a really different experience for people, rather than presenting just a sculpture on a plinth – that isn’t very exciting for me. In terms of the notion of ‘performance’: I don’t really feel like my work is a performance but some works involve developing sets, themes and costumes. The first performative work I produced was Cat Land in 2007 where the entire installation was built around cats and I wore a big cat suit too. I’ve been interested in gifts and their exchange and have integrated this into my performances – concocting these big weird crazy Santa kangaroo things that hand out hundreds of gifts.
At fellow artist Tom Polo’s MCA Artbar in 2015 you were in the corner dressed as a big pass the parcel, being unwrapped by guests.
I had 278 gifts in my costume, including all sorts of fridge magnets, jewellery and quick fun craft things I had made. I guess there’s something quite theatrical that excites me about this scenario. I like making people excited about art – you don’t have to know anything about art to engage with it.
Your work brings so much joy – I’ve seen people interact with your work and the smiles on their faces are incredible. Seeing the unwrapping, or seeing people with the putt putt installations – Is that an important part for you? Is that your gift?
Maybe… But sometimes I feel uncomfortable with it. I guess I don’t want to be in the spot light at all. For example being in a huge human size pass the parcel – that’s pretty stressful! So I’ll build all this stuff up to create the biggest, most exciting party in the world – It’s like your 21st birthday and you get there and it’s like, alright everyone, party’s over! But it is really exciting when people do enjoy it. A lot of the time I stand back and think ‘what have you done?’ And I’m a bit shocked at myself.
Creators always have that moment of self doubt…
Definitely – and also being in a fine arts area where I do move between craft, jewellery and visual art practice. It’s not that I’ve had negative comments or anything, I just project my own doubts. Perhaps it doesn’t feel like it sits calmly within what people expect within a gallery setting.
That was a big part of the Sydney Contemporary exhibition – I made a big bargain basement candy store, selling $5 items. A lot of people reacted strongly to it, being like ‘WTF’. I could tell that a lot of people were thinking ‘I’m just gonna pretend that’s not happening’.
But shouldn’t the most interesting kinds of art do that?
There’s always that element of WTF.
Is it a conscious thing, to try and achieve that WTF moment?
Maybe a little bit…