It is difficult career choice to be an artist in this country. Career paths and employment opportunities are limited. It is especially challenging when you graduate from art school in the midst of a global pandemic when the arts industry has been suffering more than most from the impact of the necessary covid restrictions, which have affected communities right across the world.
However, despite these very real obstacles, it is inspiring to witness the enthusiasm, resilience and passion that still exudes from a generation of young, emerging artists, who are finding new, innovative ways to practice and make their art in these uncertain times.
Two such artists are Matilda Langworthy and Alex Veddovi-McCaughan. Both these young artists will feature in exhibitions at Mounted ARI in 2021. Both have recently graduated from Sydney’s leading art schools, Alex from UNSW School of Art and Design, and Tilly, from The National Art School in Darlinghurst. As they begin their post-training careers, I caught up with them to find out more about them and their artistic practice.
What is it about ceramics that draws you to the medium?
I love the immediacy of clay, and the tactile qualities. I have always been a very tactile person and I love being able to create three-dimensional forms which can take on so many figurative qualities. When I’m making a pot I feel like I’m creating a character.
What have been the most significant challenges faced when wrestling with this medium?
Ceramics can be heartbreaking, cracks and breakages have probably been the hardest thing for me to overcome. Also learning how to build more stable forms while maintaining the same wonky shapes is challenging but very exciting when you open the kiln and your pots are standing tall and in once piece!
At this point in your development how would you describe your artistic vision. What is your work about?
I think a strong feature through all my work is the exploration of my own sense of femininity, and what it means for me to a woman and figuring out my place in the world.
But more specifically at the moment I am exploring ideas of growth and organic forms playing with the line between living forms and imagined ones.
I have always loved flowers and pastel colours, and I am incorporating elements of the domestic sphere thinking about what is expected of women. For example, I am experimenting with incorporating textiles and knitting handles to add to my pots creating this tension between what I love to do and what is expected I know as a woman.
At the moment I am creating large figurative pots and allowing them to speak to each other, when I make a pot I feel like I create a character with personality so it’s interesting when they stand together. So many different things are going through my mind while I create, materialise in clay. I love to stand back and see the end product!
How do you feel about the next step, ie starting your career as an artist?
I am very excited!! My next step is making a website so when I leave NAS I will be able to continue making and sharing my work. I have loved being surrounded by artists everyday but I have built a lovely support network of amazing artists that will continue to be a creative influence when I finish up my degree.
Next year I am going to study teaching and become an art teacher to share my knowledge and passions. It is a little bit scary but I am mostly excited for what the future holds!!
How would you define yourself as an artist? ( in terms of your practice, the mediums you work with, and the areas of interest that you explore in your work)
I define myself as a “Third Culture Kid”. My works drawings, paintings and sculpture are constructed of various materials and/or digital mediums. They are predominantly representations of the countries where I grew up. My art represents either an individual view or a combination of the three countries Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong that shaped me. By means of symbolism or patterns associated with those countries people can see my migration. Defined as a “Tantric Zentangle” I use repeated woven lines in structured patterning to help show the uniqueness and confusion involved in being a “third culture kid”.
How do you feel about transitioning from art school into life as a practicing professional artist? What challenges confront you?
I feel most artists who have spent time studying art face a major transition when the support of an institution and fellow students/artists are no longer there providing a backbone of support for their work. I have found myself a bit lost in how I should now approach my art. The need to socialize and make a pitch to “sell” pieces that have taken weeks to create for me is especially confronting. Each artist wants their art to leave a mark, rejection is hard, one needs determination to keep going.
There is also now the challenge on how to treat the creative process, artists need to make a living like everyone else. Should I look at it as a job setting aside given times to “create” or to try and keep it as a passion/addiction working 24/7 when a new idea strikes.
What drives you to make art? What is the importance of creativity generally in your life?
For me art is a learning process. I use it not only to represent subjects that influence me, but also as a form of self- exploration. My creative processes are linked to the inspection of “new” techniques I haven’t explored and can blend with my tantric Zentangles, be they learning to cast a ring, pouring resin or a new 3D or laser printer. I love being aware of the endless possibilities available to create new works. I do not want to be limited or thought of as an artist that “just paints”.
This work, entitled “Culmination Cultures” is a mixed media piece from a few years ago. The piece is a presentation of 3 symbols representing the 3 countries I grew up in. I have reworked this piece during the covid quarantine, and will be showing the new version at The exhibition I am holding At Mounted ARI in February with my fellow artist Leo Shum.
More of Alex’s work will be on display at Mounted ARI in February when Mounted stages an exhibition, “Identity Consciousness: Unique Perspectives of Cultural Identities”