Can you tell us about how your love of art started:
Growing up I never anticipated studying Fine Arts. I was raised in a family of academics and always assumed I’d follow that same trajectory. I came to art in my final year of high school, where I discovered I could paint, and really enjoyed it. I exhibited in ArtExpress, but at the time it wasn’t really something I wanted to pursue. It took three other attempted degrees, a semester abroad where I saw some really inspiring work, lots of umming and ahhing, and a push from a close friend to finally get me enrolled in Fine Arts. Since then, I feel like I’ve really found my home and haven’t looked back once! I’m in the process of applying for Honours and definitely keen to pursue a Masters as well.
Can you define your art practice?
My practice revolves around how people feel about their bodies. I try to aesthetically represent the things we find abhorrent. For example I’ve used a lot of hair, blood, and wax, and I work a lot with orificial forms too. People find these things so gross, which is weird to me because it’s just a natural part of being alive. My work takes these things and re-contextualises them. I think the result can be confusing – my work is often disturbing but I feel somehow attractive as well. I try to make people question why they find natural things like body hair, body fat, menstruation, so disgusting. To me that reaction is just weird.
Which artists majorly influence your work?
I tend to look to other artists for their materiality more so than anything else. Forever in my mind is Joseph Beuys. I’m obsessed with his huge casts of animal fat. Seeing his work Unschlitt in Berlin was one of the reasons I decided to come to art school. I’m also really digging Matthew Barney. His work is so elaborate and draws from so many different schools of language. He works a lot with the abject too, which has very much informed my practice.
List five things inspiring your work right now:
- My peers
- Grids and repetition
- How I feel about my body
- Anuses and rosebud porn (stay tuned)
What’s your favourite project that you have worked on so far?
I think the more of yourself you pour into a work, it tends to carry a more palpable authenticity than other works that deal with more general human experiences. For me this work was Embryonic. I made about 70 or 80 toffee discs that were marbled with blood. Essentially it was a piece that dealt with the disconnect between the vitality of life, and the medicalisation of reproduction. I drew on the ensuing alienation which made this work quite personal and as a result probably my favourite.
What’s coming up for you?
At the moment I’m working on a piece for an exhibition in December called Vex as a part of the 99 cents collective. I’m busy casting my lips! I squeeze them really tight so they look kind of like a bum, take a mould, and then form them in wax. I’m not 100% where it’s going yet but I’m envisaging a lot of them and I’m keen to incorporate hair again.
What research do you do before you start a project?
9 times out of 10 I will have quite a clear image in my head of what I’m going to make before I even get to the studio. These images pop up quite sporadically, so the first thing I do is get them on paper and draw. I think this is a really important part of my process, and it’s so satisfying when you finish something and look back on your early sketches! My research is practice-based so I do a lot of experimenting and prototyping. I know a lot of artists let their experiments guide them and guide the work, and in a sense it does so for me too. But because I often start with such a clear idea in my mind, the experimenting phase is more to do with testing if what I envisage will actually work. Once it does, I get stuck into making!
What do you wish was out there to help emerging artists?
More free stuff! I’d like to see more subsidised studios. I think it’s so important to be working with your peers – that’s one thing that makes me nervous about graduating! But I think if there was more of a support network to help freshly graduated artists that would go a long way.
What does “create or die” mean to you?
If you really want to make it happen, give it everything you’ve got.
Scarlett Steven will be exhibiting as part of WAITLISTED which opens at Create or Die Gallery on 1st October. RSVP to the opening night here: https://www.facebook.com/events/611267739013971/
~Interview by Amy Mills~