I've seen the work you produced for The Narrows show, a couple of years ago. It's so seductive! It's like luxury advertorial art direction, meticulously hand painted-
I guess I have always thought of my painting as something that I design. I think about what would be the 'ideal' painting, what I would want to hang in a house - how I could design that and put those elements together. There is also an interest in the dramatic potential or associated status of an artwork. On one level these paintings look like they belong to someone who is wealthy though, of course, in reality they probably don't, they are the artifice of status. It's perhaps a touch ironic, designing a lifestyle that isn't anything like mine!
When you 'design' your paintings, how are they set up?
Those pieces in The Narrows show were all based on photographs. I buy props and set up shoots, which comes from my art direction background I suppose. I pop dye in cocktail glasses and scatter confetti - things like that - but people tend to miss that whole part of the process. I think a lot of people think they are found images or from greeting cards!
Do you use specific tools or techniques? For that crisp line?
It's all hand painted and it's very time consuming! I do a lot of gridding, I don't project. I get used to a particular way of drawing and don't want to budge! It's a great technique and I teach it to my students - I teach drawing to graphic designers. I find it's better than tracing, which is too perfect - it still has a hand-drawn quality.
The Narrows show also had some sculptural pieces...
They were made of things I have found, bought, altered, painted and glued together. All wood, wooden fruit or children's blocks. I did the props, the paintings and the sculptures at the same time.
All separate opportunities for a new translation, too?
Yes, the paintings offer another chance to redesign and recompose. It's still an act of art direction, of joining different elements together. I do think of them often as set paintings. I grew up with a lot of 1940s and 50s American cinema with their painted backgrounds of Monte Carlo and Rio... I guess that's the role art direction plays - it means there's a consideration of narrative, who owns these things, and what things tell the story, like props in a film...
Leah Jackson mentioned in her interview about her interest in sets and props in a similar manner.
I'll often watch films that may turn out to be quite boring and I will try and amuse myself by looking at the set dressing, the props, how they fill spaces with things. I did some work for Next Wave at the MCG that was like set dressing and we were commissioned to do work in the changing rooms. I gravitated towards the bathroom, probably by looking at images like Dominique Auguste Ingres - paintings of women in bathhouses. I dressed it like a set, but with some realism.
How did this technique develop?
It just developed over time. When I graduated from art school, I was doing very soft-focus paintings which was really one of the trends that went through the art school-
Is that again a style emerging from a photographic origin?
Yes - and then it became more and more crisp, naturally I just wanted to simplify them, make them bolder.
Is there anyone who has been a particular influence on the way you work?
Alex Katz. And Wayne Thiebaud. When I went to the Louvre for the first time, I looked at the Chardin still life paintings for a long time; they're really simple but contemporary compositions... I am also fairly obsessed with interior design. I was just given a book of 70s Italian interiors photographed by Carla De Benedetti - they are pretty amazing.
Like the work you are doing for Un Magazine - Masato Takasaka showed me some of the collages-
Itís a house in Tasmania that my grandfather designed and it's now my mother's house. I managed to convince her to let me rearrange her furniture. I guess it's an interest in the 'imaginary art collector'. Artwork, when you make it, is for somebody, to be collected and hung but sometimes you don't sell any. The Un project is a way to show some work in a place where I had imagined them to belong.
They're not your work?
No, they belong to a group of artists that I asked to borrow images of their work. Again, it's art direction and interior design, designing with artworks. The last film I worked on was a gothic horror set in an art school group house. We had to source artworks to hang on the walls and the Un Magazine project was a natural progression from that...
What do your next 12 months look like?
I will just be doing more making and then when I run out of room I will have to organise a show. The studio is already getting a bit full so maybe it will have to be soon!
Photography property of Madeline Kidd, The Narrows and Double Days.