All images courtesy of the artist
We met with our current Artist in Residence, Australian-born Landscape Artist Nicole Voevodin-Cash to talk about her creative process and why she loves to work in the public realm.
How do you describe yourself as an artist?
As a landscape artist, who defines and redefines the landscape of the site or the materials with which I work, and use interaction as a sculptural strategy. My primary interest is how my audience engages (time and time again) with my work from an act of passive reception to active involvement.
From where do you find your inspiration?
Directly from the landscape (natural/man-made) in which I find myself working, thus allowing me to act like a geographer or a environmental and behavioural researcher gathering together all the elements that I will use to develop social sculptures for in and outside the gallery. I am influenced by the very nature of human behaviour and experience, especially as we interact and engage with our world. Through observation and empirical research of sites I have witnessed that movement within and through a space creates an interaction of the mind-body (a Cartesian experience), which becomes embedded in our memory, making my work go far beyond the moment of initial engagement. I describe my area of interest as “phenomenological geography”, but I am also a psycho-geographer and gatherer.
What attracts you to landscape/ public realm art as a medium?
I am strongly aware of the need for public art to be a response to its environment rather than sculpture that happens to be located somewhere other than a space dedicated to art. My challenge as an artist is to produce works that aren’t recognised as art (in the historical sense) by the public, freeing me from the barriers of reverence or disdain that some people automatically create when looking at art; works that subtly change and/or are integrated into the existing environment can be assimilated more directly into everyday life, therefore engagement is a certainty.
What are the prevailing themes and messages you want to communicate through your work?
As a Landscape Artist I investigate place through not only its geographical form, but its cultural memory and collective history as a physical landscape (inside or outside, natural or man-made) or garden depicts its site and / or owner. I create cultural memories of landscape. My practice collectively throws down a challenge to the idea of what is a landscape, as each creates an intervention that effectively transforms a previously familiar landscape/object/space/habitat and our relationship to it. These works are site-specific, aiming in their production to harness the concept of the Invisible Touch. In other words developing for the viewer/ audience via engagement an intuitive response that creates a new mode of communication that is sensorial and intensifies the experience of the artwork (art, craft, design), its site and its audience as an exploratory gestalt.
These landscapes focus on sculptural installations that offer a different means for viewers to encounter and comprehend the/a landscape. The work addresses notions of landscape and geologic phenomena; it intends to convey the complex and poetic ideas of landscape/environments of the outside that are placed and experienced inside, in so doing, offering an immersive experience for visitor/audience. Labelling of my practice is hybridized and is neither architecture, furniture nor landscape, but instead becomes a series of locations that the physical body may move into, through and occupy:
“A social place, a climbing place from which to view new horizons; a place where mind and body come together. It aims to be a Cartesian experience in the making of a new psychtopia”
Talk us through your creative process.
I would have to say my creative process is an intuitive one, underpinned by the past twenty years of experience whereby I have incorporated ‘participation/interaction’ as a sculptural strategy, which directly engages and considers people with its development, making and the life of the work. My projects are often large-scale that are integrated and site specific, creating public art that is experiential, meaningful, natural and integrated into the cultural life of each individual site.
This approach creates art that forms a meaningful place. My methodology means I start by being in the space; if needs be walking the streets, reading its place history and talking with the community. I spend time on site, empirically gathering valuable information about how the site is used.
Using living materials and elements ensures the work will become indistinguishable from the landscape and visa versa: visitors will engage with the work as a totality. For example, everything within this place (eg an outdoor space) from the future shape of the selected trees, their height, colour, species, the grasses, the built and way-finding elements, to how one moves through and within the space, becomes the sculpture.
From my research I consciously trace the human use of place and translate it into a theatre of human interaction, natural growth and commemoration by using the geomorphic and topographic forms of the landscape. I include in the creation of this work the daily changes, its users, subtle light variants, the seasons and its vistas as my priority. I treat the site, as would a painter, by pulling together the compositional elements before painting.
What I bring to all my public art commissions is an environmental ethic that compels a personal, memory-driven, response. I upend expectations of what is public art by engaging the senses – through the touch of the grass on your back or feet to the change of muscular balance required to walk across my landscapes like The Green Room which becomes multifaceted mirrors reflecting experience, memory and personal narratives.
Additionally Clair Doherty from Situations (Bristol UK) has set out a new guidebook for the commissioning of public art titled The New Rules for Public Art, and this I have found very interesting. The rules are appropriate for both the artist and the commissioner. Here is the link to investigate for yourselves:
How does it feel to be part of Liverpool Biennial as our artist in residence?
Applying for a residency / fellowship is a rigorous process so to find yourself successful is a very rewarding and self affirming compliment of your arts practice.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date is Kangaroo Point Park in Brisbane’s Central Business District. This was a collaborative project with a team of designers, I being the lead artist whereby I could employ and implement all my creative processes in the creation of a sculptural landscape. I was involved in every facet of the project; from the selection of pavers to the positioning of the arbour walk, considerations were made with the church common and the trees already existing on site. In addition to this I was commissioned to undertake 3 specific works for the park, one was to be interactive, one commemorative and one celebratory. In so doing, we formed a large land art work titled The Green Room, planted 150 trees (shaped and espaliered) titled Afforestand a held a temporary opening event titled A Study: Ways of Being Different.
What else do you have planned for 2014/15?
I have been in discussion with the Brisbane City Council regarding an intervention of the Brisbane City streets, to occur over a 5-year period – this will commence implementation on my return to Australia in June 2014. This is an environmental project engaging the community, art collector and gardener. I have been asked to create a ‘pocket park’ Mounge commission for a University Campus in Sydney. I will be developing and looking for an exhibition later in the year or in early 2015 for the new body of work I have been creating whilst in Liverpool, titledLandscapes of Natural and Unnatural Beauty.
I am also continuously applying for new commission works, fellowships and grants to support my investigative practice.
This post was created for www.biennial.com