Arts Project Australia‘s first exhibition for 2014, Knowing Me Knowing You (KMKY), will question the collaborative process and explore the complex nature of collaboration between professional artists.

We invited artist and curator Lindy Judge to work with us to create an in-depth collaborative investigation involving ten of our studio artists and ten external contemporary artists. From 2012 through 2013, cinematographer Shelley Farthing-Dawe has been filming the evolution of the project as a film journal that will later be edited into a documentary.

This post is the third in a series of artist interviews, and will focus on the collaboration between Arts Project Australia artist Paul Hodges and external artists The Sisters Hayes.

Artist Paul Hodges and The Sisters Hayes working their collaborative KMKY project in the Arts Project Australia studio.


Tell us about your background. Have you studied? What is your practice and have you always been an artist?

PH: I suppose I studied art at Huntingdale Tech in the 80’s and did volunteer work in the library. I have always been an artist and I have always liked to make paintings.

TSH: There are three of us in The Sisters Hayes (Christina, Esther and Rebecca). We have all studied in our chosen areas of art making; Christina (BA of Fine Arts Painting with Honours at the VCA), Esther (A Bachelor of Theatre Production in Costume design at the VCA) and Rebecca (Bachelor of Arts in Animation & Interactive Media at RMIT). We have practiced as individual and collaborating artists ever since, with the Sisters Hayes officially forming in 2009.

Where is your studio based? Describe it. How often do you work there?
PH: I work at Arts Project Australia and I work there full-time – every day of the week. The studio is fun and interesting – there are fun people to work with.

TSH:The Sisters Hayes have a studio in the Nicholas Building in the CBD. Our studio has two rooms and is full of sewing machines, drawing desks, computers, piles of material and art supplies, racks of costumes, shelves full of books, art by our artist friends which covers the walls and there are trunks full of who knows what. The three of us are often in the studio daily so we made some room for a kitchenette because we love food, coffee and cups of tea.

Exhibitions are a big part of an artist’s life. With that in mind, where have you exhibited your artwork recently? Where would you like to show your work in future?
PH: I have exhibited at Arts Project and I will be showing a piano I’ve been painting at the Arts Centre in Melbourne in 2014. I have been working on the piano project for three weeks.

TSH: We have shown our work in a variety of different places. The Sisters currently have work at the NeXmas Fundraiser Exhibition at Gallery One Three in the city. Past work includes a moving image commission for ACMI (Profile Me, 2013), curating The Great Un Reveal (a collaboration with 13 artists at Arts Project Australia (2012), a solo exhibition, Big Sky Country at Rae & Bennett Gallery (2012), doing the set and costume design for the Malthouse Theatre’s production of Blood Wedding (2012), production design for Finucane & Smith’s Carnival of Mysteries (2010 Melbourne International Arts Festival) and A Good Death, which was a dark and decorative exhibition in the crypt of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church for the 2010 Next Wave Festival: No Risk Too Great.
Future plans include a screen based exhibition of works featuring dance films with artist collaborator Paul Hodges!

What inspires you?

PH: I suppose life and interesting people inspire me. I am always having ideas for artworks. I am also inspired by the landscape, art and dancing.

TSH: Family, theatre, stories (all sorts), history, costume, films, television shows, travelling, games, museums and galleries, art, carnivals and show grounds, secondhand bookstores and shops, other artists and people in general.

Artist Paul Hodges and The Sisters Hayes working their collaborative KMKY project in the Arts Project Australia studio.

How did you first find out about Arts Project Australia?
PH: My mother’s partner at the time heard about it on the radio. Then mum took me to the old building and I was introduced to Megan McEvoy. I then decided to enrol at Arts Project two days a week.

TSH: The Sisters Hayes first found out about Arts Project through Christina who came across APA when looking for work as an artist assistant in 2006 or so. Christina started as a studio volunteer and then was hired to work in the studio as an arts worker. Soon all the sisters started coming in for openings, studio visits and christmas parties (Esther always helped Christina with her costumes).

The KMKY project has been collaborative for all involved. Do you normally work collaboratively? If so, can you talk a bit about they way you approach this process. If not, can you talk a bit about why you have never worked collaboratively before working on KMKY.
PH: Not really. But I have before on a project “NaPAULeon” with Christina and The Sisters Hayes. I worked with Christina who gave me ideas about the dance and costume in the video we made. I thought the process was good. It was fun to work with them and to be filmed.

TSH: We work collaboratively a lot. Both as individual artists and of course as the Sisters Hayes, which by its very nature is a collaborative venture.

Our process is a bit unique as we are siblings. So far working as a family unit has been a great strength for us as artists. This is great because we share family history, influences and memories but also respect each artist’s vision. We also work together as theatre designers and this requires us to collaborate with an even bigger team of creatives; including directors, lighting and sound designers, writers, actors and so on. Each project is different but we have learnt the most important part of the collaborative process (for us)  is to respect each collaborator and treat each person’s artistic expression with dignity. It takes a lot of courage to make art and a safe space needs to be created for that.

What did you hope to get out of this collaboration? What were your expectations?
PH: I wanted to have more people interested in my work, by people seeing the video we made [with the Sisters Hayes]. I have worked with them before on NaPAULeon, so [the experience] was fun.

TSH: We had the pleasure of collaborating with Paul on a project called NaPAULeon, a dance film that featured a solo performance of Paul as Napoleon. We hoped that in this collaboration we could make another film that would not only feature Paul but include the whole cohort in a dance spectacular bonanza!

Our expectations were really high about how much fun we could have and how ambitious we could get. Paul is an amazing painter. Christina and Paul were really interested in bringing in a ‘painterly’ element into the film, Rebecca was really hoping to make a great film that referenced great moments of dance in films that we loved and Esther wanted to ensure that we could have more elaborate costumes.  We all share a very big love of ballet and theatre. It is really wonderful to be able to work with a visual artist, like Paul who is also an accomplished ballet dancer.

Were there any highlights along the way that particularly stick out in your mind?
PH: I think going and looking for the costumes for the Knowing Me, Knowing You project; it was fun looking through the different costumes at Rose Chongs [on Gertrude St].

TSH: Visiting the National Gallery of Victoria again was a huge project highlight. We all love the place and were looking to find new inspiration there. Laurie Benson, who is a curator of International Art, pointed us to the painting of Allegory by Luca Giordano. This painting was the inspirational spark that led to ideas of painted back-drops, theatrical props and costumes and a great narrative dance piece choreographed by Paul.

Were there any challenges? If so, can you explain?
PH: Probably just the filming, because we had to do it so many times!

TSH: The biggest challenge was often getting all four of us together at one time; between busy schedules, studio work, illness and holidays it was tough occasionally. But we all shared the dedication to our vision of the work and overcame this. Practically it could be a challenge finding equipment, studio space, money, the right costume, learning new dance moves, and so on. We had some wonderful extra support and encouragement come from Paul’s sister Debra Howlett, his dance teacher Dianne de Batista, and artist Kate Matthews who helped on the day of the filming. We are grateful for all the support of our friends and colleagues who championed the process and understood it is important to give the process time.

How do you feel now that the project is finished and waiting for exhibition? Give an insight into the process? Are you happy with the final artwork(s)?
PH: I am happy that I have completed the project. I am happy with the final artwork because I think it looks good on video.

TSH: Finished?! We are still in post-production on the film! (laughs). We are really looking forward to sharing what we have been up to with everyone and to exhibit the finished results. We are really happy with the photographic work which is a portrait of Paul as Pan and a tableaux vivant of all of us as the painting Allegory.

How would you describe the finished artwork?
PH: I’d say it’s very religious, because it’s based on Pan, he was a God, and it’s very Renaissance. It’s a video piece of Pan dancing around with cherubs and young kids. There is also some photography.

TSH: Hmmm….. The finished work is comprised of two photographs and one short dance film. We were interested in creating a tableaux vivant, a scene presented on stage by costumed actors who remain silent and motionless as if in a picture and I think we achieved this on film. The finished artwork is definitely a homage to Luca Giordano’s painting Allegory and draws inspirations from all the great films of ballet we love, in particular ‘The Red Shoes’.

What do you hope happens to the work once this exhibition is over?
PH: I hope it gets seen by the public and gets passed on to someone interested.

TSH: We are already talking about making another dance film together and hope that we can have an exhibition of all three screen based works in Melbourne and perhaps interstate.

Would you ever work collaboratively again? Why/why not?
PH: Yes, because I think The Sisters [Hayes] are fun.

TSH: Yes! With Paul we just knew that we didn’t want to stop making work together. The opportunity to collaborate in KMKY confirmed that this was something that needed to continue and could! The four of us share a passion for a lot of shared interests and cannot think of a reason not to go on!

Here is a sneak peak of some behind the scenes footage on set with Paul and The Sisters Hayes!


All image credits: Penelope Hunt


Thanks to our Major Supporters Arts Victoria for a Community Partnerships Grant and the Besen Family Foundation:

Thanks also to the following Supporters for their in-kind contributions:

SHELLEY FARTHING-DAWE for giving additional time and resources to the project
 for sponsoring lino for artists Angela Cavalieri & Fiona Taylor




Sim Luttin, Gallery Manager & Curator: [email protected], +61 3 9482 4484

Melissa Petty, Gallery Assistant: [email protected], +61 3 9482 4484

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