KMKY: ARTIST TALK SERIES #5

INTERVIEW WITH KMKY ARTIST JENNY BARTHOLOMEW ON COLLABORATING WITH TERRY WILLIAMS

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 will be the fifth in a series of artist interviews, and will focus on the collaboration between Arts Project Australia artist Terry Williams and external artist Jenny Bartholomew.

Artists Terry Williams and Jenny Bartholomew working on their collaborative KMKY project in the Arts Project Australia studio.
Jenny Bartholomew discusses working with Terry in the following interview:
KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU INTERVIEW
 
Tell us about your background. Have you studied? What is your practice and have you always been an artist?
JB: I went to Art College and graduated with a degree in painting in the mid-eighties from RMIT. Some years later, after spending a year travelling in South America, I became more interested the way art emerges through the material culture of everyday living, in things like ceramics and textiles. So I went back to college to study ceramics, and eventually did a post-graduate degree at the VCA. These days my practice is quite mixed, involving work in textiles, ceramics, painting, and the use of found materials in sculpture and installation. My work is very much about hand making and arranging. Like many artists, I have also had to work at other jobs as well – I’ve done my share of waitressing and ticket selling, but I also worked for about a decade as an arts facilitator, and have done a few community and artist in residence projects.
Where is your studio based? Describe it. How often do you work there?
JB: While I do a lot of work at home (I’m always making something), over the years I’ve also usually maintained a separate studio space. But when I became pregnant about six years ago I stopped using the studio I had – the guys there were using a lot of chemicals and stuff like that – and after my son Ben was born, it just wasn’t practical. A couple of years ago I set up a small ceramic workspace in a shed in my mum’s back garden, and that’s been really handy while Ben’s been small. But most of my work over the past five years has been done at home.
In the middle of this year (2013) I was really lucky to begin a twelve month residency as one of the studio artists at St Vincent’s Hospital in Kew. It’s been great to be able to have a clear separate space again, with room to try out new arrangements for my on-going ‘Conversation Pieces’ installation project. It’s an interesting space, as it used to be a small hospital ward and it still has some of the fittings and other things in place. I try to work there a couple of days a week, but I expect I’ll have more time next year when Ben starts primary school.
 
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?
JB: At the moment I don’t have a relationship with a commercial gallery, so most of my exhibition activity has been in public gallery spaces. Because of the nature of my work, I’ve shown quite a bit at Craft Victoria over the last decade, but also in regional galleries and spaces like the City Library in Flinders Lane – I showed a suite of small arrangements in their display cases. Early next year I’m doing another display case arrangement project at the Richmond Town Hall, and I also have an installation to do for St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy – and, of course, the collaborative work in KMKY.
In 2007 I did a big outdoor installation in the courtyard at the LaTrobe Regional Gallery in Morwell, and I’d like to do more work of that scale, perhaps in a non-gallery space – over the last few years I’ve been eyeing off greenhouses and related buildings in botanic gardens and places like that. Of course, it would also be great to get the chance to do bigger installation projects in gallery spaces as well – for some reason I seem to have been doing lots of little things over the last few years, so it would be good to find opportunities do work on a larger scale.
  
What inspires you?
JB: Everyday stuff, patterns of living, the objects we use, histories of these patterns and objects, places. One of my favourite places is Gabo Island, off the coast of far east Victoria. Its tiny and remote, it’s exposed buffeted by winds and incredibly beautiful. One of my favourite activities is to ‘mud lark’, which is to collect from liminal spaces like tidelines, the best being the banks of the Thames at low tide (the teeth in the ‘mouth work’ are bits of old ceramic pipe collected along the Thames).
 
Artists Terry Williams and Jenny Bartholomew working on their collaborative KMKY project in the Arts Project Australia studio.

How did you first find out about Arts Project Australia?
JB: I’ve known many of the artists working at Arts Project for a long time, and have worked with some of them in other contexts in the past.
 
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.
JB: I’ve done quite a bit of collaborative work over the years, sometimes with just one other artist, at other times in larger collaborative projects. I like to leave things really open, to leave room for different ideas and practices to react with each other. One of the things I like about collaborative projects is the freedom they give you to enter and interact with another person’s practice – it’s exciting, and you always learn something you didn’t expect.
 
What did you hope to get out of this collaboration? What were your expectations?
JB: Working with Terry, the conversation wasn’t really verbal to begin with, but a conversation began between different pieces of work we brought into the project. Collaboration takes time, and just working alongside each other allowed us to build up a trust and rapport – you can’t rush good art, but it can happen really quickly. Terry’s a devil with a needle and thread. 
 
Were there any highlights along the way that particularly stick out in your mind?
JB: Terry made a piece in response to a conversation and then it went missing before I had a chance to see it, when it resurfaced, it was so exciting because I knew at once that we had found our groove.
 
Were there any challenges? If so, can you explain?
JB: Making art can be challenging, some days you’re on, some days you’re off, and some days you just have to let it go. It’s knowing when to do this, and respecting each other’s making-rhythm.
 
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)?
JB: I’m very happy with the outcomes, and don’t see this as the end but as something ‘to be continued’ …
 
How would you describe the finished artwork?
JB: It’s a conversation, a funny conversation.
 
What do you hope happens to the work once this exhibition is over?
JB: It would be great if it could go on tour, to allow a bigger audience to see it – perhaps to some regional galleries.  Of course, it would be great if it was acquired by a really important art gallery for a lot of money … ha ha!
 
Would you ever work collaboratively again? Why/why not?
JB: You bet. In fact, I’m already involved in other collaborative projects. I love bouncing off other people’s ideas and work, it makes you rethink and evolve your own practice, it’s so stimulating.

 


Artists Terry Williams and Jenny Bartholomew looking at their collaborative KMKY project in the Arts Project Australia studio.

Here is a sneak peak of one of Terry and Jenny’s works that will be featured in Knowing Me, Knowing You next week:

Terry Williams and Jenny Bartholomew, Untitled Thinking, 2013
material,wool, stuffing, lights, battery
TRW&JB3D13-0003
© Terry Williams and Jenny Bartholomew
Supported by Arts Project Australia

All image credits: Penelope Hunt

 

SUPPORTERS:

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
SILK CUT LINO
 for sponsoring lino for artists Angela Cavalieri & Fiona Taylor


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