Q. What was your path to becoming an artist?
A. I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember, I was
encouraged as a child to draw, paint, and make and the journey has just continued. I don’t think I could have been anything else. My journey has continued and improved through observing, practising, and absorbing all the influences around me – whether it be, exposure to the great artists of the past and present, my own experience
as an artist, or the various degrees I have done, they have each incrementally made me a richer artist.
Q. How does living in Sydney, with its beautiful nature and wildlife, inspire and influence your floral and still
A. Well, I think I am very lucky to live near the Cooks River in the Inner West and its abundant green space and native flora. To be able to see kookaburras and cockatoos on a daily stroll is incredible. The flowering gum blossoms in my most recent series were all grown locally, and in January the streets in Marrickville were glowing with their large bursts of vibrant scarlet flowers. I believe that inspiration is very easily found, you just need to take a moment to see it, touch it, and embrace it!
Q. Can you discuss the interplay between nature and
the human-made in your paintings?
The ceramics and textiles that I use in my paintings will contain some kind of story. I do try and use original work that is either wonderfully vintage or a contemporary favourite. I have quite an eclectic collection and many of these pieces have been found when I have been travelling. So, when I use a Portuguese bowl in a Still Life for example, my mind is taken back to a happy and stirring memory, which gives me a deeper layer of meaning when I am creating my work. The flowers intertwined with layers of special memories from each object puts me in a very focused and inspired state of mind.
Q. How does observing nature influence your artistic choices?
A. I think certain flowers hold strong associations to
place, culture and therefore memory. For me, they conjure certain feelings, I look to specific flora to take my mind
to a purer place, away from meetings, traffic and the hustle and bustle of life. I look to flowers that take my imagination to coast or country weekends; where the world slows down, and you can relax a while.
Q. What draws you to working with limited and unusual
A. I think working with a limited palette is like designing
to a great design brief, having limitations is very empowering, it allows you to start experimenting sooner, and the limits make you use your imagination and initiative more directly. Being endowed with an open colour brief can be very muddling, and indeed the results can be kind of muddy when too many ideas are at play. What is an unusual colour combo for some, may not be unusual for others, I recently created a series of paintings based on some Clarice Cliff porcelain; her colour combinations from the early part of the 20th Century are very bold.
Q. Could you share how you add pattern into your artworks?
A. I see pattern as another form of texture, but a texture
with added meaning. I love creating work that has a lot
of texture, whether it be an impasto looser style painting
or a finer observation of detail, I will always try and add
as much texture as possible, so pattern whether it is just brush strokes forming a pattern or a very recognisable designed pattern, I will use them all. Pattern can bring so much additional meaning to the work, the history and use of that pattern conjures up so much more meaning to the viewer, it’s infinite really.
Q. In your more detailed style of still lifes, what elements
do you focus on to create a sense of realism and intricacy?
A. I think with these works, I look for an element that will be the focus, the point on which the viewer’s eye will first land and then survey the rest of the detail in the painting.
I think if I use an intricate element, I will make sure other elements are simpler, I have found too many intricate details will confuse the focus point. As for the degrees
of realism, my work will never be photo real, it will be naturally bold and graphic, that approach is in my DNA!
Q. Could you describe the techniques you use to create texture in your impasto and collage layers?
I love using impasto, because it immediately makes your work more abstract, the thick gluggy paint makes you paint with bold gestures, and I love how it’s so tactile and provides so much depth. For my collage work, I use paper where you can see through to the layer behind, I import very special Japanese rice paper in different thicknesses
to create different layers of transparency and luminosity.
I paint and tear each petal separately and once dry I assemble them on the canvas. I have an idea of how they might look when I start, but the final piece will arrive guided by the shapes and textures on each petal. It’s not an exact science and that’s why I love it!
Q. Do you believe that exploring different styles has helped you grow as an artist, and if so, in what ways?
A. With every series that I do, I try something different, some are boldly different, and some are incrementally different. It could be in the materials, the line, the form, the subject, its endless really. I think that is the designer
in me, I’ve had to design so many styles for stage and I have learnt so much each time. I can’t help myself, I like change, but I also think that with every series that I do,
I take a little from each one into the next collection and
the work grows.
Q. Has your background in costume influenced your art?
A. As a costume designer you become a keen observer, so in that way I think it has helped me enormously. I’ve used these skills to observe in my drawing and painting as well as learning particular techniques, from deducing what layers should be put down first, the materials and tools that may have been used, and then how I will incorporate this knowledge into my own practice.
Q. Any career highlights as a costume designer, especially your work with Opera Australia?
The wonderful thing about working with Opera Australia
is the artistic potential that exists within a large-scale production for a designer. OA has fabulous resources and many talented makers to work with, so you know if you all buckle down, your vision will be impeccably realised.
Q. Do you see any connections between your past experience in costume design and your present art?
A. My work as a costume designer has been about working
with a text, a performer, a group of creatives on a project that will be experienced in a particular space. For my
visual artwork, I am the text, the performer, the group
of creatives creating a work that will be experienced in
a particular space. It’s a far more solitary artform, and
I am enjoying that quietness and singular focus in my later creative years. I think understanding the difference in ways of working is very elevating, so from that perspective I
think it has had a very positive impact.
Q. Are there any specific artists, art movements, or design influences that have shaped your artistic style?
I have so many favourite artists, but a short list would
be – Thomas Gainsborough for splendidly subtle, moody colour and soft brush strokes; James Tissot for keen observation and capturing of impeccable detail; Vincent Van Gogh for vibrancy of colour and incredibly loose, thick but detailed linework; Gustav Klimt for impossible pattern combinations that amaze and delight; Brett Whitely – an imagination beyond my wildest dreams, Criss Canning for glorious colour, divine forms, patterns, highlights and shadows; and Cressida Campbell whose aspirational still life paintings are like secret windows into the most perfectly formed aesthetic.
Shop Julie Lynch’s collection here