It’s funny how people in your life come back. You meet someone, then they pop up later, more awesome and more brilliant than before. You’re glad you met.
This is how I feel about one Clara Emily McKay. We met when we were about 13, shoved together in what was lovingly dubbed “the smart-ass class” by the rest of the school. Between 13 and 18 we got to know each other, then there was a few years’ hiatus between school and The Real World. And now Clara Emily McKay is back in my life – more awesome and more brilliant than ever.
Clara is an artist – she makes sculptures, takes photos, creates the most amazing wearable art I’ve ever seen. I admire Clara because she has such an unstoppable impulse to create, and because the things she makes often prompt me to work. They move me.
Her blog is constantly updated, and she always has insightful and thought-provoking things to say.
She was kind enough to have a chat with me:
Q. Most accurate word to describe yourself
At the moment, exhausted!
Q. Most accurate word to describe what you do
Intimate-craft (I cheated)
Q. You make a lot of found art – what do found objects give to your work that other things can’t?
Found objects impart their own layering upon and affect the existing concepts or readings of my work, then further serve to colour all subsequent ideas related to the specific piece, those being both metaphorical and aesthetic.
These connotations may be obvious or very personal and introspective, I think personal is much more successful because it’s as if a peripheral part of the practitioner has been sacrificed for the piece and I believe that viewers associate with that and then mentally examine even if momentarily, an analogous part of themselves.
Q. What about other found art forms? Found poems made from track lists, shopping lists, etc. Are they valid, or just hacks?
This is a difficult question, there is a lot of trash art as I like to refer to it as, unfortunately there’s some of it in my class! Yet, in saying that, I’m a strong supporter of found art, when it’s done well. The magic associated with the nature of using found objects – in art or literary form – is in the mystification of the object, the aesthetic and conceptual askew-ing that is conceived and implemented by the maker is what heightens these pieces to ‘art object’.
That layering could be something as strenuous as completely manipulating the object aesthetically in order to remove it entirely from its usual visual confines or could be something as simple as giving it a title.
Q. What does your creative process involve? Is there a ritual or typical way it happens, or is it spontaneous?
My creative process varies, sometimes an object finds me and I need to interpret it, or sometimes I hoard things for years waiting for the appropriate time to deploy them. This can also be said for my photography – it is for the most part spontaneous.
In regards to my embroidered works, actually deciding on patterns, colour and arrangements can take months, especially in regards to fonts.
Whilst in regards to the prose employed within the latter (and other objects) it is most often scribbled down in those moments between putting down my book and turning out the light in bed.
Q. You’ve taken a while to find your artistic voice (is that what it’s called for visual artists? A “voice”?) – and have done a lot of different stuff along the way. What has this journey involved for you?
I’m yet to find my artistic voice, to be honest my work is still quite unavoidably introverted despite how inclusive I intend for it be although, I think that I’ve definitely come into possession of my aesthetic.
My journey would be one that’s included a brief foray into Silversmithing, a much longer foray in Law and a heck of a lot of hospitality work! But I haven’t ended up too far from more original intentions, despite getting here via an extended route, I most certainly have regrets but I’ve definitely broadened by knowledge and experience, not to mention my Hecs debt.
Q. You blog about your artworks, as well as critiquing exhibitions you go to and showcasing work by other artists. What kind of role does your blog play in your artistic life?
First and foremost, my blogs offers an avenue of escapism, although it’s admittedly currently being just slightly ignored, I find sitting down to write a post relaxing and rewarding. My blog “voice” is very different to the convoluted and well-researched one that I adopt in my studies so it’s essentially a breath of fresh air!
I also use my blog as a digital visual diary – it doesn’t convey half as much as my real journals do but it feels overwhelmingly melancholic to refrain from sharing these findings and lock them away between the covers of my journals only to ever be glanced at by a lecturer for one millionth of a second.
Q. What are you trying to do with your art? Is it about getting something out, or making a statement, or just making aesthetically pleasing things?
At this stage my practice has convened upon intending to solely influence the viewer to remember – to remind them of any seemingly insignificant moments – and submerge them within the mood that was imbued by that specific occurrence, however fragmentary.
Whilst my works may have an element of abstracted self-portraiture, my tenebrous images and awry, very personal prose are employed as vehicles intended to remind them of their own memories.
Q. You and I grew up together in a smallish community. Apart from the fact that I was there, do you think this has influenced your work?
It most definitely has affected my work, not only did we grow up in a smallish community but we were both put in that very odd accelerated learning program which I believe assisted in making, at least myself, very introverted.
Specifically to my current practice, living in a regional town put physical barriers between myself and experiencing a lot of current art in real life. Therefore, a lot of my work is influenced by what was around me, most obviously my mother’s crafts and continuous needlework. But also, the relationships that I came into contact with and was a part of – the latter being highly influential in relation to one 2010 piece entitled Disintergration & Disintergration II – which examines the possibilities, impossibilities and nuances associated with the struggle for autonomy within intimacy.
Q. Much of your work has an organic feel – things reminiscent of skin, natural growths, alive things that have a life of their own. Tell us a bit about that.
My work is slowly moving away from this aesthetic at the moment, although I think the correlations between and linkings of each work within my practice will always be very obviously organic.
I do find dried flowers, especially roses mesmerizing, not only their multiple connotations, and some of those being rather clichéd, but also their tactile quality coupled with their fragility is something that I will persuade me to continue examining them.
Q. What’s next? Where can we see your work?
Next?! Once I graduate this year, I’ll be focussing on my photography, needlework and writing outside of scholarly confines or judgements, which will be absolutely divine, but I’ll also hopefully, be undertaking a diploma of education in 2011.
I’m currently organizing the graduate exhibition for my class at the University of Ballarat, I’ve named it, edited and compiled the catalogue and I’ll be opening the exhibition so as long as it doesn’t melt down into a ‘Clara’ show I’d highly recommend that everyone should check it out – or even if it does!
These are the current details, although they are subject to change –
VISCERAL EXUDATIONS @ SmartArtz Gallery
4 Alfred Place
South Melbourne (just off of Clarendon Street)
The opening night is 23rd September commencing at 6:30pm and the show runs until the 5th October.
Thanks so much to Clara for this interview. Check out her blog, and head down to her exhibition next month.