Interview 5/5/08 Bree Falla – Bachelor of visual/fine art at La Trobe University.
1. What are your views on climate change?
I have a self-held commitment as an artist to express contemporary social and environmental concerns. This has grown naturally for me as an artist in my development of working with this found object visual language and is supplemented in parallel, with myself as a person having a natural response to world wide ever growing concerns about all aspects of the environment, which now includes the ever pressing need to address global warming and its impact on the environment.
2. How do these views affect your art practice?
I see my latest paintings as being a reflection of these continued concerns. The landscapes featured in my new paintings are thevery same places I have roamed over the years and collected detritus and materials for my assemblages and other works. In the past I have used recycled materials to convey the history and memory of a place, to comment on the human experience of place, beauty and degradation of the environment. In this new series I am emphasising the changing weather patterns witnessed in recent years, through my own depictions of storm activity and beach erosion along the North Coast region in Australia where I live. These works are landscape paintings with a contemporary twist – a sense of foreboding of what is to come, and rather than aspiring to be natural they are highly produced, stylised and have a flat, artificial and detatched look, a kind of Apocalyptic Realism with an element of abstraction. They are executed with a certain sense of urgency seen in my handling of paint, due to my ever growing concerns about global warming and its apparent impact on the environment.
3. Do you believe the role of the artist is an important one in helping people become aware of climate change?
I think it’s great that many artists are now highlighting strong environmental issues in their work such as climate change. I believe we need all the help we can get at the moment and if art can help shift peoples awareness in a positive direction, then great. In all honesty, I see the real need for massive social transformations. They are essential, to adequately deal with such crises as the depletion of fossil fuels and climate change. I hope that my own work can be a timely reminder to us about climate change and of the limited supply of petroleum based materials, which is a direct result of our current collective global mass consumerism. In the same way, I hope that the viewing public also embraces the messages, which other sincere artists are conveying with their work particularly when they are expressing strong environmental statements intelligently and with a high degree of aesthetic complexity.
4. Do you believe that art is making a difference to the way people treat their environment?
I see that by making this art, it is a way of sharing my messages for the need to care for our environment with a broad audience. I feel that even if just a fraction of the viewing audience were to experience a shift in their awareness and consciousness about the environment and art, through being exposed to this artwork then it would be worth it. This stems from the fact that I believe presently humanity is at a critical point in time, with our planet currently existing in a fragile ecological state, with global warming hastening unheard of changes, all amplifying the fact that we need all the help we can get. This is my way of making a difference, and at the same time I’m sharing a positive message about beauty that can be gained from the aesthetic experience of appreciating art, as well as giving examples of how we can recycle and reuse in creative ways. These artworks exemplify my commitment as an artist to express contemporary social and environmental concerns. By presenting this art to the public, it will hopefully have people thinking about the deeper meaning of the work, in particular the environmental issues we currently face. I hope these works will act as a constant reminder to people about awareness. I would like them to find enjoyment of the work on many levels and find themselves becoming identified in various ways with each of the artworks they see. I also look forward to the possible discussion that these works may generate. I say these things as being possibilities, bearing in mind as well that comments are regularly made to me about people’s consciousness, while walking the beach, being awakened after seeing my found plastic object artworks, similarly with seeing my recycled plastic bag series, people have marvelled at the creative way I am presenting the recycling theme in an aesthetic way, with this in mind, I have trusted leaving the final alchemy of the work to the viewer, with the possibility they may experience deep perceptual shifts and have a positive aesthetic experience as they interact with my art.
5. Do you believe that the specific symbolism in using discarded scraps and other man made materials is and effective way of making people aware?
6. Do you believe that your paintings or installation works are more effective in expressing your ideas and concerns for the environment?
They both have their own individual effect. It’s true that with these latest works the environmental message within the work is more subtle, it doesn’t clobber you over the head, instead it catches you more unawares.
7. Are you inspired by any other ‘eco’ artists, if so who are they and what is it about their work that inspires you?
I have been so busy over the years creating my own body of work that I have hardly paid attention to many others work in this area. In that sense, no I haven’t been inspired by any other artists work in this field of what I will term environmental art. I have of course had certain artists names bought to my attention by people who have made a connection between my work and others, such as Arman, Tony Cragg and Sol Lewit, which has been interesting for me to see, however seeing visuals of their work happened long after I created my own body of work. I simply didn’t want to see others work until I had satisfied my own exploration and didn’t want any influence from others.
8. Are there any historical environmental artists that influence your work or whom you are inspired by?
There are not any historical “environmental” artists that influence my work or whom I am inspired by, however there are “Artists” whom I have been influenced and inspired by. As a young artist, I was fortunate enough to interact with many people who played a significant role in shaping the Australian contemporary art world. These lecturing artists at the VCA, demonstrated to me what it meant to have an energetic response to the creative process. It was during these years at art school at the end of the seventies that I first began collecting driftwood to make into furniture; and it was this experience that 20 years later I remembered and returned to the very same coastline to collect driftwood and washed up plastics once again. Exposure to international art in London and Europe, in the early eighties, encouraged me to pursue my career as an artist.
One defining moment was experienced at the Tate Gallery in London, 1981. In a gallery space devoted to Mark Rothko, the American abstract expressionist, I experienced the depth and commitment in his work. The exhibition drew an intense emotional response from me, moving me to tears, and provided a level of inspiration that I had not experienced up until that point. Another Rothko piece (from a different period), seen several years later while visiting the National Gallery of Victoria, filled me with the same feeling of understanding. Looking back, with the benefit of experience, I can say that it was the sincerity and purity from within his paintings that moved me. Upon returning to Australia, after residing some years in the United States, I took up a position as artist in residence at Editions Gallery, Western Australia. Living and working with other artists is an education in itself, providing insight into how they work. Fellow painters prompted me to explore more painterly qualities in my work, while sharing a studio would help to deepen my exploration into abstraction. The vitality and intensity with which these artists approached their work left quite an impact on me, subsequently affecting the way I approached my own art practice.
Some of the great masters of course provided me with great inspiration. I must mention 17th century Spanish artist (Diego Rodriguez de Silva) Velazquez for his monumental figurative paintings, which reveal upon closer inspection, the most amazing abstract painterly qualities. The later post-impressionist movement was highly inspirational, particularly artists like Van Gogh whose work was explosive and brilliant once he had discovered his own visual language. A more complete list should also include American Abstract Expressionists, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and later Roy Lichtenstein, and more recently Jeff Koons, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Also I want to mention my being influenced by the Australians; Tony Tuckson and Ian Fairweather, primarily due to the energy that their work conveys.
9. I come from a rural back ground where water is the life blood of the farming community, this influences my work greatly. Do you have any specific ties with the landscape which you collect your materials?
I live in a seaside town called Byron Bay. It was a direct result of my being influenced by my sense of place living here, that my creative medium shifted from painting to working with found objects as well as it being a result of an artistic accident during the mid 1990’s. I was collecting driftwood, on a remote Victorian Coastline, with the intention of making furniture and stumbled upon vast amounts of plastic ocean debris. This whole new palette of colour and shape revealing itself to me immediately affected me; I’d never seen such hues and forms before. Since then for approximately 10 years, I scoured Australian beaches for found objects, much of which I found as washed up ‘ocean litter’ from the Byron Bay region. I have since discovered this is a worldwide phenomenon, affecting beaches on a global level. I bought these plastics back to my studio to sift, sort, and colour-code for my assemblages, sculptures and installations. As I worked with these objects, I became even more fascinated by the way they had been modified and weathered by the ocean and nature’s elements. I have also been a surfer for many years, which also has acted as a specific tie for me.
10. What are your views if any on the water crisis in Australia, do you believe that art can have an affect on the way people use water?
I do think art can have an effect on the way people view the water crisis in Australia and how they use water. I think it’s great that many artists are now highlighting strong environmental issues in their work, such as the water crisis, as I believe we need all the help we can get at the moment and if art can help shift peoples awareness in a positive direction, then great. I hope that the viewing public also embraces the messages, which other sincere artists are conveying with their work particularly when they are expressing strong environmental statements intelligently and with a high degree of aesthetic complexity. In all honesty, I see the real need for massive social transformations. They are essential, to adequately deal with such crises as the current water crisis in Australia, and worldwide. I hope that my own work and others work can be a timely reminder to us all of the issues we face generally with climate change.