Tell us about how you made the drawings currently on exhibition in Fine Drawing at Gallery 139?
All of my work has been produced using traditional tools and techniques. I collect thousands of objects, images of events, people and places and my own observations then cross - reference them in diarised thumbnail sketches resulting in a personal archive of memories that is the basis of my visual vocabulary as an artist. The evolution of this archive has always fed my creative output.
This visual information is translated to a final image using layers of coloured pencil, in tight contours to construct various surface textures and tensions directly onto rag papers. As for all dry pigment, the colour is mixed directly on the paper rather than firstly on a palette and then applied.
The drawings have all been sealed with varnish to stabilize the surface in order to prolong the life of the work and enhance colour and detail. This technique was largely experimental for me from the first (mid 1990’s) so that the viewer wasn’t distanced from the artwork by a sheet of glass.
You have been applying this method for many years now, tell us what these works about?
Memories largely seem to be fragments from the past, awakened by the senses and reconfigured by our present perception. Such fragments are often brought to the surface when viewing visual art, no matter how banal the subject might seem to be. My drawings are made to act as memory triggers which reflect on the immediate world in all of its contradictory forms.
I have a life-long obsession with the stories that objects and images from everyday life can tell. In these works, implied narratives are purely visual. Words take a subordinate role, only appearing as an undefined whisper within the drawings. Without offering any lengthy explanatory text, viewers are free to explore their own associations. A deep reverence for the ghosts of European art openly collaborates with closely observed elements of the immediate natural and urban environment in which I live.
How long have you been an exhibiting artist?
Ages. So long that I have had the privilege of exhibiting at von Bertouch Galleries for many years.
Where/What is von Bertouch Galleries?
Anne von Bertouch O.A.M. (1915-2003) was an author and gallery director of the von Bertouch Galleries in Newcastle, the City’s first commercial gallery, which is also believed to be the first commercial gallery outside a capital city in Australia.The von Bertouch Galleries were an essential part of the artistic landscape of Newcastle for 34 years (from 1963 to 2003) which greatly enhanced the cultural life of Newcastle. Anne von Bertouch introduced many significant artists and their work to Novocastrian audiences. Her stable included Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, Lloyd Rees, Judy Cassab, Margaret Olley, Donald Friend and John Coburn. Her quest to make Newcastle the “art capital of Australia" was furthered in 2003 when she bequeathed her own private collection to the city.
What is your advice to emerging artists?
Be disciplined, be patient. You need to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the long hours spent with your work. That’s where the best times are.
~ Interview by Ahn Wells
Susan is exhibiting in Gallery 139's "Fine Drawing" exhibition until Saturday 25 June.