The Herald Nell May 2015

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You are participating in a Q&A for Hunter Arts Network on May 24 about professional practice. What are you planning to speak about? 

There was never a moment I made a decision to be an artist. By the time I was a teenager I just knew I was going to be an artist. It was a case of fait accompli.– Nell

My work and my life. My intention is to share images of my artworks as well as my experiences as artist in the art world for the last 20 years.

Hopefully my story will generate some interesting conversations and questions. So please come along!

You grew up in Maitland. What or who inspired your decision to become an artist?

There was never a moment I made a decision to be an artist.

By the time I was a teenager I just knew I was going to be an artist. It was a case of fait accompli.

Did your rural upbringing influence your art, if so how?

I like to think I have retained an openness and straightforwardness in both my life and my art practice that comes from growing up in a rural centre.

What sort of mediums do you work with, and how would you define your style?

Possibly the most consistent thing about my art practice is the range and variety of materials I use.

I make everything from small intimate objects or paintings to immersive installations, performance works, videos, collaborations, neon works, tapestries, mosaics, music and anything else you can think of!

I’m not so much interested in a “style” per se but rather that the ideas and materials are right for each other.

You seem to use fun and irreverence and pop culture references to highlight your work, even with darker themes. What inspires you on a daily basis?

Everything is inspiring. But it’s what happens after inspiration that make the difference and mostly that is just hard work.

All I do turn up to work everyday and do what needs to be done, which is pretty much what everyone does I think!

You have studied art extensively and been exhibited widely, particularly by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery who now represents you. What continues to engage you in your profession? 

I’ve been showing with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery for over 15 years so that is not a new relationship.

The most engaging things are always the things I’m working on at any given time.

And at the moment I’m working on two different books about my work, an outdoor sculpture made from Sydney sandstone for a private home in South Australia, a few ceramic works for a group exhibition in Melbourne and also a solo exhibition at the Shepparton Art Museum, both scheduled for later in the year.

What has been your career highlight so far? 

Undoubtedly the project where I restaged AC/DC’s famous film clip, It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)

I put together an all girl band plus Les and Kevin, two of the original bagpipers from the 1976 film clip and recreated this performance for MONA FOMA in both Sydney and Hobart.

It was a rock star fantasy come true!

Do you have a career goal and if so, what is it?

All I want to do is go to the studio and make work.

Who are artists you admire and why? 

There are so many!

My perennial favorites are Colin McCahon, Kiki Smith, Lucio Fontana, Lousie Bourgeois, Fra Angelico, Morandi, On Kawara, Sonja Delaunay and I love Nyapanyapa Yunupingu.

However if I had to pick just one artist that I can’t live without I’d say Nick Cave.

I’ve seen him perform more than 20 times and he has such a powerful and magnetic energy – he is like a snake around your ankle that you can’t shake off.

What is your advice to those who wish to begin investing in art for financial gain? 

Nobody is likely to ask me that question!

But if they were open hearted and open minded people I’d suggest that they look, and I mean really look, at lots and lots of art.

Getting to know artists, art dealers, curators, writers and collectors is a great way to understand and learn about artworks, as is volunteer work and philanthropic support.  If they just wanted to make money then all I could do is wish them the best of luck!

You met your long-term partner, Sydney celebrity chef Kylie Kwong, at an art gallery. Do you inspire one another on a creative level or do you try not to “talk shop” at home?

We work so much that we are hardly ever at home!

So naturally when we do have time together we love to talk to each other at length about what we do.

You and Kylie plan to have a Buddhist commitment ceremony this year. Are you disappointed by the lack of will to legalise gay marriage in Australia?

There is plenty of will. It is inevitable and it’s only a matter of time.

Nell will speak at Hunter Art Network’s (HAN) Professional Development Night from 6pm on May 24 at The Salvation Army Oasis Hunter, 67 Cleary St, Hamilton. Email