Tuesday, 15 May 2012

In Conversation | Heather Lee

This is the first in a series of interviews which we will be holding with the artists exhibiting at Wallflower. Heather Lee's solo show "Made In England" will be opening this Friday May 18 from 5-7pm. In anticipation of the exhibition, we asked Heather a series of questions about her past work, current research and its relation to the new show.
Heather Lee completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) in 2008 and is currently studying a Master of Arts in Interpretive Writing through Charles Sturt University. Since 2004, she has been involved in numerous group exhibitions including most recently, the 2010 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award and the 2010 Swan Hill Print & Drawing Acquisitive Award. Solo exhibitions have included Ovah!, 2008 and Some of it was cricket, 2009. The conceptual basis of Heather’s art is strongly influenced by her research into sports' sociology and the way Australia's historical foundations have permeated through to the present time. She works across various media including printmaking, sculpture, and digital printmaking.

For your honours project through La Trobe uni you made a performative/site specific work on a cricket pitch. Can you tell us a little about it and does it relate to your newer work? 

The installation on the cricket pitch was comprised of 20 metres of silk fabric fixed at each end of the pitch but unattached between the creases on the pitch. On the day of the installation there was a slight breeze which picked up the silk, tossing it about as though the fabric were marking the flight of a cricket ball as it is bowled in a match.  For me the effect was surprising but pleasing as I wanted to highlight the constraints that cricket, with is associated rules and traditions, can impose particular social and cultural values on those who play it.  Although the flight of the ball may vary according to individual bowling actions, the start and end points are predetermined by the construction and marking-out of the pitch.

In addition to this, you made a sound work that was beamed out of the Historical society in Mildura for Palimpsest #8 "Collaborators & Saboteurs" can you elaborate on that piece? 

Being a sound installation, 'Mary's Oratorio' was a departure from my usual work and therefore was somewhat of an experiment.  The aim of the work was to recognise Mary Woorlong of the Kulkyne Tribe, her story and link it to my personal experience of living at the edge of the Woorlong Wetland (an extension of Kings Billabong).  The wetland is a remarkably rich ecosystem which, unlike Kings Billabong, has not been artificially regulated.  By installing the recorded sounds of Woorlong Wetland at the Mildura Historical Society who have a picture of Mary Woorlong in their collection, I hoped to conceptually bring past and present closer together.

You are known for your abstract scans and large scale prints, many of cricket balls. Can you hint at what you are up to for Wallflower and more specifically, how photomedia is incorporated? 

I can reveal that the work will be ball-less, but can't guarantee there won't be any cricket references.
A topic of ongoing debate between myself and a friend (you know who you are JB) is whether my work is classed as 'photography' or 'printmaking'.  I'm for the latter. My background is in printmaking and I see my use of scanning technology as a form of digital printmaking above all else.  As with the printmaking process, the result of my scans are only revealed to me when the image appears on the screen - the equivalent in traditional printmaking would be lifting the paper after putting a plate through the press.  Unlike photography, scanning does not allow you to see the final image prior to capturing it.

Hand Made Perfection I (detail), 2012

Your work seems to incorporate concepts that intersect local history, indigenous history and sport. Is that what you are looking at presently? 

The sociology of sport and the way the colonialism persists through the traditions, rules and intrenched values of cricket continues to intrigue me and inspire my art.  Through this central premise I find myself exploring numerous paths which, often obliquely, relate to my personal experiences and family history.  At this stage, I feel I've only just touched the surface of this investigation and as those who know me would say, I always seem to be able to relate everything back to cricket.  Scarily, I think I'm a bit cricket obsessed.

Can you expand on your role at Mildura Arts Centre and your curatorial studies?  

My role at Mildura Arts Centre (MAC) is that of Acting Gallery & Heritage Coordinator.  Despite the fact that the galleries are closed while the new theatre is being built, there has been huge amount of behind the scenes goings-on including everything from exhibition programming, digital documentation, archiving and conservation of artworks, as well as the ongoing task of liaising with heritage advisors and contractors regarding the conservation management plan for Rio Vista.  There's also the paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork that somehow seems to multiply itself as soon as it hits my desk.

I'm full-time at MAC, but am also completing a Master of Arts in Interpretive Writing via distance education with Charles Sturt University Wagga Wgga.  Although this is a Masters by coursework and two of the three subjects are fairly prescriptive, students have the flexibility to propose their own research topic and complete a major piece of writing (10,000+ words) relating to art curation, exhibition, biography or publication.  My research is on early European responses and visual interpretations of the landscape of the Murray-Darling region of which Mildura is a part.

Heather Lee's exhibition "Made In England" will be at Wallflower Photomedia Gallery May 18 - June 13 | Opening Friday May 18 | 5-7 pm

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