Amanda Parer is an artist who uses animals as her first inspirational source. Her work is very diverse, it goes from paintings to gigantic installation. She is a real storyteller who is trying through her work to awake us about environmental issues.
KALTBLUT: Hi Amanda, could you please tell us what is your artistic background.
Amanda: When I was young I used to watch my mother draw and paint and I thought she was performing some kind of magic. This developed an interest in me enough to practise and after a while I realised I could do it too. I think great teachers can really help to nurture a career, I was lucky at my high school to have a great art teacher and this spurred me on to do tertiary studies in Visual Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts – Sydney University. My first major was in photography but grew frustrated due to the lack of immediacy in realising my ideas so I moved to the painting department. During my bachelor studies I worked large so it has been a natural progression when I embarked on my professional art career that would initially do large paintings, move into sculptures and then onto developing installations.
KALTBLUT: We love your “Intrude – Public Light Art Installation”. Could you please explain how did this project came to life?
Amanda: I use feral animals as a feature in my work. Australia is a land with unique flora and fauna and introduced species that have been brought with white settlement for sport, food and agriculture just over 200 years ago are out of control and continue to cause great environmental destruction. I enjoy using the rabbit in my work because it holds dual symbolism, one it is a cute, welcoming animal, reminding people of their childhood and the other is that it is an introduced species that has caused great destruction to the delicate Australian ecosystems. The first rabbit arrived with the convicts on the first fleet and we have been unable to eradicate the species ever since. Easily adaptable the rabbits have occupied each corner of the country.
I use feral animals in my work as a metaphor for man’s mismanagement and overuse of the environment. I am interested in how easily we anthropomorphize to tell our stories with out fully acknowledging that we are animals too. I use the rabbit to lure the viewer in with its cuteness and sentimentality only to lure the viewer into the more serious environmental messages in the work. These issues have global relevance.
The 7 meter high giant glowing rabbits of the light art installation Intrude are in different poses some sitting, standing up and lying down. I wanted them to look like they have just hopped in and made themselves right at home which metaphorically they have. Being oversized emphasises their (our) dominance over the environment. I live in an island state in the south of Australia called Tasmania. It is a land of great dramatic beauty with moody skies and landscapes and holding narrative qualities that I like to thread in my work. Light coming through the darkness depicts a sense of hope or spirituality. The rabbits of Intrude are bright glowing white referring to these themes.
KALTBLUT: How long did the art work take to realise this installation?
Amanda: From the initial idea to conception took about 4 months. The process involved initially choosing the right poses of the rabbits to work compositionally. I chose some lying down, one jumping up, one preening and one looking like it is standing guard, creating a visual flow. One of of them has also been designed to be placed on top of a building, to enhance the idea that they just hopped in and made themselves at home. The next stage of the process was to make clay models of each, these were then 3D digitally scanned and sent off to an inflatables factory for manufacture. Much like a tailor would, the factory mapped out the material to eventually make 7 meter high exact replicas of the models. Once the inflatables arrived I worked with engineers, electricians and technicians to refine the art work to ensure it was safe to be in a public space. This included making sure that the forms were stable, secure and did not buckle in the wind and that the electricals were made to be water and weatherproof. The 2014 Vivid Light Festival went for 21 days, being inflatables they could not be left on constantly during length of time. As a result the entire installation had to be installed and dismantled every day. I hired 5 staff to help with this process.
KALTBLUT: Looking at your work, it seems that animals inspire you the most. Why?
Amanda: I use mostly feral animals in my work, those that have been introduced by man without much forethought to the repercussions that may occur to the natural environment. I use these animals in my work as a metaphor for man’s mismanagement and overuse of the environment. I am interested in how easily we anthropomorphosise animals to tell our own stories with out fully acknowledging that we are animals too. The rabbit has been the animal that has featured most prominently in my work. I use the rabbit to lure the viewer in with its sentimental cuteness then only to reveal that I am in fact holding up a mirror that is not be so favourable. I am very happy that the environmental themes in the work are resonating globally. Since the 2014 Vivid Light Festival in Sydney I have displayed Intrude in such countries as England, Belgium and soon to be the US, France, Scotland and Sweden.
KALTBLUT: Your paintings are really stunning. What is your creative process usually?
Amanda: I live in Tasmania, an island state to the south of Australia. It is a land of great dramatic beauty with moody skies and landscapes, this holds narrative qualities which I thread through my work. I usually get great inspiration from travelling around my home state and come across an amazing land or skyscape and use this to depict a mood within one of my art works. Light coming through the darkness depicts a sense of hope after a dark time. I try to create a sense of balance in all of my work between darkness/ light, humour/ seriousness, hope and pessimism. By doing this I hope to allow the viewer space to explore amongst these themes themselves. As previously mentioned, I find it interesting that we use animals to tell our stories I think the same is historically true with our depiction of landscapes. I believe this comes from subconscious imagery fed to us through our cultural history. In my latest painting series I have used a portrait composition commonly used before photography. This usually depicts a person of wealth in the foreground with the property owned which may include people, land and/ or animals in the midground and background. I use the dramatic toiled and barren landscapes and the humorous depiction of anthropomorphic animals to convey a message about our current strained relationship with the natural environment. The painting Hoped depicts a portrait of a rabbit in a suit, this is referencing economic pursuits and is a respectful nod to Rene Magritte. He is placed in the foreground of what he has effected or owned, which is a landscape that has been over toiled, misused and now all but a desert.
KALTBLUT: When you think about a new piece to create, do you always know how the final result will look, or is it a constant evolution?
Amanda: Yes, most of the time an idea comes in part and if it stays with me long enough I understand that it is an idea worth pursuing and rounding out. I am aware of it’s strength and potential so I patiently wait until all of it’s elements have been resolved to effectively visually communicate the ideas. At this point I start making. I may have fleeting ideas but the ones that stay around and refine are the ones I know I need to actually make a reality. My process dictates that I need realise each of these ideas before I am able to move onto the next art work. I see it as a progression.
KALTBLUT: Who is inspiring you these days?
Amanda: Up until my art work Intrude being displayed at the 2014 Vivid Light Festival I had been an artist who did work only for galleries. I am represented by 3 commercial galleries in Australia. In a lot of ways I thought my career was going to involve making visual art work for galleries then I discovered festivals. I think art is about communication therefore I am inspired to be able to to do so with more people through making work for festivals. I have longed been an admirer of Jeff Koons. I like the humour in his work and his ability to traverse mediums.I love they way he can make art spectacular.I really respect Anish Kapoor’s work. He is an artist who has the ability to consider peoples personal, domestic, atmospheric and environmental spaces. I am especially fascinated with his ephemeral concert hall called Ark Nova. This is a 36m high inflatable bubble shaped hall designed to stage performances including orchestras, jazz and theatre seating 500 people. Kapoor created this in partnership with a japanese archtect Arata Isozaki to tour around the tsunami stricken areas of Japan.
KALTBLUT: What would be your ideal commission?
Amanda: To be given a large enough budget to creatively communicate and involve as many people as possible.
Interview by Nicolas Simoneau