Thursday, April 30, 2009

Claire Bridge : until May 2, Maroondah Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia

For more information go to Claire's website

If looks could kill, 2009, oil on Belgian linen, 123.5 x 85.7cm

In The Real Art World interviews Claire Bridge about her recent exhibition "Transit Lounge"

In The Real Art World: What is the Claire Bridge story, how have you and your art arrived at this point?
Claire Bridge:: Jeff Makin, in his opening address called me a “perceptual realist” – and I like that; in painting and in life. Using my senses and my instincts to reflect the reality I perceive or to create a new reality.

In high school my art work was censored, seized and I was very nearly suspended for my first art project – I had done an album cover showing a couple in a passionate embrace as their bodies entwined and formed a snake – too much Adam and Eve and the fall from grace for a Catholic girl’s school!

Studied at Monash – BA fine Arts, 1991
Geoff Dupree – taught me colour mixing and tonality
Wendy Stavrianos – myth and feminine imagination, passion and dreaming
Andrew Sibley – curiosity , questioning, humour , courage – current mentor
Studied Illustration at NMIT – learnt more skills in precision

Years of Paintings Conservation “apprenticeship to masters” being hands on with: Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier, Arthur Streeton, Emily Kame Kngwarrey, Clarice Beckett, Violet Teague just to mention a few.

The residency at Maroondah Art Gallery 08-09 provided an opportunity to throw myself into a new body of work full time, and so Transit Lounge came to be.

In The Real Art World: About the paintings in "Transit Lounge", can you elaborate on your statement "Nothing is certain. Adolescence is such a visible manifestation of uncertainty and change. Yet it is also a time of defining identity. In my work these extremes are pulling and pushing at each other."
Claire Bridge: Nothing is certain, nothing remains the same, everything changes. This is the nature of the human condition, of being alive. “Echo’s Silence” encapsulates the transition from child woman to adult woman in a dialogue between the main subject and the echo-like sketch in the background. Symbols such as the doorway refer to death and the after-life, the movement from the present room (life) to the “next room” (after life or beyond). In this instance the door is closed, but it is a sliding door and could be opened at any moment.

Originally this image had a sketch of a nude in the background, however, the model in the foreground requested that the background image be clothed so that no one would make an error in thinking it may be her. In the making of the work, the very tension of the issue to which the painting refers, from child to woman was being brought to the fore. Of course I obliged, to ensure my models comfortability and with respect to her wishes, recognising that this was a teenager’s discomfort regarding her identity and the perception of others.

In many of the works there is an extreme treatment of light and dark. These represent both emerging and disintegration, of birth and death – physically or metaphysically.

Echo's silence, 2009, oil on Belgian linen, 78 x 61.5cm

In The Real Art World: The person in most of the paintings is your step-daughter, how much is it a "portrait" of her, or is she used as only a model for the emotional landscapes you want to create?
Claire Bridge: It is really a blend of both. Many people who know Brooke immediately recognize her character in the works, however, just as much as this, the emotional qualities are universal and speak to us all. My intention is more for the “one” to speak for the “many” so that the viewer experiences the work and in recognition of a connection begins to forget about individual portrait and instead takes away the quality of the moment.

Jonah's choice, 2009, oil on Belgian linen, 123.5 x 85.7cm

In The Real Art World: Your exhibition "Transit Lounge" was the result of an artist-in-residence at Maroondah Art Gallery, how did that come about?
Claire Bridge: I have been associated with Maroondah Art Gallery over the years. I am local to the area and have wanted to be part of the artistic community here. For a long time the residency was available for international artists and more recently this was opened up to local artists. As soon as I heard that, I contacted Damian Smith, who is the curator. After some discussions I was given the opportunity to work in a gorgeous space, a renovated old classroom with 20 foot ceilings and big windows for a period of 6 months.

I had just put on a solo show at red gallery, Melbourne, in October 08, so I began the residency, back to back preparation for another solo show. I moved into the studio in mid November 08 and had all 17 works completed for the show within 4 _ months. It was a very intense period, yet my work developed as a result, becoming more gestural, energetic, painterly and vigorous whilst still retaining its foundation in figurative realism.

In The Real Art World: Tell me about your working process, how an idea becomes a finished painting?
Claire Bridge: An idea does just happen, but through being open to the opportunity. It is not something forced, however at times I may just have a vague impression of what I want to work with and by researching and working through the initial ideas, the gems begin to appear and I feel I have hit on something exciting. Then it becomes a fervour of activity.

In 2007 I spent some time in New York and San Fransico. I saw Gerhard Richter’s painting of his wife Sabine reading a book, in New York and have been very struck by it ever since. There was something so poetic and profound in the stillness of the moment and a delight how the light bounced on her hair from above. This image influenced how I thought about lighting my models and spurred on some of the risks I took in the work such as the painting “Transition”.

From a seed idea I sketch thumbnail pictures, to develop my ideas. From there I work with a model, from life and with photographs. I do further sketches and work with composition until I find the right kind of balance of elements.

I draw up the sketch onto a prepared canvas, usually with an undercoat of yellow ochre and mars red. I develop the sketch with a single colour, usually a burnt sienna or burnt umber washes to establish tonal relationships and from there it’s all wet in wet. There may be one layer of paint or 2 -5 layers.. and finally glazes to push the form and make the colour pop.

I may put a painting aside for a couple of months, although in Transit Lounge I didn’t have the luxury of time to do so, and then return to it later to complete it. Most often I work on 3 – 5 pieces at once.

All that is spoken is left unsaid, 2009, oil on Belgian linen, 123.5 x 85.7cm

In The Real Art World: Who are the artists that at the moment you are looking at, or find their work resonates for you?
Claire Bridge: Jenny Saville, Gerhard Richter, Lucien Freud and more locally, Julia Ciccarone.

In The Real Art World: I'm always curious of which colours make up the palette used by the artist, can you list them for me.
Claire Bridge: For sure, I have a well established palette that I rarely vary from:
Titanium white
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Yellow
Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium red
Rose Dore
Rose Lake
Ultramarine Blue
Manganese Blue
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber
Mars red
with occasional Viridian, Mars Black, Lamp Black

Laughing in the face of it all, 2009, oil on Belgian linen, 123.5 x 85.7cm

In The Real Art World: Finally, what's next?
Claire Bridge: The next solo for me will be next year in 2010. I have dreams of doing a residency overseas in the near future. I would love to spend some time in Paris, New York or Barcelona just doing my work. As for the painting, well – I will let that evolve as it will and lead me there.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interview!

So lovely to read about Claire's approach and get some background after seeing this magnificent exhibition yesterday.

I do feel spoiled. :)

Alia El-Bermani said...

Wonderful interview and beautiful work. The way she paints hands is masterful. She gets almost more personality into the hands than in the faces.

slinberg said...

Lovely work, very compelling. Thanks for the interview.