Part Time Paintings
“Its like a push and pull battling all the time which I think creates that space between representation and abstraction - wanting to show something and simultaneously wanting to destroy something or making that something ‘something more’”
Amber Wallis is a nationally recognised artist who now lives in Bangalow with her partner and young daughter. Amber describes her paintings as psychological landscapes.
Cook: You originally majored in photography, why painting?
Wallis: When I studied Photography I wanted to recreate my memories and emotions. The idea of recreating them in a staged way seemed tiresome and like a production. So it seemed to me drawing my memories and emotions was the easiest most immediate thing I could do that didn’t rely on other people, paraphernalia or a drawn out process. It remains something I can do by myself for myself relatively easily and cheaply.
Cook: Your latest body of work ‘Part Time Paintings’ references your family past and present can you touch on your family background?
Wallis: I grew up in New Zealand in the 1980’s, my father lived off the grid within the fringes of society on Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island. He bartered services and had robust substance abuse issues, aspects of my childhood in his care were incredibly unsafe and damaging. Time with my mother was stable yet interesting, she was a ceramic artist who had a rich and interesting diverse group of creative friends. My latest body of work is loosely inspired by the ‘Ohu’ back-to-land movement in New Zealand. I grew up in handmade homes and boats and lived within those fringes of society. I’m becoming interested in the failure of those 1970’s utopian ideals and how so many kids both in New Zealand and here in the Northern Rivers have horror stories relating to growing up in alternative communities; as a way to reference those ideas I’ve been looking at structures from the era.
Cook: ‘Part Time Paintings’ also references juggling parenthood and a creative life, can you elaborate?
Wallis: My practice has become greatly reduced in practical hours which has created a consolidation of my practice both in the studio and with my conceptual concerns. I now ponder my practice while parenting so that when I’m painting I have already come to some resolutions about where the works might go. I get two studio days per week - firstly I prioritise sleep for myself and I never prioritise housework. I am very disciplined to just walk out of the house and go to the studio for roughly four to five hours on those days. It’s not much. But I have made more in the last year than I thought possible.
Cook: I feel you are able to reference your “story” without it becoming the focus of your work, is this intentional?
Wallis: Yes. I feel I am dually interested in my own conceptual interests or ‘stories’ but I am also just as interested in ‘painting’. I like the idea of erasing my story in favour of discovering or exploring something more painterly and challenging for myself. I also like the idea of erasing my story. Its like a push and pull battling all the time which I think creates that space between representation and abstraction - wanting to show something and simultaneously wanting to destroy something or making that something ‘something more’.