Bright hues, clean lines, and flat images of domesticity: This is the trademark style of contemporary artist Joanna Lamb, based in Perth. Known for producing paintings that reduce suburban landscapes into sterilised, detached depictions devoid of life, the 44-year-old manages to inject aspects of both liveliness and emptiness into her art pieces.
Having previously exhibited at Art Stage Singapore 2014, she has returned for her inaugural solo exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore, a fairly new addition to the Gillman Barracks art enclave. The ongoing exhibition, titled Home, runs until 10 Oct, and features collages, installations, and art pieces incorporating neon lights by the artist. We pick her brain on her perception of home and suburbia, and what makes a good piece of art, whilst digging into the process and evolution of her art.
#1: Home can be a physical place or a psychological state. Home is where I live. But I can feel at home when I’m travelling, and that is a psychological state. I feel at home in art galleries anywhere in the world for example. Home is a feeling of familiarity.
#2: I grew up in a beach side suburb of Perth. As a child, it was an idyllic endless summer of an existence. My awareness of the world didn’t extend much further than the suburbs. As I grew up, my perception of Perth changed from this idyllic place to a place (because of its physical distance from anywhere) that was not really participating in the rest of the world. It was a slightly superficial and hollow existence. I think the attraction of suburbia is a nostalgic desire for those childhood feelings when the suburbs contained everything you needed.
#3: We have a lot of artworks hanging in our house. Artworks inspire me, and move me like music or good literature can inspire me. It questions the society we live in and also celebrates it.
#4: We have a radio station in Australia called Triple J. It started broadcasting to Perth when I was a teenager. I remember it changed my life musically at the time. Most commercial radio stations we could access before then were fairly prescriptive. This station was more alternative. I feel a sense of loyalty to them now, so it’s still my go-to station when I am in the studio.
#5: I have always been more interested in visual language rather than written language. It has always come more easily to me. Although I love reading, I always interpret my ideas visually rather than through written language. I have wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember wanting to be something. It’s not only about creating work, but also about not working for someone else, and all the restrictions psychologically and physically that would entail.
#6: My work is a total representation of who I am. It has to be. It is the way I think.
#7: I make art because I can’t make money. Seriously, it may be as simple as just liking to make things and questioning the world around me. The work has to have purpose. There always has to be an idea behind it, and I enjoy the process of trying to come up with visual solutions.
#8: A good piece of art speaks to you on an emotional level or an intellectual level. It always requires something of the viewer.
#9: My work is always evolving because I am always drawing upon life experience to create the work. Stylistically, my work is indebted to computer programmes that I use now as a tool to draw and construct my work. When I was first introduced to computers, I found it hard to even imagine using them as a tool to create artworks because I held the belief that everything should be done by hand. Now I embrace it, but use it in a fairly simplistic way. I don’t use filters or programmes to put effects on photos or my drawings. I use it basically instead of using a pencil.
#10: As an artist I spend a lot of time in the studio alone. That is a lot of time to think about and question what I am doing. It is not always productive. At times like that it is just better to get on and make work without over thinking it.
#11: Spontaneity is not my thing, but experimentation is. I definitely plan every work before I start making or painting it. During the planning process, I experiment and play around with imagery a lot before I figure out exactly what I want something to look like. Also, I find my work feeds off itself, and past work influences new work.
#12: My work has become increasingly about the observation of colour. I like working with it, and mixing it. Different materials have their own unique colour properties. Colour can be suggestive. For example, in my work, a faded palette may be suggestive of the progress of time. The way time may fade colours like the way memory fades.
Exhibition: Home by Joanna Lamb
Venue: Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore
Date: Now till 10 Oct 2016
Photo credit: Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore