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In Conversation with our ‘Life Within’ Artists

Thank you to everyone who visited Modern Times to enjoy the ‘Life Within’ group exhibition with Mark Alsweiler (NZ), Sandra Eterovic and Kasper Raglus. We througherly enjoyed having the works of these three talented artists on our walls! We recently caught up with the artists to gain better insight into their individual inspirations and artistic practice. Enjoy the interview below…

Mark Alsweiler – in conversation

I think the first question is always what has led you to being a visual artist? Can you tell us a bit about the path that led you here?

I think early on it was a combination of being an only child mixed with growing up in a small town that has really bad weather. So if it was rainy I always liked doing paintings and drawings on my own.

When I was younger I liked skateboarding and snowboarding and all the associated graphics, products and magazines etc. That led me to study Graphic Design at University.

After finishing my degree I started doing some paintings more for fun and to keep myself busy. One day a mate’s boss who was interested in collecting art put on a solo show for me in New Zealand, which went really well. I moved to Sydney after that and have just kept making work and doing shows ever since.

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You also talk about folk art and DIY culture as things that are of particular interest to you. Can you tell us perhaps what aspects of these you find particularly appealing and how this translates to your practice?

I think with folk art or outsider art I like its sincerity. Folk art is generally pretty naive and honest and has some individual personality, which I like rather than something like a photorealism painting.

I guess with the DIY aspect in my own work it has meant learning to make all my wooden panels; doing some framing; learning and improving as you go; and being comfortable with what I can do within my capability. I like seeing little imperfections in other peoples work and I think that’s what gives it a certain personality.

You mentioned in your statement that you view your paintings being similar to a film still, can you explain what you mean by this?

The process of making them is kind of like setting a scene with the background, and then I put the characters in after that. I like the idea of making something that doesn’t have the whole narrative, kind of like a freeze frame. So people can make up in their own minds what’s going on.

I love to learn how artists go from concept to the final piece, where does the journey for your works begin, is it the material you work with or something you see/hear that creates the concepts?

I think its a mixture of things I see day-to-day and might want to include in my work along with more calculated things from reference material that I might hunt out online to go with a certain idea I am working around. Mostly it all comes from drawing a simple idea down and then working off that to build it into something more complex or detailed. Then the process turns into being comfortable with the fact it will never be what you first imagined and adapting it from there.

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Sandra Eterovic – in conversation

You have a diverse background including textile and fashion along with illustration. How did you start as a visual artist, what did that path look like for you?

The transition from full-time designer to freelance illustrator/ artist was long and difficult. When I left high school I studied art history at university, and became highly critical of my own creative ideas. I got a proper job as a designer and did not make any personal artwork for over fifteen years.

It was only after my friend Anna recommended a course run by Jane Cocks at Latrobe College that I began to understand what making art could be like in contemporary Melbourne.

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You have said that you have a partiality to the medium of paint and wood? Can you tell us a bit about your process and the role that mediums play in your work?

I have always enjoyed using various mediums, including clay, textiles and printmaking. I am not sure how I ended up being an acrylic-on-wood person but its immediacy suits what I am doing now. I would like to continue honing my skills as a ceramicist and printmaker too. I am especially fascinated by colour lithography. I hear it is very challenging to learn.

That sounds like a really exciting direction for you. Do you have a particular routine to make work, what’s your motivator to get into the studio and create?

I work as an illustrator most of the time. The studio is my workplace, so there is no question about motivation when a job has to be done. When it comes to personal artwork, in the last year I have found that entering prizes is a good motivator to stretch myself and bring bigger ideas to fruition. Split 1979, All I could think of, and Read My Mind all came about this way. 

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Your work has some striking imagery, both realistic and surreal in its composition. I’m specifically referring to your work ‘Split 1979’, can you tell us the story behind this work?

The Mediterranean Games are much like the Commonwealth Games. In 1979 they were held in the city of Split, a coastal city in the then Yugoslavia, where my family happened to be spending the entire summer. I was a kid then, and prone to the grandeur of international sporting events, fireworks and the prospect of the odd souvenir. I still have a tin mug which has “Split 1979” and the ‘S’ shaped seal mascot printed on it. I coveted visors and t-shirts, but I especially wanted the striped blue beach towel.

I have been back to Split many times since. In 2015, the Split 1979 beach towel was featured in an exhibition at the city’s Ethnographic Museum, about fishing traditions in Dalmatia. I was a few months late for that exhibition, but I got the souvenir catalogue.

It is extensively researched, lovingly written (though shoddily translated), and beautifully illustrated with various photographs, many from local archives. I looked at the resigned expressions of women carrying giant boxes of fish on their backs, and pondered the rather prescribed culture of my forebears. Even now, men got to fish and drink and get up to all sorts of things. The women stay at home and cook and wash and clean. I started thinking about these women, and getting a little angry. Then I looked again at the Split 1979 towel and reconsidered the meaning of the word “Split”. 1979 or not, I thought I’d give one woman a chance to escape.

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I have wanted to make a series of small word based pieces for a while, and I look forward to starting on those soon. It may also be time to consider a self-portrait, instead of depicting my unsuspecting beau when he is asleep or washing dishes sans underpants.

read-my-mind-by-sandra-eterovic

Kasper Raglus – in conversation

Can you tell me a bit about your background and what has led you to painting?

I’ve always had art in my life, my dad (Jeff Raglus) paints for a living, so growing up around his art and going to exhibitions it just seemed like a normal job to do.

Once I finished school I knew I had to do something within the art world, I started off doing more graphic and commercial work but that eventually led to doing small paintings and then my first show.

You say in your statement on “Life Within” that it is the most “personal set of works to date” and was “therapeutic”, without putting you on the spot too much, can you tell me a bit more about what you meant by this?

With this set of paintings I was really trying to create something that represents the end of a relationship and finding a path in my life to feeling positive about my future. Some of the work could be a visual doorway to a bright colour for example, always open to interpretation but for me the actual making of these paintings was me telling myself that life will change again and again and it comes down to small choices in everyday life.

That is such a beautiful sentiment; change is really the only constant. Is your work typically biographical?

Yes but I always make the point that it’s not my opinion forced on somebody, I want people to be able to see their own life in my work.

slow-thrill-by-kasper-raglus

When we first met you talked about your work as part of a bigger story and that you hope the audience brings something to the work when viewing it. I just want to know how would you describe the subject matter of your work?

I suppose my work is ‘abstract’ enough to mean different things to different people. Each individual painting means something to me and I try to put a lot of emotion into my work but I like the idea that if somebody connects with my work it’s because they see something that reflects their life.

For my painting ‘You Connect’ I was trying to touch on how many things need to come together for a relationship to work. The two shapes connecting or disconnecting, if you will, really symbolise that for me.

What are you presently inspired by— are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?

I get inspired by music a lot of the time, a certain lyric will jump at me and from there I take that emotion and try to create a painting that relates to the feeling I got initially.

Visual inspiration can come from other paintings I see but usually more random things like a book cover or architecture. I think where I live inspires my work a great deal, because there is so much space here on the coast I like to think the negative space in my work can trace back to that.

Speaking of space! What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?

Right now I’m sharing a studio with my dad until I find my own, it does have a fireplace, which is really great!

I have a proper work shed as well as a studio so if I need to use power tools for whatever reason I have everything ready there too.

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