We talk to local artist Isabelle Devos, who is about to open her exhibition, From There to Here, at Gallery 126 (25 Nov until 23 Dec).
What have you been doing since we interviewed you in 2009?
About two years ago, my family and I moved house from the country to town, which has opened my artist’s eye to townscapes as well as landscapes. While I do miss the country life, town life has its perks: such as being able to walk to local cafés, galleries and the cinema. Last year my family and I travelled back to my home country of Canada for three months, to spend time with relatives and friends. During the visit, I experienced a deeper appreciation of the differences and similarities between both countries.
You have an upcoming exhibition at Gallery 126?
The title of the exhibition refers to two places close to my heart: Canada’s east coast and the New England region around Armidale. I enjoy the different colours and house styles of the rural homesteads in both countries, as well as the way Australian country properties are most often hidden from view, whereas Canadian rural properties are nearer the roads and in full view. The quality of light is different in each country, but there is a time in late afternoon where the light is at its most similar – with a real sense of vibrancy, as well as deeply shadowed areas. This exhibition represents about 18 months of intensive artistic study and work, photographing and sketching landscapes in both countries followed by painting in my studio to complete the finished works – which I hope the public will enjoy looking at.
Have you recognised any young talent arising from this region?
The New England region is brimming with talented people working in the cultural sector, and many emerging talents can be seen in the art world. Check out the art students’ exhibitions at TAFE to get an idea of the newest talents coming through. Other new artists are self-taught and start exhibiting in cafés and community-run galleries. We are lucky to have at least five galleries in the city of Armidale, with more galleries in Uralla, Walcha, Glen Innes, Tamworth and Inverell. I always enjoy seeing what my contemporaries are doing in regards to their art practice: what moves them and what they are trying to show us about the world they see. It can be exciting to witness an artist’s directional shift, or when they elaborate on and develop a style they have been immersed in for years. I enjoy talking to fellow artists about the creative process, and I really love heading out into the open air to sketch and paint side by side.
What have been your personal achievements in art?
While I was an artist in Canada, I was lucky enough to be awarded two government artist grants that allowed me to actualise a conceptual art project called Insecurities Project in 2002, as well as a series of paintings, Landed Immigrant Seeks Landscape. Since settling in Australia, I have been chosen as a finalist for several art prizes over the past 8 years. Being a finalist in an art prize gives an artist some recognition of the effort you put into your work. Art prizes involve a nerve-wracking process and usually end with a single lucky and talented artist winning fame, along with a sum of money. One idea would be an art prize’s funds being used to purchase several works of art from the finalist’s exhibition, and that this collection of art then be toured and exhibited more widely, benefiting more artists in the long term.
What’s next in 2012?
I know that I will continue painting and exploring within my art practice, always allowing the art to direct itself. I often feel that I am just a conduit and that while my work demands a certain amount of control, the process is not much under my control. I would love to build myself a more spacious studio space, perhaps built of straw bale in my back garden, with plenty of natural light and plenty of room to paint and contemplate. At this stage, it is still a dream and one that I hope can become reality in the next year or so.