Sunday, July 3, 2011

Speaking with Zoe Barry

Shit Faced, Zoe Barry, 2010. Mono-print & cotton stitching.

Did you grow up in Perth? Study here?

I went to primary school in Roleystone, and high school in Narrogin. After year 12, I moved straight up to Perth and got my BA Art at Curtin, majoring in printmaking. I am now doing an Arts Management course through WAAPA part-time, and working 30hrs a week at Artsource.

Can you tell us a little about the kind of work you make?

I've always made art from a cathartic place. So whatever I'm making is from an honest place and it often reflects where I am at. I generally revolve around printmaking and installations. At the moment I'm enjoying exploring stitching-like methods and materials. My work often reflects my observations and reactions to the everyday. 

I do, Zoe Barry, 2009. Cross-stitch.

I really enjoy works like In the Beginning and I do, the way that you have subverted traditional stitch-work that calls to mind the good wife decorating her home with virtuous texts. You seem to tackle emotional subjects with quite a bit of playfulness and humour. Can you talk a little about this?

I was looking at combining text and image, and was particularly into Shrigley and Leunig. I wanted to say something that expressed my current cynicism, as well as make people laugh and think. I had also just discovered radical cross stitch, and loved work by Ghada Amer, Leah Emery and Silke Raetze's 'My Buddy'. I had drawn a large number of stick figure drawings expressing random thoughts and chose my favourites to develop further.

I like the idea of putting in so much time and detail into what was essentially a stick drawing and challenging the craft vs. art and high art vs. low art conceptions. I love the contradiction between the time consuming, feminine, and traditionally decorative cross stitch and the subversive, totally honest, and cynical message.

Yeah, I guess it's a reflection of my somewhat dark humour and the very sophisticated tool of sarcasm.

Are those stitching and craft techniques something you learned as a child, from family perhaps or is it something you sought to learn later as an adult?

Yeah, Mum taught me to do cross stitch and I quite enjoyed it as a child. I also got into French knitting and weaving for a while, but never really succeeded at knitting.

What is your workspace like? Are you someone who works from a studio or in your living space?

At the moment I generally work from wherever there is space in my apartment. Sometimes it's the kitchen table or desk, but it often ends up being my bed! So, there's a couple of paint and ink stains on there.

What is your earliest creative memory? and did you always want to be an artist, or did that come later?

I think I was about 8 and I sat and drew every last tiny detail of my bicycle and I remember Dad getting quite enthusiastic about how well I had done!

I was planning on being an art teacher for a fair while, but when it came to enrolling I realised I don't want to teach but just sit and use the schools supplies and have lots of holidays. Haha!

Pink Present, Zoe Barry, 2010.
Location: South Entrance of Curtin University, Manning Road, Bentley, WA.

The images of your gift wrapped urban objects make me so happy! You've also done some yarn bombing? Can you talk a little about the work you have installed in public spaces?

I was looking at alternative mediums of graffiti and street art. There's some extremely creative and original styles of graffiti around. I was totally intrigued by yarn bombing when I discovered it, and it expanded on the stitching I was already doing. I found it quite difficult to think of something more original than just a contribution-like piece to the yarn bombing movement. Having said that, I really enjoyed doing the piece 'river views', and am amazed it is still there, bright as ever, 12 months later! It makes me smile every time I drive past it, and even more when I see someone else notice and react to it.

So, I wanted to do some street art in a medium that no-one else had done before, but realised I didn't have the balls to do anything particularly illegal! The idea of gift graffiti just came to me and was a lot of fun. It was interesting seeing how long it would stay installed for, and watching people's reactions when they passed by a gift wrapped electrical box! Despite my stakeout sessions, I haven't managed to catch one of these installations being removed yet.

River Views, Zoe Barry, 2010.
Location: Pattie st, Cannington, WA.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

I'm Co-Curating a show that will be up at Free Range in August called Kick the Habit, exhibiting new work by 4 emerging Perth artists of varying mediums. So, I'm pretty excited about that. I have started working on some new stuff, combining found metal and wool, but it isn't developed to be exhibition ready as of yet.

Untitled, Zoe Barry, 2011.
Wool and found metal object.

Where can people find out more about your work?

For news about what I'm up to and to look at more of my work, you can have a look at my website: I welcome feedback, comments and questions :)

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