Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Speaking with Naomi Hunter

I was introduced to Naomi Hunter's work by her solo exhibition, Skin: an imperfect coat November last year at The Oats Factory. What I saw was sensuously visceral glass forms and vessels that used the naturally fluid nature of the medium to convey various states of being. I was lucky enough to catch up with Naomi for an interview before she heads over to Adelaide to complete her PhD.

Specimen Table, Naomi Hunter.
Photographer: Paul Godfrey
Your installation of glass vessels and organ-like forms spread across the stainless steel medical/kitchen benches had quite a strong emotional effect on me. It made me think of the vulnerability of the body and submission to procedure or examination. Am I on the right track? Can you talk further about this installation and the other works in the show? 

I have always been interested in the dualistic nature of the relationship between the immaterial mind and the material body. How thoughts affect the physical body and the body molds thoughts. Is the body a mere vessel for consciousness and how can I reveal the normally unseen internal collaborations?

My work is an ongoing exploration of the space between the immaterial and material self –– mind/body, and the space between the mind/body and the world. Making visible the constant negotiation of perceptions around the body in the world and the idealised self. My installation works are experiential which means it is based on the knowledge gained or idea imparted through the experience the viewer has when entering the exhibition space.

Specimen #14 (detail), Naomi Hunter. Blown and hot sculpted glass.
Photographer: Paul Godfrey
In entering the space the viewer becomes immersed within the work not merely viewing from the outside. To that end the use of the stainless steel benches allowed tension between the organic glass and the seemingly ‘perfect’ shining steel, to be revealed whilst including the reflection of the viewer within the work. In using components within the installation that range from the abstract to the figurative and the play on the notion of ‘the vessel’ encourages the viewer to explore their own ideas around the work.

Specimen # 15, Naomi Hunter.
Blown vessels, hot cast and steam-
Photographer: Paul Godfrey
The image here shows two objects made of the same components, made one after the other following the same process. Yet they both have reacted to the process in different ways. Glass can be suspended between states of liquidity and solidity, its symbolism oscillating between endurance and fragility – traits often related to the human condition.

Have you always worked in glass? And what first attracted you to this medium?

I have always had a creative streak and worked with a variety of mediums mostly textiles and found objects but it wasn’t until I went back to Uni to do an Arts Management degree that I saw the possibility of being the artist. Whilst doing an elective in visual art I wandered in to the glass studio to see David Hay and Jasper Dowding making glass pieces for Kevin Gordon and I was hooked...couldn’t drag myself away. The constant movement of the liquid and the ongoing interaction between the artist and the medium held me fascinated. Also the contrast between its robust malleable liquid form and the fragility of the final piece resonated with me.

I transferred over to the Visual Arts course and the rest is as they say history.

Who are some of your creative influences? 

Australian Glass artist Gabriella Bisetto has a number of processes and themes that resonate with me – her often seemingly simplistic forms are technically challenging to perfect, whilst capturing the notions of recording the bodies process such as Little breaths.

I would have to say that my influences are almost as eclectic as my work. I am drawn to the paintings and drawings of Gustav Klimt. His representation of the body, show it in not only its beauty but at the same time awkward. As well as sculptor and installation artist Anish Kapoor with his highly reflective polished surfaces and grand scale.

I saw from your FB profile you studied at Alberta College of Art and Design in Canada and are currently living in Perth, WA. It sounds like you have done some moving. Can you tell me about that and how these places have shaped your outlook? 

Once I had decided to study visual arts I realised that my fascination with glass was getting stronger. I felt to be able to use the medium in an cohesive way I needed to have hands on experience of the different processes. So in 2007 I did a 12-month student exchange at Alberta College of Art and Design, which had a hands-on training degree in glass blowing. Living in a cold climate after growing up in Perth was a shock. I had seen and experienced cold and snow in short bursts whilst on holiday but to negotiate on a daily basis was a new experience.

And you are moving East soon? I think I remember you telling me when we first met that this was for further arts study? Can you tell us a little about this and what you will be working on? 

Specimen # 1. Spill, Naomi Hunter. Blown and sculpted glass, Murrini and resin.
Photographer: Paul Godfrey

I am moving to Adelaide to complete my PhD in Visual Arts. Adelaide has a strong glass movement with an Undergraduate degree in Glass at University of South Australia and the glass workshops at the Jam factory.

Where can people find out more about your work? 

One of my projects once I’m settled in Adelaide is to work on a web page. At the moment people can contact me directly via naomihunter[at]iinet.net.au

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