Monday, June 4, 2012

Speaking with Luisa Hansal, Sarah Jane Haywood & Pip Stafford: Hatched 2012

This month’s Speaking with is a little different from previous instalments in the series; rather than interviewing one Western Australian artist I have focused on a WA based annual survey exhibition. The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts Hatched National Graduate Show.

An important element in the annual Perth arts scene and the only exhibition of its kind nationally, Hatched 2012 marks a particularly significant year since the exhibition is also celebrating its 21st birthday.

In 2004 I was selected to exhibit in Hatched so personally this exhibition has a special place in my heart, and each year marks a time of self-reflection as I inevitably think about my practice back then and how it has developed over the years since. Being a part of Hatched 2004 was a great acknowledgement and important step in viewing myself as a professional artist.

Three of the Hatched 2012 artists spoke with me via email, Luisa Hansal from Western Australia, Sarah Jane Haywood from Victoria and Pip Stafford from Tasmania, about what it means for them to be selected for the 21st Hatched show, about their exhibited works and what the future holds for them.

Hatched 2012 is currently showing at PICA until June 10th, so if you haven’t seen it yet, or want a re-visit get in there quick!

Can you tell us about your work currently showing in the Hatched 2012 exhibition at PICA?

LUISA HANSAL: My approach to making art has always been an exploration and analysis of my life world, dealing with reoccurring themes of love, sex, the fragmented self/other, gender, anger, fear and anxiety. My series of prints currently showing in Hatched is the outcome of a confronting process of analysing personal experiences I have encountered in my past, that I feel have played a highly significant role in shaping my identity and how I understand and view myself as an authentic individual in this world. Through my confessional approach to this project viewers are invited to experience an emotional encounter with my work. I aim to encourage others to look within their ‘lifeworlds’ and gain a deeper understanding and acceptance of their individuality and the human qualities we all share.

PIP STAFFORD: My work, All my world is scaffolding, is essentially a site for producing and observing networks and systems.  It is a chaotic structure, built in response to the space, from diagrammatic materials such as balsa and Perspex, containing plants (wheatgrass, peas), a reticulation system, electronics and studded with copper sulphate crystals.  The balsa forms the main structure, with the crystals acting as both mesh and bling.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: For the past 9 months or so I've been doing a project called This Is Your Song in which people give me stories of their own personal experiences and I write songs for them about their experiences. I then take my piano to their bedroom and play them their song. The work in Hatched is a two channel video of these performances accompanied by a book of the original stories.

Most of my work (or the good stuff) tends to come out of some inadequacy that I find in myself. I've always wanted to be a musician, and have written songs since childhood. But I've always thought I wasn't musically skilled enough, and that as a songwriter, my lyrics weren't as eloquent as they should be. In an attempt to prove myself wrong, I created the project This Is Your Song.

But through the process of writing these songs, the project has become much less about me, and really about the people whose stories I'm telling - and some of them get very personal; a young man recalling the time he tried to lose his virginity, a young woman describing the night her father passed away, my own father telling me the regrets of his life.

I have this idealistic belief that most problems can be solved through honesty, so I'm always chasing truth, and hoping I'm right on its heels. I find that when I feel like I'm touching truth, that's where people are at their most vulnerable, and that's where I want to stay. Cause ultimately, I'm really interested in how people come to know each other, and so this project has been a unique experience in getting to try a different way of understanding people and I'm very grateful for the stories I've been given and the lives I've been let into.

Can you talk a little about what it means for you to be selected for a national survey exhibition like this?

LUISA HANSAL: To be a part of such an amazing exhibition like Hatched is such a precious honour! I still can’t believe I was accepted into such an esteemed event. More than anything, it has been a pleasant and honourable reminder as to why I am so determined to practice as a professional artist and that what I am attempting to communicate with my audience is actually resonating with others. Thank you Hatched for reminding me that I have a valid place in the Perth Arts community as an emerging artist, I’m super excited to be a part of it.

PIP STAFFORD: I feel incredibly fortunate. Going into it I don’t think I had a real understanding of what it meant to be selected for the show. When I arrived in Perth and rocked up to PICA, I was quite overwhelmed (and very excited) by the scale and the standard of the other artists involved.  The whole experience has been great and the PICA staff couldn’t be more helpful.  I also had the opportunity to return to Perth, for my artist talk and to see (and skate in!) a dance work that was made in response to my work, by Tara Daniels and Jo Pollitt and it was really great to be able to extend the experience in that way.


It's fucking awesome. It's great to feel like something that you've done has "worked" in some regard. Cause of the nature of my projects it also feels like I've gotten away with something. I'm really just sorting out my own shit and somehow I made some good art!

Working with PICA has been amazing. Sounds cliche but it is a great opportunity for someone who's just graduated like me to show in a gallery like PICA. Everyone is super friendly and a gallery like PICA has so many resources that it's incredible! Also knowing that your work will have more exposure than it ever has before is a great feeling. I'm all about 'reaching people' which means that being included in a show like this is like a dream come true!

The project has also had quite a few advances since I first was selected for Hatched. I've undertaken the challenge of writing a song a week for 2012 (which has not gone exactly to plan) and so there are lots more songs than there originally was. I also decided that I wanted to record an album of the songs, so I spent around 3-4 months recording songs with my beautiful friend Ross Unger and got a run done of 100 for the show (which you can still buy at PICA).

And what has been THE MOST AWESOME part of being in Hatched has been being able to fulfil one of my childhood dreams! I've always wanted to have a band, and so for the opening of Hatched I managed to wrangle up a couple of Perth boys, and flew my friend Ross over from Melbourne to play with me. PICA were lovely enough to set up a stage and I must say that I think that it was one of the BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE.


Where did you study? And were there significant shifts in your work that occurred during your degree that you can discuss?

LUISA HANSAL: I am currently finishing off my last few units of a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts, majoring in Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University. To be completely honest before I started my undergraduate studies I had no idea what it even meant to be an artist. I had always enjoyed drawing, sewing and painting and thought of myself as a creative type. When I decided to study Visual Arts I had no idea what I was getting myself into and it was then that I took the first step of my journey into discovering the world of art and what it meant to be an artist.

A significant time of study and growth was when I underwent a semester at Monash University in Melbourne. It was at this stage in my studies that I felt most creative, confident and energetic and for the first time I felt genuinely excited to be making work and developing an informed creative praxis. Ultimately, I learnt how to be patient with my work, I fell in love with inks, watercolours and papers and discovered what it was like to be truly inspired by other artists and picked up the overwhelming creative energy Melbourne has to offer.

Luisa Hansal, and just like that I was no longer a child, 2011.
Dry point etching, watercolour paints and ink on coffee and tea stained paper.

PIP STAFFORD: I studied at University of Tasmania, School of Art. I finished my BFA in 2004, very young and straight out of school and I really had no idea what I was doing (in hindsight), so I was very fortunate to be able to go back and do my Honours year in 2011, with a few years of artistic practice under my belt and a good understanding of what I wanted to achieve.

In that year I completely changed my practice – I moved from making participatory, socially-engaged art, to a more physical practice of sculpture, electronics and installation.  I’ve always been interested in communication and networks, but I feel like for the first time ever I am starting to make work that I am really happy with and I feel very confident in the trajectory of my research and material exploration. It’s a super exciting time for me.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: Oh my gosh, too many shifts to count! I studied at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Victoria. I studied in the Sculpture and Spatial Practice area. When I first started I was making stuff that I look back on now and cringe. Really I was just playing around with lots of different random things. At some point I got interested in circuits and pulling things apart and then joining different bits up. I made this work called Kite Listening, which was a kite with a microphone in it that went down to a pair of headphones for the kite flyer to wear.

Soon after that I was selected for a public art exhibition and ended up making this analogue motion sensor instrument kind of thing which followed on from my interest in circuits and electronics (and my wish to throw lots of money at my interest in circuits and electronics). But this project is down a similar line to the This Is Your Song project. It was called you don't have to call it music if you don't want to, which is a quote from a musician called John Cage, and if I remember correctly what I was interested in was how people were more likely to play instruments that were atypical as there were no preconceptions about how they should play it. I suppose I had to take my own advice from this work in order to undertake the This Is Your Song project.

After some dabbling with motion-sensor works I went over and studied at the University of California - Berkeley. It was an incredibly vibrant place where I got to sit in on astrology lectures, clinical psychology lectures, and courses on everything from Harry Potter to permaculture. In terms of my artwork I think that the experience has definitely influenced me, although I don't think that I made anything specifically good while I was over there. The best class I took there was one called Art 160 Social Practice, which was a class run by an inspirational lecturer, Amanda Eicher, and just focussed on artwork that dealt with people as its medium. In the San Francisco bay area there is a real grass-roots social art community. One that is deeply tied to activism, but is largely unpretentious and really is just focussing on using creativity to invent different social situations. Whilst for some time I have been interested in social artwork, this experience really solidified it as a major focus of my work.

On arrival back from the USA (after backpacking through Central America) I was again selected for the same public art exhibition. This year I was determined to do something community focussed. The area that the exhibition was in is called Docklands, which is largely thought of as a soulless business hub that has horrible weather. Now that I think about it I can't remember exactly what I wanted to find out, but I wanted to find out about what kind of people where in that area. So I created and set up the Docklands Research Centre, a social research centre on the harbour edge and manned by a social researcher (myself) every day for the duration of the exhibition. I got members of the public to do a personality test which involved drawing a picture of a pig, and then I would interpret the results. At the end of exhibition I collated the results and compiled them into a book which I gave back to the developers (who had funded the exhibition). In my book this was necessarily a 'successful' project, but it was definitely a learning curve in terms of how to make art that uses people. Many days I sat at my lonely research centre and zero people wanted to talk to me!

I think it was after this experience that I decided that I wanted to tackle the subjects that I was really interested in but too scared to touch; sex and stories. I'm obsessed with sex and sexuality and all that entails. I saw this documentary called The Perfect Vagina sometime in 2011, which is a british documentary which follows several women who are undergoing or considering undergoing labiaplasty, or plastic surgery on their labia. I became obsessed with the idea of designer genitals. I think at this stage I got a little lost in the depths of the internet, and then came out with this idea to make a archive of different genitals so people could see what 'normal' genitals looked like. Before this however, I ended up pasting up a HUGE image of my own crotch on the outside of the art school (which created a small controversy and made me feel like a 'real' artist). Although the response to a call out for pictures of people's crotches received a less than overwhelming response, I'm very thankful for the people who gave me their images, which can still be seen at The catalogue is ongoing and so anyone can submit an image. I hope that someday it will be inundated with images!

Amidst all this I was still experimenting with people's stories and how I could use them. Amongst this clutter I decided to get people to give me stories they wanted turned into songs, and it worked. I think I also realised how much I love performing, and how much I really love music. How much I LOVE MUSIC, but had always been intimidated by it and thought I could never really do it. And that's what I love about art, it enables you to treat everything like an experiment. Life becomes just one big experiment where failure isn't actually real cause you're not sure what success is either!

What/Who are some of your main influences? 

LUISA HANSAL: Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Del Kathryn Barton, Kiki Smith, Chloe Piene, Alexander Kori Girard, Frida Kahlo, Devendra Banhart, Jessica Tan, Sylvia Plath, Patti Smith and Fedrico Garcia Lorca.

PIP STAFFORD: The main text that I used in my research for my Honours year was Matthew Fuller’s Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technology. Formally, artists such as Phoebe Washburn and Simon Pericich inspire my work. I’m also really lucky to work with and around some really amazing local artists, such as my mentor Nancy Mauro-Flude and my Taxonomy Publishing collaborator Scot Cotterell. I truly believe having a community to work in is really important for feedback and growth.

Pip Stafford, All my world is scaffolding (Installation view)

Miranda July - I have a great quote from her that goes something like this:
It is this desire to be transformed by understanding that has pretty much propelled me through every single day
I really relate to this. I just recently read her book It Chooses You, which is a novel which follows her meeting people through the Pennysaver (which is kind of like the trading post but for the USA). This book is a really nice way of showcasing a project like the one she undertook. I think she's a fantastic writer, her collection of short stories, No one Belongs Here More Than You, is also amazing.

Harrell Fletcher – who facilitates user based projects. Harrell Fletcher was my first-love in terms of socially focussed artists. He created a website with Miranda July called Learning To Love You More in which the public were asked to complete small projects which encouraged engagement and creativity.

Stuart Ringholt – works with people and uses incredibly personal elements in his work. I specifically relate to how Ringholt uses his own personal failings, problems or experiences as a means to create projects. He often acts as a facilitator for conversations between people and at the Melbourne prize for Urban Sculpture he spoke to members of the public for the entire exhibition. He has written a frankly honest book on his dealing with hashish induced psychosis. He has most recently been running naked tours of art galleries around Australia.

Jon Rubin – also works with people and tries to make what he wants to see in the world. He has created a take-away food store called the Conflict Kitchen in the US which only sells food from countries that the US is in conflict with. He studied with Harrell Fletcher, and has done a number of other very inspiring projects.

Jonathan Mann – a youtube content generator who writes a song a day, and has been doing so for over 1000 days. I'm particularly motivated by his sheer enthusiasm and dedication to his projects. I also am interested in his idea of creativity and how to make work.

Amanda Palmer - Amanda Palmer is a big influence on me. She seems to live and breath some of the elements I'm exploring in my work. Self-acceptance, expression as an important part of life, admiration for the amateur. I think she's a fantastic role model.

How (if at all) has new technologies and digital communication been involved or affected your work?

LUISA HANSAL: I try to stay away from new technologies when I am making my work. It might be because I’m so terrible with technical things and find it all a bit overwhelming. I love that my practice is an excuse to get me away from computers and digital ‘stuff’. My approach to art making is of an organic nature and I thrive on the tactile qualities and time consuming processes I undergo when making a work. The process was a significant factor for my series of prints currently on show at Hatched, each line and dot I scratched into the printing plate became a private and emotional occasion where I could reflexively engage with the personal issue or theme that was being depicted. This process is very important as it allows me to engage with my work and fully actualize what I am trying to communicate within the artwork. Each tiny line, dot, shape and form are equally as important to the overall composition, in the same way that every emotion and life experience we encounter, all play an equal part in shaping our individual identity.

PIP STAFFORD: I was a kid who grew up as computers and networked technology grew up, I was first connected to the internet at home as a teenager, in the days of geocities and IRC chat. I learned how to use a computer running DOS Shell and I believe this way of communicating has really informed the way I think about networking and system-creation now. I still feel like it’s a bit magical and logging on, now using my iPhone or Macbook Pro and wifi, rather than an IBM and 56k Modem, still invokes a sense of truly being connected for me.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: Initially I started This Is Your Song with handwritten stories. Then I began to widen it by making it an online survey. This meant that I could easily get stories from far and wide, people could pass the project along and eventually I got a substantial number of entries from people I had never met. I have also done two Skype performances, one to a guy in Holland and one to a guy in Brisbane. But now I have website and a youtube channel as I'm attempting to upload a song a week. I've discovered a lot about internet communities and things like twitter, which previously I had been indifferent to.

What is on the cards for the rest of 2012 and beyond?

LUISA HANSAL: A bunch of groovy Western Australian artists, including myself are showing some work in the exhibition Monster at The Oats Factory on June 1st – 22nd.  I’ve been working onto calico fabric with inks, watercolours and stamps (something I’ve never done before). I would love it if everyone popped down to check out the work and shared their thoughts.

I was awarded a residency at ECU in the Print making studio, so from early August onwards I will be spending my days in the studio working on a new project. I am super excited to experiment with some different printmaking methods and techniques.

As for beyond…lots more travelling, lots more art making and lots more applications to fill out in hope of getting my own studio space.

Oh and there’s talk of doing a collaboration with my housemate Ashley Ramsey. Ashley is in her last year of a Fine Arts degree at Curtin University and she’s doing some pretty wild things at the moment, think; melting ice paintings, distorted figures, fading memories, poetry and lots and lots of paint and resin! We are both eager to find out what would happen if we combined our contrasting styles, mediums and approach to making work…hopefully something marvelous.

PIP STAFFORD: 2012 has been such an unexpectedly and wonderfully busy year for me. I’m hoping that I can get a good amount of time in my studio, playing and experimenting and also spend some time planning and applying for things for 2013.  I have a show coming up at CAST in Hobart, which is a series of 3 events called  Establishment which features 3 artist initiated organisations in Tasmania. I’m also the JUMP program co-ordinator at CAST, which keeps me busy and the rent paid.

I’d love to study again sometime in the near future and I have a really exciting event coming up in 2013, also at CAST, which I am organising with Nancy Mauro-Flude which is hopefully going to feature networked artists from all over the world.

SARAH JANE HAYWOOD: After the Hatched opening I had to quickly rush back to Melbourne as I was helping coordinate a public art exhibition with students from my university. Since then I've been taking a much needed rest and am now working on setting up a recording studio in my house so that I can make more professional recordings. I'm someone who likes to be able to do things for themselves, and so now engineering music is on my to do list. I'm going to be working on putting a band together to perform music with and doing some gigs. At the moment I'm trying to take it easy on myself, I find it hard to take time out to work out what it is I really want to work towards, so that's what I'm planning on using the rest of my year for.

How can people find out more about your work?

facebook page:
email: louisajean21[@]

My website, in progress, is and I’m a regular blogger at and I tweet as @dotdash7

You can find more about the This Is Your Song project at
You can watch previous songs, hopefully soon buy the cd and also submit a story yourself to be turned into a song! If you want to talk, chat or be friends contact me on sarahjhaywood[@] or follow me @sjhaywood (although I don't really tweet all that much, sorry, I think I only have three to my name!)