Wagga Wagga artist ELAINE CAMLIN has been exploring decay in the Australian environment through printmaking, drawing, and small sculptures. Her new exhibition Micro-Worlds: Interpretations and Observation of Organic Forms closely examines decomposition to uncover new worlds and new ways of looking at natural objects. Camlin took some time during her exhibition opening at Form Studio and Gallery to talk about her art, Riverina NSW, and the beauty of decaying things.
Why are you interested in decay?
I think my fascination started in art school when we went on a field trip to Wee Jasper. I found a lot of sheep skulls and worked with those, then I started to collect objects that had stopped growing. They sit in my studio and decay – through the years they change, so I’m informed by them because they’re always there. It might also have to do with my personal psyche and being interested in that kind of thing, which I find quite beautiful. Nothing is always growing – it always has to stop and end.
Tell me about your medium and subjects
Predominantly printmaking, but I also draw and explore different ways of making images. This time I’ve started making fossils, and using drypoint to create scientific slides. The subject matter is loosely based on objects I’ve found – fungus, coral, fallen trees, roots, and skulls. It ends up being quite imaginary and impacted by particular moods and memories at the time, so sometimes the images come naturally, sometimes they need a lot of reworking. For printmaking I’ve used cyanotypes, then I’ve moved into etchings and two-plate colour work, using drypoint etching and aquatints. I have also created some little fossils from paper clay and carved back into them.
Why are you interested in Riverina NSW?
I grew up in the area. There was lots of interesting rock erosions, and I remember at a very young age finding the skull of a magpie. My interest strayed when I went to art school, and it was when I visited Wee Jasper that I re-engaged in the local environment and realised how beautiful and important it was to me. Now I go around local farms and photograph erosion and the river. I spend many trips at the Botanic Gardens with my son, and while he’s playing I find things and explore. A lot of the natural objects are in our backyard, so it’s something that I’m very close to.
Do you have a favourite artist?
In art school I was very inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s bone paintings, and from that I progressed into more printerly artists like Jörg Schmeisser, who was the head of the Canberra School of Art for a long time. I have a number of his prints – I love the colour he used and the small intricate linework.
Micro-Worlds can be found at Form Studio and Gallery, Queanbeyan from Wednesday February 28-Sunday March 18. Opening hours Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm. Free entry. [www.elainecamlin.com/new-work]