Interview: Amy Summer is ready to play
Sydney-based artist Amy Summer is currently preparing her debut solo exhibition. In anticipation, we have a conversation with her to find out more:
Hey Amy. How has 2016 treated you so far?
Hey! It’s been good, I got to hang out with my family on the coast and my sister is planning her wedding this year, which is exciting. I did some tarot cards on New Years Eve for a laugh and they basically said “work hard and good things will happen.” I don’t think that’s a particularly profound message but being a total freak I took it really seriously… So the huge majority of my time has been spent in the studio with absurd quantities of pastel paint and coffee, just trying to make good work.
You have a new exhibition coming up in Sydney entitled Play. Can you explain why it has that name?
The name came about for a few different reasons. I think visually, my work is quite playful because I’m happy to drip paint around and use a lot of colour. On a different level, the show is about returning to a childlike sense of exploration and revelling in the joy of creation itself. I hate things feeling too forced, and I didn’t want to come up with some engineered concept for the show, just so I can pronounce “this is what my work is about.”
There is a trend that emerged from conceptual art in the 60’s where the idea is ranked as more important than any other aspect of the work. This notion has filtered through to most other forms of artmaking, so now it seems that if an artist is to be considered legitimate, they need this rigid conceptual underpinning to validate their work. I have a nerdy art history background (if you couldn’t tell) so this strong desire to return to a more playful experience of art is informed by the road art has taken in recent years. I realised it took me four years studying art history at university to understand some artists’ work, and I just thought, “this is fucked.” Making art that only a tiny percentage of humans can actually understand is not powerful, it is elitist and alienating.
I think there is much more power in art that openly seeks different interpretations and can be engaged with on many different levels. I don’t want this to be taken to mean that my art is empty or purely aesthetic. I think if an artist is creating authentically, the ideas will flow out naturally and there will be a lot of depth to the work, a depth that shouldn’t need to be expressly articulated by the artist.
So this show is about playing, forgetting the rules, having a bit of fun and generally just being excited about making and looking at art! Sometimes I think about the fact that I have very little formal fine arts training and question why anyone take me seriously…and then I’m like well, nobody has to! I don’t even take myself seriously most of the time.
Could you tell us a little about what we can expect from PLAY?
Lots of bright and chipper collages and paintings. I like the idea of creating my own little universe, and my practice is a reflection of my feelings and experience of the world. I feel like I absorb everything around me and then it kind of explodes out again.
At the moment I’m really into combing matte colour with more lifelike elements. For example, my favourite thing right now is getting a really beautiful picture of a face, either that I’ve painted or found, and just paint straight over it with flat colour. I get a bit of a thrill from the risk factor; I’ve totally wrecked paintings I’ve spent ages on by painting colour straight over the top. But when it works out, it’s worth it.
I really like happy accidents, and I do everything by hand. I don’t want to create perfect images; I want to create things that have a spark of life to them.
You say “hanging on the gallery walls will be my scribbles, my mistakes, my breakthroughs and every other step in between.” How will you decide what does and doesn’t go into this exhibition?
There isn’t much of a selection criteria. To be honest, part of this experience has been learning to not be so caught up with the end results, and focus more on just creating. In a way it’s an exhibition about process, so I’m not going to try and filter anything out.
It’s interesting to look at how much my work has developed just in the last twelve months. Occasionally I feel like I’ve gone in this really crazy direction that I never expected. But I look back at my work over the years and there have always been little clues about where I would end up. Some of my stuff I look at now and I can’t decide whether I love it or hate it. I take that as a good sign, because I think (I hope) that means it’s interesting or it’s challenging something. I’m in a good place with my work right now.
This is your first solo exhibition, right? How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous?
I’m pretty nervous. I was fairly non-fussed about the show because I was just focusing on making things, but then the invitation came out and I was like “oh my god, I might be the worst artist on this planet. “ Anything where you have to put yourself out there is gonna be a bit freaky. Also art openings always fill me with a bit of fear, I’m a super shy extrovert, so I never know which part of my personality is going to take over. Overall though, I’m just chuffed to be able to share my process with anyone who is interested.
When and where is PLAY happening?
Goodspace, 115 Regent Street, Chippendale. March 2nd at 6pm!
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you, after this?
Oh my goodness, I don’t know. I would really like to go overseas and maybe do a studio residency somewhere. Maybe I’ll have to do another set of tarot cards and find out.
See full details of PLAY at the Facebook Event Page.
Interview by Bobby Townsend.