Manipulating Traditional Practices

Working with word, textile, installation and recycled materials, Lucille Martin is a nationally recognised contemporary artist who has been exhibiting and included in curatorial shows for more than twenty years. Lucille’s work moves audiences and stimulates strong emotional response and she is often asked to speak about the issues raised. Lucille is a communicator using visual dialogue to take the viewer on an intimate journey that will resonate strongly with them for a long time to come.

Lucille Martin provides a refreshing and honest insight into her life’s passion as an exhibiting artist.

Inteviewed by Sharon Leaney

SL:  Are you still based in Perth and Byron Bay Hinterland, and why?

LM: Originally from Perth and spend time in both places for my work. I am also working as a facilitator to assist and educate emerging artists to present themselves for grants and folio presentations to launching their career in new ways.

SL:  At what stage did you feel art was your passion and could become your life’s work?

LM:  Very early…I still have my drawings from about seven years onward particularly my studies of birds, however I didn’t really understand where my love for art would take me. It was my love of creating that developed into a career. I really just followed my heart and listened to my inner voice.

SL: Did your family have an influence on your decision to become an artist?

LM: Yes, my parents believed in my artistic interests and assisted me as much as they could, however, life at that time was financially challenging and I had to forge a career that would also give me a wage.  Being a “professional exhibiting artist” was not something that I really knew about. I came from a working class background and was encouraged to learn a profession that would give me a job at the end of the day.

I had teachers that really saw my potential as an artist and communicator. They inspired me to develop my artistic practice. I eventually worked my way financially toward succeeding to self-employed freelance work.  Isn’t it true you only need one voice to believe in you…it’s whether you are open to receiving it and acting on it!

SL: Did you have a difficult time finding your place as an artist once you left college?

LM: Well, I really didn’t have much choice I had to find a paid job. But that inner drive as an artist didn’t stop me from following my career. After 2 years in a design company in Perth, I made great contacts and went to work in Sydney for a major Advertising agency.

From there I gained enough skills and professionalism to freelance and worked for several major publishing magazines, like Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, TV Soap etc.  Being versatile was valuable with a particular focus on one area of expertise. I also used the time in Sydney to continue studying in the film industry and worked part time on small films and video clips. It was a busy time.

SL: Do you remember the first artwork you made that you were most proud of?

LM: My first solo exhibition in Sydney at Kings Street Gallery pretty much sold out. It gave me the opportunity to blend both passions – art and communication relating to social justice and convey that message. I had been in South Africa and visited Soweto and Alexandra in 1984 when the anti-apartied movement was fighting to cease apartied. With a group of people and guns strapped to their legs I visited the towns photographing and documenting their story with my camera. That first exhibition “Blind Spots” started my career and gave me a voice to speak out about injustice. The real goal was to share the story of a brutal policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race. Those goals continue today about issues I am passionate about.

SL: Your studies have included Production Design at the Australian Film Television & Radio School, has this study enhanced your work?

LM: Yes, very much so. I am a multi-media artist working in several disciplines. I am conceptual in my practice and record and write both words and images in my journal on a regular basis. I work in a very filmic way on my videos story boarding the process. In fact working through the process is often the most exciting part of the project. I am currently developing a documentary with the assistance of Northern Rivers Screenworks

SL: Do you often finish your creations being close to the original idea?

LM: Yes, pretty much. Generally I work on several projects and pieces at the one time.

Some works can have an incubation time where materials and found objects are collected over many years, from peoples donations, opportunity shops and garage sales. They are then boxed and crated until the idea and process are developed.  For example, in recent exhibitions like “Naturally Selected” 2008 and “Reconstruction” 2009-10, I used recycled ornamental wooden objects and vintage lace and reconfigured them into entirely new pieces.

SL: How important is using recycling material for your work?

LM: Very important…recycle, reuse, replenish. We as a global community have to understand the inter-connectivity of our lives to all things and the consequences of those actions on all life as we know it. Nature is being destroyed at a rapid rate for human desire. Everyone can participate in this process.

SL: Do new digital technologies play any part in your creative process?

LM: Always, I try to keep up with advances in my practice with new technology and new and innovative materials. I use digital technology for imaging and embroidery work.

SL: Have you been involved in an artistic collaboration and with whom?

LM:  I often work with teams of talented people or craftspeople that can work on a particular project. I have worked conceptually as a designer for film and major installations where galleries, institutions and companies have employed me to create a project or facilitate and develop an idea for groups of people.

SL: Do you have a piece of artwork you have done just for yourself that you could never part with?

LM: Yes, many times. But I am at a point of giving back to society and am looking to donate or sell works to institutions for perpetuity for all to share. I also like the idea of setting a work free and see where it lands!

SL: While travelling extensively abroad do you have any standout  memories?

LM:  New York. My favourite city for creative expression and where dreams can come true…if you work hard!

South Africa is an amazing country – The shock of a fellow human being treated brutally and oppressively drove me to take action. It changed my life and started my exhibiting career as an artist.

SL: You have been invited to exhibit at the 2013 Textile Biennale in Quebec, Canada; will you be exhibiting new pieces of art at this event?

LM:  Yes, I am working with the curator to develop the pieces. That generally starts about 12-14months ahead.

SL: You have exhibited abroad before; do you get nervous taking precious pieces of artwork overseas?

LM: Taking work overseas is always challenging as you have issues with size, financial constraints, customs issues with materials, couriers, packing etc. Depending on materials it’s no easy task.

SL: If you could choose five people to enjoy a casual meal with, who would they be?

LM:  Nelson Mandala – most humble and brave soul…and belief of NVC – nonviolent communication. Lady Gaga – creative and challenging. Don’t necessarily like all of what she says and does-but I like to be challenged artistically.  Deepak Chopra – spiritual grounding and quantum healing.  Marilyn French – feminist historian-advice for women in modern feminist movement.  Anthony Robbins – love motivational people to always learn from and challenge my brain.  Now that’s an interesting mix!  I’d have to take my mum with that lot, Clare Martin, my rock and greatest support to ground them all with a good cuppa!

SL: If we were able to see into the future what would your final biography, personal and professional look like?

LM: Grew beyond limitations to help make world a better place for all human beings, all species and nature as a whole. Assisted others to see their potential and greatness. Assisted others to find their creative source and place in the world to stop taking and start giving.

SL: When you are not ‘creating’ – what would we find Lucille Martin doing?

LM: Being with family; putting words and drawing ideas on paper; walking in nature; exercising; and helping people and animals.

SL: Best advice you have been given by your parents?

LM: Follow your heart…stand up for what you believe.

Any final words….

Keep learning and keep giving…that way life will evolve as a cycle. Compassion and a heart space will be at the basis of all interactions, be it human or nature.  Technology we need it but don’t depend on it…Shut the computer down and open your eyes to what is.

To contact Lucille visit her website


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