Taking a peek through the looking glass

Missy Morrin talks with collage artist Rochelle Summerfield. Next exhibition 7th October- 1st November 2014 at Brenda May Gallery, 5 Danks Street Sydney.

When did you first start to get interested in photography?

It was part of my art practice but really as scanning, (I loved my scan of a flathead belly) photomedia and photo etching (a traditional etching process called photogravure).

It wasn’t till my masters in 2005 that I began to use a lot more photography.  I took quite naturally to digital SLR and love the fact that I can delete and get pictures into the computer so easily.

Were there any childhood influences that steered you towards the arts?

I just loved to draw and paint.  My family wasn’t particularly artistic, and I was looked on quite fondly for being a bit of an aberration in the family.  I was often chosen to do the flower arrangements and platters when we were having visitors.

Describe your artistic style?

Collage is my passion.  It drives my ideas and all my processes from drawing, print and photomedia.

My artistic style is contemporary photo collage.  Art…historically I look to the Dadaist and the Surrealists in particular.

Another favourite is Arcimboldo because he taught me about pictures that are puzzles.

Where do you get the inspiration from to make each new artwork?

I usually start with a feeling or sensation of the body that I want to express.  I go to my many cut out limbs to develop this idea.

Sometimes it is something from everyday life that triggers a picture.  One work came about when I was out fishing and a lure was bobbing in the wind as we were floating along the Clarence River.  The river is my inspiration right now for a whole series of works that are going to be exhibited at Brenda May Gallery, 5 Danks Street Sydney 7th October- 1st November.

You use the motif of legs a lot-what is the significance?

I am interested in how women have been represented in art history and today in women’s magazines.  It is amazing how some of the classic female poses are still prevalent in everyday print matter.

Legs give me the ability to add action and movement to the poses.  To create a strong active female form.

What artistic themes do you explore in your work?

I am using the body to explore ideas on ways of being in this world.  I am interested in ideas on identity, the female body, the everyday, the grotesque and collage.  The female form is strong, active with the ability for transformation.

Do you often finish your creations being close to your original ideal or do you end up with something totally different?

It depends on how and what you consider close.  With collage I find I make quite a few but don’t use them all.  It is also about choosing the right collage for the sensation I want to express say, for example when floating down the Clarence River.

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

I was a young girl and had drawn a face.  I often strive to extend and develop my work, but I find there are always 2-3 from a series that say it the best.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Feel your way into the photo.  Art competitions are a chook raffle!!  Believe in yourself and what you are doing!

What does photography mean to you?

The ability to capture something and take it beyond the snapshot into the digital, beyond the ordinary and make it sing!

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

Just to remember some of the technical jargon.

Do you have a favourite place to take photos?

The Clarence River floating upstream.

Do you have a favourite photo lens?

Canon Macro 60mm.

What is your dream project?

More artist residencies.  One in New York would be just grand.

Do you have a favorite artist? Who and why?

Arcimboldo because he taught me about pictures that are puzzles.  Hannah Hoch cause she taught me how to represent the female form. Max Ernst with his seamless collage book prints inspired the narrative structure, the use of dream, imagination and sexuality.Contemporary Australian artist Joan Ross.

What role do you think the artist has in society?

The artist uses creative thinking.  It is such an important skill and drives innovation.  Artists teach many people how to reconnect with their expressive selves and it can heal.

Exhibition 7th October- 1st November 2014 at Brenda May Gallery, 5 Danks Street Sydney. www.rochellesummerfield.com

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