Living With Art: Fiona Lowry

 

3:33 Art Projects delivers unique exhibition opportunities for leading visual artists in Australia. We believe in the power of art as a motivator, comforter and inspirer, and there is no better time than today to harness this singular capacity of art. Our new series of conversations ‘Living With Art’ brings you closer to artists we have collaborated with for a personal take on their work, creativity and the art world.

Today’s instalment highlights the practice of Fiona Lowry. Using her signature airbrush technique, Lowry partially abstracts our view, evoking the beauty of her subjects laced with a sense of foreboding. The artist was awarded the Archibald Prize for her portrait of Penelope Seidler in 2014, and has been a regular exhibitor in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes. She won the Fleurieu Prize in 2013, and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2008. In 2019 her painting The ties that bind – measuring over 5 metres long – was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. Her work is held in a number of other public collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Portrait Gallery, Artbank, the University of Queensland Art Museum and the Macquarie Bank Collection.

We recently caught up with the artist to discuss the ways in which art can be a vehicle to both explore and escape difficult times. Her landscapes and figurative paintings capture profound links between us and the Australian landscape, prompting reflections on how this time of isolation indoors is impacting us individually and culturally.

How has this time of isolation impacted your practice, if at all?

It has definitely impacted the frequency of getting into my studio, at least temporarily while I’m figuring out a new routine. But one of the good things is that it’s slowed the pace of everything, and that feels really interesting.

What do you think the function of art is in these trying times?

I don’t think we could mentally survive this period without the nourishment of all the forms of art. Now, more than ever, we can see how incredibly powerful and transformative it is.

Stories of the Australian bush inform your renditions of the landscape and the human figure. Has your subject or tone shifted at all in light of the recent devastation to the natural landscape?

I’ve always been interested in the cultural history of the landscape in Australia, and how it’s played a part of our national identity through artists as diverse as Heysen, Namatjira, Boyd and Nolan – whose epic Riverbend 1 (1964-65) still exudes for me the tinder dry Summer days when the sun’s heat scents the air with eucalypt oil. The landscape for me is really an external setting for an internal landscape, for an emotional life, and for all the kind of things that one wrestles with psychologically and politically. My new series of paintings is set to explore society’s expression and management of emotion and I think this is something that we are all grappling with at the moment.

Who/what inspires you, personally and professionally?

I have recently discovered the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, who gently seeks these intense in-between states, reminding us that life’s thresholds aren’t loud events but severe and silent everyday transitions.

 

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