Lottie Consalvo works across painting, performance and video to explore psychological shifts. Ideas surrounding desire, longing and the imaginary are present throughout her practice. Her performances are observations of quiet, transformative experiences and her paintings further this conversation. In her most recent works, Consalvo contemplates the immeasurable, often using monumental forms to reference natural phenomena such as the horizon line. We spoke with the artist about her practice and creativity in our changing world.
Consalvo has exhibited internationally, most recently in Mexico and New Zealand. Her work is also held in a number of collections including Artbank, Macquarie University, Allens law firm, The Stevenson Collection and Warner Music Australia. 3:33 Art Projects had the pleasure of collaborating with Consalvo in the Clayton Utz Art Partnership for a solo exhibition in their Melbourne office. Consalvo is represented by Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, with whom she will exhibit in a group show this September. She is also preparing for a solo show with Weasel Gallery in New Zealand later in the year and two solo shows in 2021.
You are inspired by nature, the sea and sky, has this deepened during the pandemic?
I am deeply inspired by the sea. I live by the sea in the small city of Newcastle and was fortunate to continue swimming all through the lockdown as it was deemed exercise, I rather see it as an existential experience but however they wanted to frame it was fine by me. Just before the lockdown myself and my family fled (as it felt like) to the Myall Lakes and camped for two weeks until national parks were closed. The experience of being by the lakes and in the bush while the world was falling apart was surreal. From this experience of the lockdown I searched for a bush block we could escape to often and spend more time in nature away from a city, it seems I am not the only one. I have since found a bushland to be our sanctuary… until bush fire season that is. When walking through bush fire effected areas down on the south coast, I experienced this wooing of the maternal and a realisation that I now have all this land and its animals that I need to help protect and nurture if fire strikes. I don’t see that I own the land but rather that I’m a custodian. I have a new relationship with the bush and trees that I have never had before. Andy Warhol once said, ‘I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own’.
Do you think this time has changed our value of art, or highlighted its intrinsic value?
It made me reflect on how some of the most important art was made in hiding during the world wars, particularly the modernists in Europe during the second world war. As an artist I have two worlds, one in the real and one I occupy alone that I try to keep far from the real. Seeing the contribution of music and performance on online platforms and the appreciation of this shows us again how art provides some otherness to take us out of these times if only for a moment.
Do you feel a sense of ‘freedom’ from our new experience of time and commitments; some artists have commented they are getting back to basics or their purpose to create?
The pandemic for all its awfulness has provided a way of living and making art that I do prefer. I have used this time to hide in the studio by myself with no galleries, curators or collectors visiting and no exhibitions to show my work. I didn’t post anything I was making on social media either. I used the time to go back to making everything as if it were an experiment and nothing needed to be final. I feel like I have pushed my practice further in this time and I am trying to hold onto that space.
I’ve noticed you’ve taken an interest in ‘Perfume’, Edvard Munch’s sun reflections and Richard Leplastrier’s portal-like windows – can you discuss these ideas?
I started listening to audio books during the pandemic. I never finished reading Perfume by Patrick Süskind so I listened to it, it’s read by Sean Barrett who has a commanding evocative voice. The visuals of this book are, as many know, strange and somewhat grotesque. As I am interested in the grotesque and the uncomfortable in my art I felt an impulse to listen to it whilst I painted. My work looks at the psychology of human existence, how experience and thoughts manifest. The book, for the most part, is set in the mind of the protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, with him describing his urges, longings and lusts. It’s as if he makes every thought a reality, he allows himself to somewhat obey his every desire to their greatest explicit extent. It has been very persuasive in the work I’ve made whilst listening.
As for Edvard Munch’s sun reflections, he frequently painted this solid form where the sun reflected over water and land, a T shape with a circle above, sometimes you see the shape in a painting just hanging in space. He was a symbolist yet I’m unsure of this symbol’s meaning, perhaps it’s the ever-presence of death in the distance. This shape has fascinated me for some years. Munch’s paintings are dark and carry on from Van Gogh’s depiction of his torment, at once beautiful images but with meanings far deeper.
Richard Leplastrier employs the Japanese sensibility of containing views rather than seeing the whole thing. The controlled view allows us to see more and also employs the imagination to see what is outside of the frame. I often paint frames into my paintings, perhaps to pinpoint a moment in the past. In my performance I employ the audience’s imagination to finish the piece. For me, having an imagination is the most wonderful thing about being human.
What are you contributing to the upcoming group show with Dominik Mersch Gallery?
The exhibition that is curated by the Gallery Manager Alanna Irwin and Gallery Associate Ashleigh Jones and is about our entanglement with the natural world as two sides of the same knife. They see the exhibition as an experimental garden which I quite like the idea of. Whilst camping by Myall Lakes I made a video work where I try to resurrect a fallen tree in the middle of the lake so I’ll be showing this work alongside a painting or two.
Lottie Consalvo is represented by Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney
This article is presented in collaboration with 3:33 Art Projects