Stephanie Wilson: Super Natural

Originally a photographer, Melbourne artist Stephanie Wilson stepped from behind the lens and picked up a paintbrush at art school. Connecting the two mediums is her fascination with interiors and spaces. “My interest in interiors began when I came across the work of German photographer Candida Höfer,” says Wilson. “I found her images of vacant public spaces so eerie and she really introduced me to the idea of interior spaces having psychological connotations.” Wilson’s paintings have an implied human presence, interactions and feelings hang in the air like you’ve stepped into an office moments after a meeting has ended or the last person has scurried out. Their interesting colours and skewed perspective add a David Lynch-like element, where the banal and everyday is offset with a mix of humour, unease and intrigue. The emptiness says more than a figure could but has Wilson ever been tempted to pop one in? “No, never! I am much more interested in implying a human presence than describing a physical one. An image without a figure allows me to look at the social psychology of these spaces, and asks the question of how a person might behave within the space without describing it literally.”

Why do you play with perspective and composition…
I like to play with perspective as a way of implying how bizarre some interiors can be. Many people encounter public spaces on a daily basis and it is in our nature not to question their structure once they become so familiar. I try to take this impression and turn these spaces into something completely strange and unusual, while still leaving markers of their original state such as an office plant or an uncomfortable couch.

Are the works in ‘Super Natural’ revisiting past themes or exploring new ones?
It’s a combination of both. For a few years now I have been making work about the contemporary interior, in particular impersonal and institutional spaces, and the ways we interact with these environments. This exhibition is a further exploration of that, but these works are definitely an extension on those that have come before. For the newer works I have been using different levels of gloss and varnish within an image to highlight certain sections and using this to break up the picture’s surface. One pair of works is also a different take on a similar scene, which allowed me to look more closely at how colour and tone affect the image.

Do you prefer to paint large-scale or smaller pieces?
Definitely larger at this stage as I think it is more relevant to the subject. I am conscious of avoiding the intimacy that often comes with creating smaller works (although they would be a dream to transport!). I also enjoy the physicality of working on larger canvases.

Do you paint from pictures, or actual elements, or from your imagination?
I always use some kind of source material when I begin to design the lines and structure of an image. Often it will come from a photograph that I have taken, or images found in books or online. Then I create a bit of a mental collage piecing together other elements that I want to include, for example a particular type of plant or item of furniture. This can come from different source material or my imagination.

What are you most proud of?
My career progression to date. I don’t need to tell anyone how hard it is to establish a career as an artist but I feel so lucky to have had the opportunities that I have so far. Being an artist under 30 with some Australia Council funding under my belt, having showed at some great Artist Run Initiatives and with some amazing artists followed by the opportunity to be represented by a gallery like Martin Browne Contemporary is a really great endorsement of my work. I feel excited about whatever might be in the future.

What do you still want to achieve?
I would really love to be able to support myself financially through my practice and I’m not quite there yet. It’s a long process and I think it’s achievable but it would be great to be able to spend all week in the studio and see how much my work develops with more time invested in it.

Martin Browne Contemporary
11 February to 6 March, 2016
Sydney