Archives for posts with tag: multi tasking

Lisa cooper

Photo: Harold David

Dr Lisa Cooper is a Sydney-based artist who works in video, paint, sculpture and flowers, whose works have included custom-sized crowns for the Sydney Theatre Company, video projects on Cockatoo Island and a jewellery range called ‘The Butcher’s Daughter’. She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Fine Art from the College of Fine Arts at UNSW. Dr Cooper spoke to arts interview about diversity in her work and the challenges faced by artists working in different mediums.

Interview by Elinor King

Can you tell us about yourself and your experience?

I am equally motivated by the conceptual and philosophical concerns of art and the material and perceptible aspects of art making. In my practice I work with video, paint, sculpture and flowers. My most recent ancestors have worked in trade; a boner, a butcher, a milkman, a seamstress… I have worked with a charcutier [a type of butcher that generally specialises in pork], bakers and florists. I consider my work in sculpture and by extension my work with flowers to be a powerful link to my father’s work as a butcher and to my great-great grandfather’s work (he was once the quickest boner in NSW – the most adept at ‘sculpting’ a carcass). Through much undulation and application the strands of my quotidian life (floristry) and my work as an artist have seemed to converge in my third decade of life and my instinct is that this is right.

You have worked in a diverse range of mediums in your art practice. What draws you to working in a particular media, for example gold?

The mediums that I work in are mostly intuited as well as being dictated by the statement or intention of the work. As in painting where one chooses a colour to make a mark, I am both seduced by the material itself and compelled by the intention of the work. Bodies of work in repetitious medium such as my work in gold do however border on obsession. Obsession and repetition are the same for me as concentration, which in the context of art has the quality of a prayer.

Obviously I am drawn to materials for their inherent symbology and associations, for example the grand poetic metaphor of flowers and the myriad significance of individual blooms.

What are the challenges that you face when working with different types of mediums?

Though the mediums may seem disparate and are of course materially distinct, they kind of harmonise the logic of a body of work as well as my practice as a whole. There is a strong thread of concerns and intentions that links the interdisciplinary output of my practice.

You currently work a lot with flowers. How did this come about, and what are you currently working on?

I have always found the scope of flowers to be extraordinary as they may be ‘divinely’ beautiful and so evidence some kind of unearthly or sublime inception, and yet they are thoroughly of the earth. At the pivotal moments of life we give flowers as a gift, I think a comfort, for their elegant description of the phenomenon of life and the certainty of death – a powerful Memento Mori.I am currently working on ‘Memento Mori tattoos’ in paint and video. I am also running a flower business called DOCTOR COOPER, for bunches of flowers, installations, and flowers in all and every context.

Do you think that it is important for an artist to be diverse in the ways in which they express themselves?

I think it’s important for an artist to be whoever they are. What make you distinct are your instincts and proclivities.

Do you believe that being flexible can hinder your artistic practice?

I think that both flexibility and inflexibility well placed are fundamental to artistic practice. In the very act of making art there is a type of elasticity that occurs whereby one is kind of drawn away and then pulled back to the original and central concern of the work. From the nexus of a project, through research and experimentation comes a labyrinth of new concerns and points of departure. In order to sufficiently develop an idea from inception to completion (or as close as one can get to it) the quality of flexibility or fluidity is essential. Within my own practice an inflexible kind of obsessive theme such as abstract and material ‘gold’ will lead me toward seemingly unlinked production.


After roles at Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Casula Powerhouse and recently as the Gallery Manager of Australian Galleries, Will Sturrock has taken residence as the Gallery Manager of the young and uber- contemporary Gallery 9. Will took some time out from his day to chat about the practical realities of working in a commercial gallery and working with artists.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

What are the challenges of working with artists in a commercial gallery context?

There are different challenges faced by different artists according to what stages of their careers they are at. I think one underpinning challenge of recent years has been a sense of frustration with artists simply not selling work, this can be manifested in a bitterness which can end in a dissolution of a good working relationship or friendship. For me personally I haven’t experienced this but there have been some significant departures of artists from galleries who have not supported them and vice versa.

Given the brief of working with younger emerging artists, financial stress can cause unnecessary and unnerving frustration for all involved. This has meant that people have had to become more resourceful, more proactive and in a sense more driven because there are no easy sales for anyone.

How do you balance personal relationships with business relationships?

Honesty is always a virtue which has to be handled and managed properly. I think letting your emotional response to a body of work or the state of an artist’s studio overwhelm a situation can be incredibly detrimental. I haven’t experienced it personally but I have heard absolute disaster stories in this respect and it can be hard not to engage in an emotional response when you work in visual art. I think approaching the profession with objectivity and a desire to fill the needs of the artist, client and gallery is a difficult job and it’s about learning those balances.

You have to also stand back and not allow yourself to be involved in any disputes going on in the highly political and highly sensitive world of artists and studios, and also in talking with artists from other galleries or other gallery workers.

What are the major ‘do not’s for an artist dealing with their representative gallery?

What underpins the entire point of having a gallery represent an artist, or what keeps us afloat is the fact that there is some degree of exclusivity and that commission is maintained. What I mean by that is in this world of high interaction in social media, web sites and online e commerce, the referral in interest from clients should always come back to the gallery. I think it is just too easy for that information to not be handled properly. People in commercial galleries have a degree of expertise in developing client relationships and client management, in the same way that within a company it’s quite distinct that you have different departments. If you could use some essence of that business model and apply it to an artist/ dealer relationship I think it makes sense that the gallery is left in charge of dealing with the commercial activity and the artist remains in control of their artistic careers.

What core skills do you need to develop to work within a gallery?

The ability to approach new art and new artists and their work with completely open eyes and a great sensitivity to the hard work and dedication that they put into their practice is very important. I think remaining objective and critical without necessarily being vocal about it is a skill I am grateful to have acquired early on.

The ability to be able to expand your skill base is vital, once upon a time we could have contractors to do everything and in tougher times you have to be the web designer, print and graphic designer, then jump straight into a conversation with an executive client and then the next minute counsel an artist. There is a degree of psychology involved in it which you have to take in your stride. The ability to multitask and a willingness to learn new skills is potentially the most important skill. I cannot stress how important this is as often there is no one else to do it.