Briefly describe the work you do.
Overall, my practice explores typologies of feminism, in particular the exploration of new ontologies beyond binary subjectivities. The conjuncture of craft practices and minimalist form activates relationships of movement, embodiment and affect. Using recycled materials gleaned from industrial processes, the material properties of rubber and plastic such as resistance, elasticity and insulation are exploited in conjunction with industrial hardware such as rope, and stainless steel. These explorations investigate, through the conceptual and material metaphors of knotting, winding and tension, the articulation of forces of bodies in space, forces between bodies and the interval in between. Infrastructures of the built environment such as balustrades and seat belts are transformed into aesthetic constructions whilst colour plays with gender roles and associations. These convergences seek to propose a potential aesthetics of relatedness.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
As a child I was always scrounging around fossicking for stuff and making things by hand. Nothing much has changed, really! I am still drawn to particular recycled and industrial materials, especially those that flex, bend, are shiny or glossy or have sharp, pointy bits. I pile them up in my studio and assemble them with other materials when they seem to make a good match.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My ‘studio time’ is very traditional in that I spend time on my own making my art. However at the moment I am doing a PhD, so a lot of my time is spent in the academic context, for example going to seminars, reading, writing and talking to others, most of which takes place outside the studio. But what occurs in the studio is the impetus for it all.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I work a lot with other artists on collaborative projects and curating shows. In particular I work on projects that engage with social and political issues, using art as a means to give a voice to others. From my interest in feminism I have found myself being asked to speak and write about the work of others, which I would never have anticipated.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I try and keep to a weekday routine in the studio, built around the demands of my family. I get the most done in the mornings, although at the moment I am mostly writing for my thesis. Later in the day I will have meetings, or be dealing with administration or other demands of my studies. I also need the evenings and some of the weekend to do marketing and promotional activities, prepare for projects or other work that comes up such as writing a catalogue essay.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Five years ago I was working with a very minimal palette of black, white and grey and I was also using a lot more textiles such as recycled cotton and felt. Recently I have begun to include more colour in my sculptures, in particular I am loving fluorescent pink at the moment! I have also gradually introduced more machine made materials such as stainless steel. I am enjoying the contrasts between the handmade and machine processes, as well as the change of surface texture and colour.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
A big influence on my thinking comes from feminist philosophy, in particular the work of Luce Irigaray. I am very interested and inspired by her formulation of sexual difference, which I see as being a very generative framework for social and political change. I am very happy to see the resurgence of feminist art around the world over the last decade and what appears to be a regeneration of feminist theory, moving forward from a lot of negativity and feminist backlash that took place in the 90’s. I am also continually inspired by the creativity and hard work of my peers, which encourages me to take risks in my own practice.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have always been interested in architecture and interior design, which I studied for a short time when I first left school. I felt the demands of technical drawings would be too limiting, so I left to pursue fine art. Interestingly, lately, I have come to see the connections between my work and my early interest in space and design, and I continue to take an interest in contemporary architecture. I like to be recharged and inspired by travel to other places when I can. Being from Australia, we tend to grow up here feeling that ‘the rest of the world’ is far away, and so we are great travellers. I have spent a lot of time in Central America, which I enjoy, and Paris, which I love. It always regenerates your work to travel and experience life differently.
Caroline Phillips is a visual artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Working primarily in sculpture and installation, her materially based works have been exhibited nationally and internationally including the George Paton Gallery, Melbourne, First Draft Gallery, Sydney, the Cité International des Arts, Paris and the Slade School of Art, London. Phillips has been awarded a number of grants and residencies including NAVA Australian Artists’ Grant, City of Melbourne Arts Project Grant, Arts Victoria VicArts Grant, Australian Tapestry Workshop Artist in Residence and the Art Gallery of New South Wales Moya Dyring Paris Residency. Caroline also works as an independent curator and her most recent project The f Word; Contemporary Feminist Art in Australia was presented at two major regional Victorian galleries in 2014. Caroline is currently studying a PhD at the Victorian College of the Arts (University of Melbourne), School of Art and her research project explores contemporary feminist art practices. Later this year Caroline will undertake the FAC Feminist Art Residency at Artscape, Toronto.