A Q&A with Linda Joy

Image:Katherine River, ink on canvas, 100 x 52cm

Linda Joy is the first NT artist to undertake Artback NT’s Emerging Artist in Residence program. Linda has spent the last five weeks in Alice Springs where she has created work inspired by the region and its landscapes and will be holding an exhibition at the Charles Darwin University Library in Alice Springs at the end of her residency. Between paint pots and cleaning brushes, Linda kindly allowed us to pick her brains for five minutes…

Your current work explores Top End landscapes – what elements of the land inspire you? How do you then interpret these elements on to canvas?
I synthesise observations of Top End landscapes from an aerial perspective using water as the keystone of composition. Coils and washes represent the rocks and trees of the land. I seek inspiration for these works from the environment around me, as such, the body of work I have produced over the past couple of years is predominately Top End.

Can you share your artistic process?
My visual journals are extensive reflections of this artistic journey that I’m on. They underpin everything I do and also document the development of my love of ink and charcoal.They are my constant source of intel! I have also gained inspiration from helicopter flights over the land. That is such a cool way to look at the lay of the land, the patterns, textures, shapes and movement – I really should tap into my son-in-law’s pilot skills there!

How did you uncover your talent for this particular type of art (ink of canvas, use of minuscule coils etc)? Was it an accidental or gradual discovery?
About three years ago Don Whyte Framing put a call out for artists to produce work for the Offcut show, a local annual fundraiser held at the framing shop. It’s an initiative of Don’s and is a completely beautiful, vibrant and energetic evening that conjures up images of a Parisian salon. I collected my canvas then looked at it blankly with only days to the deadline. I wasn’t practicing so had no idea at all where to start. I basically went back to the last drawing I did in my sketchbook eight years prior (before teaching took a grip on my life). It was an ink pen drawing of Tolmer Falls and I ended up making two canvases for the show. It was exciting and I was on a bit of a high so just kept going with it. I created a larger work called Litchfield that was accepted into the Togart Art Award that same year. I had to experiment a lot with fixing the inks on to the canvas and ways to prepare the canvas to save the nibs from getting blunt. It is a very meditative process working this way. I love it!

Wurre (Rainbow Valley)

Wurre (Rainbow Valley), ink and wash on archers, 56 x 76cm

What and who inspires you?
The million dollar question! I was inspired at a very young age by my father’s black and white photography; I found the ‘dark room’ intriguing with the red and yellow light. My mother worked alongside him as the handcolourist, and I loved the smell of oil paint and turps and I still do! I studied photography in the early eighties and furthered my arts practice in the nineties when I undertook an Arts degree in Darwin. Franck Gohier was a massive inspiration to me then and continues to be. He is one of the most generous, passionate, prolific, supportive and inspiring artists I know. A genuine master.

Travel, camping, my journals and the very environment we live in are the impetus for my work. My three daughters, Lani, Imogen and Matilda are my biggest inspiration – they are encouraging and believe in what I do, I am so lucky!

Who are your favourite artists and/or artworks?
That is such a tough question. I have just come back from an extended visit to France so my head is full of Impressionism at present. Sitting in l’Orangerie with Monet‘s Water Lilies murals was very inspiring.

I love the collage work of Vik Muniz, the video work of Bill Viola, the photography of Vee Speers, Kudzanai Chiurai and Chema Madoz, the comical work of Rob Brown, the community work of JR, the lino prints of Franck Gohier, the land paintings of Kathleen Petyarre, the spontaneity, colour and texture of Van Gogh… all are high on my list of greats!

What are some surprises to have come out of your residency with Artback NT?
Wow! There are many. COLOUR! I have only really worked in black and white with the landscape work, though most pieces I’ve produced so far also include reds and golds. The marks are intricate ink washes rather than coils and the composition has evolved from the horizon rather than the aerial perspective like my other Top End work. Interestingly enough, I am also working on paper rather than canvas… so yes, there is quite a few surprises there!

The residency has been a brilliant platform for experimenting like this in such a supportive and vibrant community. Of course it’s all a bit scary, you can get comfortable with one style and then it is difficult to explore other options. I am definitely ‘jumping the void’! I find this is still a meditative process, the intricacy and the repetitiveness of the washes. I am still aiming for that peace in my work, representing the vastness of land, the undulation and in this case the overwhelming portrayal of the iconic rocks that are inherent in this particular landscape.

A completely different environment has inspired a completely different approach; it has all just transpired that way, which again is the beauty of this residency.