Artists who push the boundaries of the medium, form and conceptual ideas create some of the richest, interesting and exciting bodies of work. Recent Fine Art Graduate Bambi Johnson, currently exhibiting at the Brunswick Street Gallery, spoke to us about her inspirations, the female form and her amazing sculptural pieces.
How did you initially get into Photography/Art?
I use my camera in a very informal way with no heed to its functionality and without any training or understanding of traditional processes. I certainly haven’t come to terms with being a photographer as such; I just see it as one medium I use. In terms of starting out, I finished my Fine Arts degree last year, and since then have been working on producing of work for exhibition. I began to utilize digital photography as a way to document the development stages of my sculptures, and fell in love with the idea of shifting dimensions, and presenting my work in a very isolated and controlled manner.
What would you say your style is?
It’s hard to describe a style, especially since I work across a variety of mediums. I would certainly say all my work has a foremost feminine perspective, perhaps you could say it’s direct, humorous even clean?
How did you come to create “Let’s tit together?
Let’s Tit Together is part of my soft stuff series, spanning the last two years from production to print. Unlike my drawings where I have a very vivid picture in my mind that I work to create, these sculptures were solely material driven. I worked freely with sand and pantyhose, experimenting with their different qualities. I ended up creating a cohesive series of soft forms without any plans and expectations. What I love about them is how they embody and translate all my artistic concerns, without me even having to actively try to relay them. Just magic.
What materials do you normally use?
I work a whole lot with graphite for my drawings. With my sculptures, I have used my body with silicone, wax, all manner of things that share softness, either in form or feel. Often it’s the everyday kind of stuff, found things that are easily accessible. Never dismiss what’s right in front of you.
Would you describe your artwork as having a specific cultural/artistic message?
I’m very happy for my work to have an open-ended interpretation, I really rebelled against one of my teachers for telling me that my work had to have a clear message, and I had to find ways to give viewers cues for that….I mean if that occurs naturally then great, but as an intention……Screw that, I say take what you can from it. For my work to spend a moment in your mind is a wonderful thing, I would hate to dictate a response.
But in saying all that, I do work with my own intentions just like most artists. For me it’s about indemnifying experience, having an outlet for feminine expression.
Who are 5 of your favourite artists?
How do your illustration subject matter and style differ to your photography?
I consider all my works to have a mnemonic connection to my experiences, But my drawings tend to be monochromatic and play heavily on tonal variation.
Do your photography and illustration works influence each other?
I’m not sure if they influence each other so much as they can over lap. For instance, I had an image in my mind of a lime cut in half for the longest time. I toyed with the idea of ‘slice of lime,’ a play on ‘spice of life.’ That phrase was the title of a song in the 90’s that aired during a formative time in my life. Segregation of lime/life etc, was all running around in my head: A large monochromatic lime in graphite on paper but also a large lime in photographic print blown up around 70cm in length; so I made them both. Two interpretations on the same idea.
How was/ is it exhibiting at Brunswick street gallery? Do you have any more upcoming shows?
I am so fortunate to have found BSG. It is a great space, accessible and smack bang in the middle of one of my favorite streets in Melbourne. For emerging and even established artists it offers a lot, in terms of space, natural light and amazing staff. I will be having a solo sometime later in the year, yet to be planned. Part of Soft Stuff is still on show at BSG until the 19th of March.
My next project is Shoot with Melbourne Arts Club.
What’s your favourite subject matter to work with?
Always the female body.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Many artists inspire and inform my art practice, but personal experience, memory and the unconscious body are inspirations to me. Popular fiction, books and movies sometimes cast shadows of reference throughout my work but not in a clearly discernable way.
What music are you listening to right now? Do you get inspiration from music?
I have been playing Prince, David Bowie, Phil Collins and Simply Red a lot at the moment, but that’s normal. Listening to music when your making art can have dramatic effects to how you experience and then later perceive whatever you have made, so I guess you can say it has an influence.
What’s your favourite food to eat when you draw?
Chocolate milk and biscuits.
What’s your favorite material to use when creating sculptural works?
I love using silicone and my own body in collaboration between something real, the photographic referent and something constructed, the photographic paradox.
Bambi Johnson is currently exhibiting at the Brunswick Street Gallery.
To see more of Bambi’s work, visit her Instagram @bam8i