I found myself in the home of my dear friend Imogen’s lounge room crawling on all fours like a cat weaving in between beautiful artworks and drinking in every detail while Imogen put on a Laurindo Almeida record to settle her nerves and set an atmosphere. As I weaved her cat, Klaus came and crawled through the works with me, and Imogen sat on her laptop singing along with Laurindo. I felt safe, warm and full of chocolate biscuits her husband Joe had bought. Observing the works and the artist at the same time.
Staring at the works I felt meanings, interpretations and symbols zapping my brain, feeling as though I had cracked the code to what Imogen was trying to express through each flower, woman and animal in the artworks. Because she is a friend and, we’ve spoken many times about this series I felt like I knew what she was trying to portray. But, I never saw them untill that moment so, viewing them was a different feeling and turns out, meaning. When I finished, I went and sat close to her, in a beam of sunlight in her sunny studio, and we spoke about what I saw and how she felt.
As we chatted, I saw a side of Imogen I have never seen before. It’s hard to pin point what exactly the emotion was she was channelling but, it was soft, vulnerable and a little bit erratic. I liked it. A lot like her series I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of before the opening of her exhibition on Saturday 6th May at Goodspace. Before going to ogle her fabulous series, “I’ll Be Seeing You” get to know the artist and process behind the paint and see what it’s all about.
What is the inspiration behind your exhibition?
My mum. Although to be honest, I went into this purposefully without plans or ideas of what would end up on the paper. Now that I see them all together it’s obvious she’s in every image.
I was trying to paint to release and process some of the grief of losing my mother. I guess that makes it difficult to talk about ‘the work’ because the point was the process, not the outcome.
How long have you been working on these paintings?
I think on and off for the past 4-5 months. Mostly during the nights (full credit to insomnia).
The name of the exhibition is a Billie Holiday song. What is her connection to these artworks?
It’s her lyrical content. ‘I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places’ is a sentiment which rings true for me, in that my mother was someone so astronomically significant, so when she was gone this miraculous nightmare occurs in which I see her in everything and everyone all the time. She is relevant to all conversations, places, people, objects. It’s both beautiful and painful. Paradise in Hell.
What mediums have you worked with and why?
The paper is my favourite beautiful thick French watercolour paper. These are a mix of gouache, watercolours, acrylics, and lots of pens. I just use what I have at home. I also like how methodical/hypnotic/therapeutic it can be working endlessly on detail patterns. I want to say it’s ’a big doodle’, but that’s not particularly classy phrasing. Haha, Maybe I should’ve called the exhibition that.
I’m noticing a lot of native flora and fauna surrounded by beautiful redheaded women within your works why is that?
My mum was a redhead, so I guess that naturally came out. Every woman in this series is a redhead even if they represent me (brunette) or symbolically just ‘the universal woman’ or ‘the universal mother’.
Haha, my mum is the ‘I’m every woman’ Whitney sings about. Actually, she really was.
What has your creative process for this exhibition been like compared to others?
It’s vastly different to how I usually work. Most of my artwork is commissioned with a lot of input from the ‘client’, so I actively plan to fulfil their brief. For this series, I was attempting just to allow and accept what instinctively happened creatively for me. The process was hopeless but not useless.
What is the biggest thing you’ve had to confront during this process?
Myself, and the self-indulgent nature of grief.
Do you have a favourite piece?
No, but then I rarely like my work. I like some of the themes, some of the paintings that reference the trio that is my family, but that’s quite hidden. Perhaps I like it because there is secret meaning, not because I find it aesthetically pleasing.
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I feel it would have been unproductive to set a goal, in case it were unachievable and hindered the whole exercise. Think I needed the process of art making to help myself, and by the end of it I had this whole series of work that was due to rest forever under my bed, I thought, what the heck. Let’s do this.
How do you think this exhibition will be received?
My motivation is not for pity or empathy, and not to try to explain my experience of loss to anyone. In fact, that is downright impossible. Grief is so unique to every individual and shared among us all some way or another. It would belittle the experience of loss if I were to expect these clumsy paintings to depict it accurately. The viewer is free to otherwise make their own meaning.
“I’ll Be Seeing You’
Date: May 6th, 6PM
115 Regent St, Chippendale, Sydney, Australia 2008
To keep up with Imogen’s beautiful artworks click ‘like’ on her page.