Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interview with Margot Westhorpe

Pre-fab install 009
View of the amazing jackets and hats made by Margot Westhorpe.

We chat with Margot Westhorpe about her works for Pre-Fab.  This is the first time Margot has exhibited at Town Hall Gallery and her jacket made from a $2 striped plastic bag featured on the Pre-Fab invitation cover too!

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from?
I have travelled extensively with my husband and three daughters, living for extended periods in England and Sweden. After leaving full time teaching I have pursued my interest in Chinese studies and completed a PhD in Chinese identity. I consider myself a full time experimental visual artist. In my current work I draw on my life experiences as well as gender and cultural studies in order to explore the ways women live their lives in a contemporary global environment.

How would you describe your work? What materials do you work in?/
Tell us why/how your work fits in to the Pre-Fab idea?!
While I love to mix oil on canvas, I find using ceramics, paper, plastic, and textiles; to express my ideas, is an exciting way to express my ideas. Appropriating these readymade products allows flexibility in constructing art and sculpture pieces as well as increasing depth of analysis. Plastic is also the chosen material for mass produced items which have come to represent our society and the times in which we live. The theme PRE-FAB defines the ways in which artists have adopted the mass produced items from the factories and emporiums of our cities to construct and create sculptural works which were once considered illegitimate in the world of art.

In my work I employ the mass-produced objects sold in the iconic “$2 shop” which operates in almost every shopping centre and mall. Targeting bargain hunters of every age group, these shops are renowned for their gaudy presentation and often bizarre products. Their stock includes items made of “shiny, plastic and metal materials”. Buyers are amazed by their vivid colours and kitsch design, particularly in a society which favours the bland. In appropriating these gaudy objects, which include every imaginable household, decorative and personal item, I have created a series of wall works and small scale sculptures in order to explore gender, ethnicity and Chineseness, in our consumer society. This focus is refined in several works where my concentration is on the ways in which China’s social, political and economic policies have impacted on Chinese women, in both China and Australia.

What achievement are you most proud of to date?Completing my PhD has been both challenging and rewarding. When I left university in the 1970s, I never imagined that I would return to study Mandarin or to complete a doctorate in education and gender. I recognise now that there are no restrictions in life, and understand that what is imaginable is possible.

What's your work practice like? Do you work in a studio/home? What gets you in the mood to create?
I work at home in a small studio. The inspiration “to create” comes is often spontaneous and often after considerable deliberation.

Is there a soundtrack to your creativity? Do you have music or silence?
Mostly I work in silence, allowing the work to move freely and towards its own specific conclusion.

What do you think people will take away with them from seeing your work?
I hope that when people look at my work they will understand that there are multiple ways of understanding. When they see the utilitarian and mundane objects which I employ – possibly in a combination which they have never considered before – they will acknowledge new possibilities which they have previously not considered.

Where do you want to be in 10 years time? What's your dream?!
In 10 years time I would like to have refined my artistic practice and of course, be a much better artist!

Don't forget that Pre-Fab is on display until Saturday 17 December!

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