We were recently lucky enough to sit down with the radiant Ivy Weir, an Elam Graduate whose recent work, Inside the Other, provides a poignant commentary on the importance of our connection with the natural world. Speaking on her experiences both during and post art school, the sources of her inspiration and the development of her creative process, Ivy provides a raw account of the process of creating art under varying conditions.
Tell me a little about your artistic process: where you find your inspiration, the reasoning behind your decision to work with so many different mediums etc.
I guess I am always finding inspiration around me. I feel like I go around the world gathering and exploring—observing, taking notes, listening to songs, conversations. It can really be anything. Something from these moments will spark inspiration for me and I then take these beginnings of inspiration further with more research into the idea or ‘feeling’ it sparked for me. Research could mean focusing on learning a new medium, learning about a research topic, looking at other artists, or even just surrounding myself with media that evokes the idea for me. Thematically in my work, I am interested in the gothic, the uncanny, psychoanalysis, myth, ecology and feminism. I find the intersections between these themes, and often return a lot to personal experience as a way of storytelling.
I work in lots of different mediums because I enjoy finding various material qualities to express the nature of the idea. My practice is very driven by the initial inspiration or ‘story’, but the medium of the work is what communicates the concept and enhances the quality of creating. Sometimes the medium inspires the artwork itself, but usually it is a further, but very significant, driver in the meaning and outcome of my work.
Are there any specific artists that you look to as influences? What draws you to their work?
One of my biggest inspirations is Ann Shelton. I find her photographic practice very influential, especially her use of mirroring to create new realities and doubles. This is something I often feature in my own work—the idea of another reality, an alternate viewpoint into a concept. I am also drawn to her gothic subject matter, especially in the context of Aotearoa. The themes in her work have always inspired me and I have referenced her since high school. Another artistic influence is Ana Mendieta. I am continually interested in Mendieta’s exploration and documentation of the body and the natural world, and how this translates into wider existential topics such as identity, reality, experience, etcetera.
I am also influenced by music and specific artworks, as well as books and movies. Musicians and writers such as Ichiko Aoba, Warsan Shire and Carmen Maria Machado continually inspire me. These people are key influences across all my practice, but I also look at specific artists that encapsulate a certain project/idea at the time.
As someone who studied fine arts at a tertiary level, what was your experience with the curriculum – do you have any thoughts on the way in which students have to tailor their creative practice to fit in with deadlines and marking rubrics?
This is a complex question [laughter]. There are lots of things I did like about the curriculum such as the thematic or material challenges that confront your usual way of thinking/doing and ‘push you’. Even if I might have resisted some of these challenges I think that they were beneficial to expanding my practice with making and thinking. I also think resisting/going against the curriculum is helpful for you as an artist. It helps you form your artistic identity and find what you like or dislike—even if you hated every part of art school that would help you go towards the things you do enjoy.
I truly think there is no good way to make art fit into a curriculum and marking rubrics. I think there can be better or worse ways of doing it, but I think in any institution the rigid nature of it can hinder you as an artist in some way. Although having frameworks and deadlines can be helpful in how it can push and challenge you; it can also lead to shaping your practice around pleasing a marking schedule or a lecturer etc. Art is always going to be a complex subject to fit into any academic curriculum – because how do you truly measure creativity, innovation, skill, exploration, engagement, etc? There will always be elements of marking schedules that are arbitrary. I think it is important to remember this while at university, especially doing something creative, and try to stay true to yourself rather than true to the institution.
And now that you’ve graduated, has your artistic practice changed at all?
Following on from my last answer – on the flip side of this Elam has definitely made me almost self-consciously critical of myself since graduating. Being exposed to that kind of critical thinking and refinement can be so helpful but it can be hard to navigate working outside of art school when you now have the ‘Elam voice’ in your head. You get used to making art in an institutional framework and without the framework you can feel lost at times. However, I have been using this time since graduating to get back to my practice outside of the Elam framework. I am trying to embrace more freedom, and go towards the things I love. I am aiming to make art slowly and without deadlines or pressure.
You work as a makeup artist too, do you also see this work as a creative outlet?
I do! In my current work as a makeup artist, I always enjoy the engagement with my hands—making with colours, shapes, textures, and facial features. As a makeup artist, I am often at the whims of the client so I don’t have a lot of ‘creative freedom’, however, I still find joy in the collaboration between myself and the client to achieve a visual aesthetic—just like with art. I try to challenge myself to not get stuck in a routine and to find new ways to achieve a look and be inspired.
Tell me about your latest project “Inside the Other.” What was the inspiration behind this project and what do you want viewers to take away from it?
Inside the Other is about the current epoch of the Anthropocene (The Anthropocene is defined as our current geological era marked by irreversible human damage), and how our bodies and experiences in the world are interconnected to our environmental landscape. It is also about the uncanniness of living in this era—the slow horror of the state of the declining natural world.
I would want viewers to take away what the title suggests- to be literally inside the other. Inside the other invites the audience to engage with the environment mentally and spiritually again, to see it as it is—inside us. As we can see with all these recent weather events, we humans are very much inside and a part of our ecosystem. We cannot consider ourselves as above or as having control over it. We must return to it.