Based in Australia, Loralee has cultivated a flowing synergy between her life and her art. She believes that to be an artist demands a lifestyle that feeds into her creation and vice versa.
I have come to understand Loralee’s philosophy of art to be like a body of water: flowing from place to place, absorbing its surroundings and creating waves wherever its taken. Just like the ocean, Loralee’s art is brimming with a self-contained energy that welcomes others; it is open to all as something to be looked on in wonder, but also as something that begs to be dipped into.
This interview touches on literature, poetry, grief and self-doubt. We also discuss some of Loralee’s incredible projects like her Garments project, which is her way of taking art outside of gallery walls and bringing it to the streets. Loralee’s practice and philosophy is truly a testament to how in touch she is with her creative spirit and her environment.
Where are you from and when did you start your art practice?
I grew up in Tasmania, Australia. As a young girl I always had a journal that I would draw, write and store collected things in such as dried flowers and photographs. After my dad died when I was 14, I started to see these rituals of making as a practice, and a tool to assist me in the undulation that is grief. This practice has changed and extended to support me in all of my phases.
How would you describe or characterize your art?
I always struggle to find the right combination of words to describe my paintings, I guess that’s why they’re paintings and not poems. But the words that I find myself frequently using are; subtle, emotional, poetic, reminiscent, slow moving and intuitive with a ‘worn’ earthy aesthetic.
What are you working on right now?
I like to work on a few things at once to keep momentum going, so I’m working on a solo show of paintings which will be showing at Stable Gallery, Brisbane in March. These works are poetic and murky which I think comes from the energy of plants and raw pigments I have been working with.
I’ve been experimenting a lot with dying fabrics with plant materials and working these into braided frames to hug the paintings. There is a lot of inspiration from the water in these paintings as well, the fluidity of its form, the varying bodies of water that humans go to for solace and healing and also its reflective nature.
I’ve also got another collection of upcycled garments on the go. Experiments with plant materials such as mango skins, carrot tops and lychee pips to dye and paint with are keeping me very entertained and in awe of nature.
I’m also working on a poetry collection, I’ve got so many journals filled with writing that I’ve not shared with anyone. It’s probably the thing I’m most excited and fearful of at this point. You can’t hide in writing like you can in painting.
Tell me about your current creative process.
I feel like I can’t isolate my creative practice from my life. There is no beginning or end of the process only a few painterly outcomes and some changes in perspectives. Everything I do, read or watch becomes part of the process. Especially considering that I work in a few different mediums. I really do feel that being an artist is a way of life, not a job that you go to and come home from.
I have a few journals on the go at once, not for any reason other than to have one on hand at all times. I will make note of lines of songs, ideas, feelings, memories or colour combinations which I come back to throughout the painting process. I generally start by mixing paint on my palette to pin point the feeling I’m trying to convey in the work through colour. And then It’s a dance of painting, sitting and watching. I try to let myself be as open as I can, not try to control anything and treat it all as a journey. I’ll get a feeling from a work that lets me know when it’s done.
You’ve mentioned that literature and poetry inspire you creatively. You’ve also drawn a comparison between a poem and a painting, which I think is so beautiful. I feel it all comes down to our mind’s eye, and how everyone’s experience of art is directly influenced and informed by our own experiences and therefore how we interpret words or images is personal and scattered, even though the work is shared and self-contained. Can you talk about a specific painting of yours that was inspired by a poem(s)?
I completely agree. The opened-ness of both poetry and painting are what keep me hooked and I believe are the most honest reflections of life. Because I’m always writing and painting, they inevitably connect and so there is a poem connected to all of my paintings. Which I’m working on sharing more of in the future. But one that really stands out to me is a work from last year titled ‘Pull to the shore’. I wrote the poem first, thinking about tides and how where I live now and where I lived growing up are both small coastal towns and both feel like home to me. As I was writing it became clear that I was also thinking about my mother and our mother (the earth) and so the poem extended from being about the intimate to the infinite. The painting has a very different energy than the others, it’s soft and delicate with tiny details all over the surface which I don’t usually do. The process was different also, I used a lot of thinner layers of paint over the entire work and then used fabric to pull sections off, creating a layered, swaying, intertwined mass of blue.
Pull to the shore: A poem by Loralee
We are seventy percent water, surging and gurgling our bodies are more liquid than bone, More fluid than fixed. Just as the moon pulls The tides to shore, she calls us too. It’s more of a lullaby than a crashing, the moon and her tides, her pools of salt and water. There are places that pull us in, in this way too, the personal pond of our mothers womb and our first earthly homes, whose shores held the weight of our stumbling steps into adulthood, banks sheltered our bodies, currents swept away our tears, I don’t need to be Standing on the coast of my child sized memories, like her sea shells tenderly sprinkled on sand, to feel her wash over me, blanketing me with the motherly scent of home, eucalyptus and cinnamon on the cool breeze that tightens my skin prompting me to wrap my arms around my body, to hold my own ocean In, her gentle salty whispers reminders of all the things I’d forgotten, Like how to trust my feelings more than my thoughts, that it’s never too hot or late to eat stewed apples with cinnamon and honey, that there are no containers in this world, no edges that can’t be merged with the addition of water, that giving thanks to all living things is not just our human gift but our duty. These memories hit with the soft refreshing thud of cold water on ankles, as the world spills over into me and I spill over into the world, lessons learnt in shimmering patterns of a life reflected on the rhythmic surface of water, projections of a moment in time onto another, past and present glimmering and dancing alongside each other as I’m pulled back to shore and called back home
The concept behind your Garments is centered around the accessibility of art. Art is for everyone, and is not just for hanging on a wall, but also for wearing. What does art do for us/what power do you believe art can have?
Yes exactly, I really wanted to extend the boundary of art away from gallery walls to people’s everyday lives. Fashion is not separate from art, it’s just a different medium to express. As I said earlier, I view being an artist as a lifestyle and not something that exists in just one place for one group of people. Everything has energy, art is no different. Art has a way of digging deeper into our psyches into places we don’t have words for. I want my works to be calming, inspiring and nurturing at the beach and down the street, not to be confined to a gallery in the city. I love the idea of someone wearing my work as they would a treasured necklace, something that gives you strengthened clarity.
What challenges have you found pursuing a creative career? How did you overcome them?
All the challenges I have faced in my art practice are also in my personal life. It’s just part of growing up and evolving. Self doubt is the obvious one that I’d say every human has felt. I’m not sure that I’ve overcome it though, it just changes as my situation and goals change. I’m definitely more gentle with myself when it arises than I used to be. If it’s about the work I make then I’ll go back and see the work I was making 5 years ago to see how far I’ve come. Reflection is a powerful tool. Taking time off social media also helps.
Another thing that’s been challenging is trying to force inspiration. Feeling guilty for not working or not having enough works finished etc. It’s so counter productive. We’re cyclical beings, needing rest to recover before embarking into the world again. I’m such a home body, very empathetic and sensitive so this has been huge for me. But after years of pushing myself to be disciplined and make everyday and then spending more time fixing the mess it would make, I slowly realised that it’s more productive to take time away from the studio. So now I never push myself to make if I’m not in the mood. I instead use the time to read, or walk in nature, or sleep. Nothing good comes from force.
How do you get into a creative mindset? Is there anything about your physical environment that is essential to your flow? Any rituals?
Music and literature are my first go-to’s. I listen to playlists on Spotify that are on repeat and audiobooks of poetry or other literature. I love listening to Lana Del Rey speak her poems in ‘violet bent backwards over grass’ and the intoxicating blend of fact and prose in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s ‘Braiding sweet grass’.
I have routine outside of the studio, such as a daily meditation and yoga practice, and I always wished I had more of a structured routine in the studio, but I just don’t work that way. I’ll feel a pull which is more like a nagging need, to paint and so I do. There is definitely a rhyme to what I do in the studio but it’s not structured. I’m very sensitive to my environment but I’m also very adaptable too so anywhere I can sit with some pigment and surface I’m happy.
A lighter question! Who are your top 5 dinner party guests (dead or alive)?
The great Helen Frankenthaler, Australian painter Elisabeth Cummings, Toni Morrison for her perspective on grief, loss and love, the poetic genius Mary Oliver and contemporary painter Maja Ruznic.
But to be honest I’d be way too shy and awe struck to ask any questions, I think I’d just love to observe and listen.
Any emerging artists you admire?
So many, but off the top of my head; I’ve admired Winston Chmielinski ( @weseeclearly) for so many years now, Lucy Zaroyko ( @lucyzaroyko ) Skye Jamison ( @skyejamison_ ), Amber Wallis ( @amberrosewallis ), Ria Green ( @ria.m.green) and of course Ro Noonan ( @ronoonan ).
What goals do you have for your practice?
I’m working on grounding my practice into a deeper understanding of myself. The older I get the more I understand the importance of being authentic. It’s advice that gets thrown around a lot, especially to young artists but I’m only recently realising that in order to be authentic in my work I have to truly understand myself. This is a life long exercise though. In terms of goals, I would love to broaden my audience and exhibit internationally, collaborate with designers and push the garments I’ve been experimenting with and work with some poets and writers to make work.
To keep up with Loralee’s work and projects: