This interview is a journey full of insightful observations about the creative world of Graham Hay, an international artist, sculptor, and participant in the Call and Response "Conversations" project at the Inglewood Arts Hub. Through this interview, you will discover Graham's perspective on collaboration, and his experiences with local and international art projects. Prepare for a fascinating exploration of the artist's mind and the vibrant tapestry of his creative endeavours.
Graham delves into the dynamics of working within a local community art space, highlighting the importance of building a network of committed organisers and participants. Graham's thoughts on the long-term impact of such projects, the shaping of his artistic approach, and the intricate connection between art and life offer a rich understanding of his creative journey. This interview is a treasure trove of insights for anyone interested in the intersection of art, community, and personal growth.
What were you hoping to discover or achieve through your involvement in the creative collaboration within the Call and Response Project "Conversations" which took place in Inglewood Arts Hub in 2023?
I’ve enjoyed not being the leading artist or organiser. There are less of the usual performative pressures, but I’m also less intensely focussed on the project (usually when I’m interstate or overseas I’m 100% time focussed on it). There are different perceived pressures as it is local. For example, it’s not a 100% professional ceramic artist or art literate audience, so the visual language I use has to be more universal or everyday (as well as for people from the art world).
What drew you to participate in this project, and what value do you see in it?
Being only a few minutes away from my studio and home it is very easy to dip in and out of the project. It takes me into a community art space I haven’t really engaged with since the 2000’s. I expect it to be different in many ways, but it is too soon to tell how. Apart from the artists within my studio, I don’t usually interact much with many local artists, in that I know other artists’ work and activities from what is online, and only really get to socialise after hours with those that also work or participate in events outside Perth.
It seems that during and post covid I am engaging more with organisers of local art groups and organisations. Partly this was due to the momentum in overseas projects falling apart, and only now is starting to slowly build again.
Not long time ago I stepped out of a PhD on Artists' social and professional networks, and this project is an opportunity to participate in the creation of a new artists’ network. Apart from initiating and contributing to overseas projects, I haven’t been involved in creating a local artists’ network since I formed the Thermal Shock group in 1992 (see www.grahamhay.com.au) and established the Robertson Park Artists Studio in 2000 (see farmerstreetstudio.com). It is a different type of creativity to making art, creating a creative community!
What aspects of the "Conversations" project posed the greatest challenges for you?
To relax and to be open to the much wider spectrum and levels of motivations and artistic awareness of other artists and organisations. It will take a long time to attract and build a big enough team of committed organisers and participants. Where are we - three years into this project so far? This type of project requires a lot of time for face-to-face meetings, planning, and building of consensus in decision-making.
Contrast this with my overseas and interstate project experience. These projects are between people who are immediately very committed to the success of the project, with similar levels of training and long experience, international or national perspectives, and strong networks for pulling in audiences and resources. All are time-poor so short video meetings and emails are only required due to the higher level of motivation of all participants and implicit trust. Once the project is launched I often travel to a physical site for a short period of intense face-to-face interactions. These interactions create enough social capital to sustain a professional relationship over decades and thousands of kilometres and often stimulate future projects.
I anticipate that the creative collaboration within these Call and Response Projects will enable the creation of strong personal and professional links between local professional artists. This network of links will generate social capital which will ultimately determine the long-term success or otherwise of the Inglewood Arts Hub. Build the network and the artists and their audiences will come. With more artists and their audiences will come funds, ongoing political support, and more permanent resources. However, this all takes a lot of time, over a long period!
GRAHAM HAY, Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe Ceramic, porcelain, paper clay, FeCrAl wire and polymer line 55 x 40 x 2 in. (140 x 102 cm.) overall. Elements of Earth, Emami Art: Kolkata Centre for Creativity, Kolkata, India, 2023.
How has this project influenced your thinking and creative approach?
As can be seen from the above, this project provides a welcoming space to pause and reflect on how I have previously worked, as well as apply new knowledge and theories on how art is ultimately socially created.
Could you please reflect on how the place we live in, shapes us? What is your connection with the place you are living in?
Social connections are a product of the duration and frequency of interactions. Family, friends, study and work all involve frequent and long-lasting interactions, so are where we all create strong and deep connections. I feel strongly connected to Western Australia after arriving in 1982, have studied here at three universities and TAFE for over eleven years, and have established a family here, with the associated informal parental and intergenerational networks.
Exhibiting and teaching workshops across hundreds of local organisations and groups over the last thirty years certainly gives me an awareness and understanding of the cultural sector and how it works. However, these are all short-duration interactions which don’t necessarily make me feel more connected but does mean that many know of me.
4 tonne sculpture in the High Court of Australia, Canberra. Click image for article.
How do your family life, friendships, daily activities, and duties interfere with your artistic career and artistic work? How do you respond, in your art, to life's calls? What kind of calls can you see, hear, or feel?
Having a studio away from home creates a physical as well as psychological separation between them, but in reality, they bleed into each other. With all family members working there is little interaction during the day except an occasional text or call. Often, we forward emails to each other from our interstate or overseas families, or regarding the home organisation or forthcoming events.
I normally schedule time with friends outside work hours even if they are not working. From experience I know it’s important for me to schedule regular interactions with family and friends, otherwise, the art practice crowds them out of mind. Our interactions help me keep a realistic, healthy perspective on my art.
The endless emails, reading, writing, interstate and particularly overseas video meetings all bleed into home and family time. Outside office hours I still squeeze in a few studio hours early on Sunday.
Interstate and overseas exhibitions and teaching consume a huge amount of time in preparation and wrapping up, as well as the complete disruption to everyday life when I’m away. Jet Lag from frequent interstate and overseas travel over the last three decades creates a huge amount of time when I have to factor in performing at below optimum level.
Only rarely are my family members both willing and able to join me on interstate and overseas work trips. Time away from work, being in less attractive tourist destinations, and the additional household cost inhibit their application. As the projects demand my attention 24/7 when I am on-site, it is hard to relax and unwind until after the project, by which time I’m exhausted.
The advantage of being self-employed is that I have the flexibility to take time off or fit the demands of an art practice around family needs. That said, in the past, it was hard to keep in the flow of making art with a 2-year-old with a short attention span in the studio. Similarly making and teaching times had to be squeezed in between the childcare/school drop-off and pickup times. So, it’s good to have had studios close to home, childcare, and school. I would expect that the Inglewood Arts Hub and the Collaboration projects could be attractive for these reason to young artists and parents.
Describe please what kind of unique conversation or dialogue your art has with your internal and external life.
For me, art-making is both a revealing and concealing process. Ideas, thoughts, and beliefs either consciously or subconsciously seep out. We see it in our own and others’ artworks. Conscious of potential audiences both amplify or soften the emerging content. Sometimes these processes create more interesting artworks.
Ideas or themes emerge that only decades later I see their connection with what is going on in my life. For example, I went through a stage of building lots of organic forms from tiny clay bricks or boats from planks of clay, just before we renovated a small house and started a family.
Graham Hay, Critical Mass @ Venice Biennale. An exhibition within the context of the 2017 Venice Biennale. Organised by the GAA Foundation, hosted by the European Culture Centre.
What makes you happy? How do you usually relax, recharge your batteries, and find happiness?
Until recently I was so driven that I didn't really take holidays, rather the interstate and overseas projects provided “a change is as good as a break”. If I did take a family holiday, I would bring along material to make, even to Rotto! Aside from that I’ve always cycled weekly for fitness with a group, and commute around town. Walking is enjoyable (through Stirling, Vincent and Inglewood), family and friend time, to stretch muscles after too long working on a keyboard, and for thinking.
What frustrates you?
Art making! If it wasn’t challenging, I would have given it up decades ago. And waiting for clay to dry in winter!
Thank you, Graham for sharing your insights and experiences with the Call and Response Project "Conversations." I appreciate your openness in reflecting on the challenges and rewards of the project, as well as the broader connections between art, community, and personal development. Your journey and reflections highlight the significant impact individual perspectives can have on enriching our artistic community and fostering meaningful creative connections. Thank you, Graham, for being an integral part of this project. I eagerly anticipate witnessing its continued success with your continued involvement.
Find out more about collaboration in Inglewood Arts Hub:
The first edition of the Call & Response Project Conversations