Happy to share the work of Nancy Constandelia today, whose rich, minimal canvases emphasize an intuitive choice of color while approaching the slow process of creating them as an exercise in understanding her presence and sense of being. I love the utter simplicity of these surfaces which, although flat, show real depth in their value shifts. Nancy, who is based in Sydney, Australia, just finished her Masters, and speaks a bit about her experience here!
+ + +
Hi Nancy! Can you tell me a bit about your practice?
My art practice is based in Sydney, Australia, and painting is my main medium though I have started to draw more recently.
I generally work on primed polyester, paper, linen and sometimes canvas. I would define it as an expanded painting practice because currently I am exploring this medium on found and recycled materials and non-traditional surfaces. I am also creating different supports to work on.
Much of your recent work has been extremely minimal; why is this significant?
I actually started out making monochromatic and minimalist works because that is what felt natural to me. There were stages where I did go on quite a colourful, abstract trajectory as part of studying colour with abstract artist and colourist, Charlie Sheard at University, but I have somehow returned back to minimal monochromes, which happened organically. The significance of my minimal work recently has been due to my research into understanding presence and being through slow art practices.
Is there a significance to the hues you choose?
The colours are generally chosen for their translucence and the way in which they stimulate a conversation with light and shadow.
My hues are chosen intuitively based on whatever is speaking to me at that moment. However, there are periods whereby I am very interested or inspired by a certain hue and then I will spend days or weeks creating many works and studies in that hue.
You're currently an MFA candidate, so you're pretty focused on your work at the moment. What is your artistic research centered on?
I actually just completed my Masters last week. The research was centred on understanding presence through slow art practices such as painting. One part was a case study on photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and his series “Theaters”,whereby he captures an entire movie within a single frame by setting up his box camera at the back of the balcony of an old 1920’s movie theatre, and leaving the shutter open, only to click it shut at the end. The result is an image that has captured time. The composition is a rectangular aura-like light ( the screen ) framed by the ornate and decorative theatre interior. Sugimoto layered many temporalities within a single image, and this resonated with me as I feel I do the same within my process of painting.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a new piece? Do you plan ahead or let the canvas and paint guide you?
My process usually starts with me staring at many blank supports at the same time, whether it be several big stretched canvases hung around my studio walls or blank pieces of paper, polyester or other types of supports on the floor. Ideas and inspiration flood into my head 24/7 and because they are fleeting, I always need to jot them down or draw them up in my visual diary before I forget them. Sometimes I even type them into my notes section of my iPhone especially when I am away from the studio. During these periods when I’m staring at blank spaces, I will read and look through everything that I have drawn or written down and usually something sparks my imagination and then I will layer my first coat of paint. In-between waiting for paint to dry, I read or create small studies or I take a break and head up to the local café for coffee. I also take photos of my work to have a third eye and to try and view my work objectively. This helps inform what to do next.
There are days where I feel I have done nothing all day in the studio. Then there are other days where I am in the zone of painting and everything is flowing freely and I am being very productive that I forget to eat lunch.
The only type of planning I really do is decide what scale the works will be, what materials I want to use, or how many works I want to make. I do make studies, and sometimes they inform the larger works or they become works within themselves.
What is your studio space like? Any routines or rituals?
My studio space is within a warehouse where there is a gallery at the front. It has high ceilings and lots of natural light which is very important to me. There are two other artists in studios on either side of mine. I need my own private space to work simply because I get easily distracted. Also with the way I work, I need solitude and a quiet space where there is minimal disturbance.
My studio is usually a mess. I am quite messy when I am being creative but it is organised in the sense that I know where everything is. I like finishing for the day and just locking up and continuing the next day without worrying about the mess.
My general routine is I try to exercise every morning, then have breakfast, a quick shower and then I’d usually grab a coffee at the local café before heading to the studio. Once I am there, I’ll have a chat with the other artists if they’re around, and then I’ll plug in my earpods and listen to music or a podcast and start working. I am quite self-disciplined so when I work, I will keep working until I feel I have worked enough for that day. There is a combination of working, reading and writing, sitting doing nothing and staring at my works and reflecting, and then back to working again.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of pursuing art seriously?
I think there are many challenging aspects of pursuing art seriously. One of the most challenging aspects is finding enough time to make the art that I want to make. I find there is never enough time, no matter how much time I have. Balancing time for art with time for one’s other responsibilities ( as well as pleasures ) in life is an ongoing challenge. I think when you pursue art seriously, you really have to invest as much time as possible, but there are only so many hours in a day. There are also other areas which are part and parcel of being an artist which take time away from the actual art-making. Writing proposals, applying for grants and awards, sharing work on Instagram etc. which all revolve around getting your work out there to be seen. Even these tasks take time away from the actual art-making but they are a necessary part of an emerging artist’s life.
What do you consider the most rewarding or exciting part of doing what you do?
The most exciting part is when magic happens and I’m not conscious of it, or an accident happens. That excites me because then it takes me on another intriguing path of exploration and it usually inspires new ideas. The most rewarding part is being able to do what I do. It is a privilege in itself.
Is there any advice you've received that has had an impact on you?
It’s important to be authentic. Being an artist means staying true to who you are and what you want to express and what you’re inspired by. It’s all about doing your best work that you can do authentically and making work that is meaningful to yourself.
Another piece of advice that I’ve received is to never give up and to keep working hard. It’s important to understand that even when there are days when you feel creatively blocked or it’s all too hard, it is normal to feel this way. It is not a smooth ride being an artist. It will always feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster in every way – mentally, emotionally and physically. It is important to have self-belief and also a thick skin. Not everyone is going to like what you do ( nor will they understand it ) but you have to believe that what you are doing is meaningful to you so keep doing it. Also never underestimate the act of non-doing. Sometimes just relaxing at the beach, travelling, or doing something in complete contrast to art can keep you refreshed and then you arrive back with new inspiration and ideas.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
Yes I am curating a group show at the end of February 2017, with two other emerging artists, Chris Casali and Kirsten Duncombe, at Factory 49 Gallery, Sydney. I am also going to participate in a group exhibition in March 2017 alongside six other Australian emerging artists at Cat Street Gallery in Hong Kong, curated by fellow artist Graziela Guardino.
Anything else you would like to add?
Stay humble no matter what happens.
Find more at nancyconstandelia.com!
+ + +
Like what you see? Support Young Space!