Since we last caught up with Ali McNabney-Stevens, the UK-born Melbourne-based artist has been industriously showcasing work in various group shows, a solo exhibition at FortyFive Downstairs, as well as Denfair. All that, in-between moving house and renovating – we’re working on a tour of her new Bayside 1980s gem, which is currently being transformed in-line with a ’Palm Springs vision’!
Ali found time to take five with us, introducing her latest body of work and reflecting on the inspiring workshops, books, and friends that have supported the evolution of her art.
Can you tell us about your artistic inspirations, process, and how you create your paintings?
My inspirations come from my everyday now and in the past. Books I have read, flashes of a landscape that have stuck in my memory – for example, the garden’s described in The Long Afternoon by Gile Waterfield.
I participated in a workshop with Luke Sciberras in Hill End, New South Wales in October last year. Until that point, I’d never really grasped the colours of the Australian landscape. That visit had a profound effect on my working colour palette, making me see colours that had always been there, but hidden from my view if that makes sense – distant hills turning into deep violet hues, shadows casting olive greens… there are literally endless shades under the Australian sun.
Then there’s also the influence of my experiences of people and place in my work… all of these have woven together to bring me to the here and now.
Since we last spoke, you’ve moved studios. What’s your new space like?
A tree-and-seachange to Bayside has brought a lot of contentment in more ways than one. I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny home studio, which I find preferable to leasing away from home.
My processes have certainly changed a lot since then, I’m now using oils almost 100% of the time and working on board as a new surface. And I feel, my mark making has become more intuitive.
How long have you been working on your forthcoming exhibition ‘Weaving The Here And Then’?
It has been an ongoing labour of love and in short it’s a culmination of artistic and personal experiences and learnings that have brought me to this point – My very transient existence before I moved to Melbourne 16 years ago, having three children, experiencing six house moves, one build, one in-progress renovation, family loss, not feeling at home, making new friends, building my business and working it all out…
Memory plays such a part in my day-to-day paintings that there is no way I could weave together my thoughts and work without considering the ‘then’ and adding that to the ‘here and now’. It’s taken about a year to pull it all together.
Was there a particular moment or person that inspired you to begin this body of work?
Of course, there are always inspiring people around and I have had the good fortune to meet many of them. These individuals have played their part, either knowingly or not, in helping to shape, inspire and improve me. However, this is ultimately me putting my work out there to stand on its own.
I will say that my best friend, Paula Mills, from South Africa has been my main source of inspiration and support. When I first met Paula she was a mother of three very small children like me and yet she still found time, actually made the time and space to do her artwork. I wasn’t doing any of that and I realised through Paula that putting my work on the back burner was not going to work. I am forever grateful for this and her friendship.
In what ways do you feel these works compare to your previous works?
I feel my visual language has matured, evolved, and now comes more easily; it’s more spontaneous the work, almost as if I now have my true narrative ( its taken years to get to this point). I can now tell my stories instead of having to think how to write them as I go. I feel an ease with oil paints and that adds a vibrancy, and life, to the work… I hope!
Weaving The Here And Then by Ali McNabney-Stevens
July 17th – 28th
45 Flinders Lane
Ali McNabney-Stevens’ art is also available at Studio Gallery Melbourne.