Artist Interview: Michaela Gleave - Art Collector

21 August 2012

Amy Yang talks to young installation artist Michaela Gleave.

Michaela Gleave, Our Frozen Moment, 2012. Installation view, performance Space at The Carriage Works, Sydney. Photo: Silversalt Photography. courtesy: the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

Can you tell me about your art practice? How do you start a new work, and where do you go for your ideas?

My practice is based on an investigation into the nature of reality – how we perceive, process and respond to the world around us – and seeks to find perimeters or holes in the systems and structures through which we experience life.

I see my works as a series of experiments, working with everyday materials and processes that have the ability to test the limits of vision, time and space, whether this be compressed air, snow, bricks, fireworks or glitter.

Often my projects are experiential, requiring the viewer’s physical presence in the exhibition space, and [they] frequently involve temporal elements, existing either as a semi-choreographed experience or as the document of an action or event.

How long does it normally take you to complete a work?

Each work I make follows a different development arc, and even though reoccurring materials and mechanisms feature in my practice for the most part I need to begin almost from scratch in the engineering of each new work.

Some of my projects start with a near complete idea and then simply require execution, where as the large-scale installation environments will often be a year or more in development as I work through conceptual and technical parameters.

My practice stems from a conceptual tradition so the ideas driving the work are always the central focus, and at times a concept will be several years in the making before the right context or location presents itself.

In other circumstances, a last-minute project will present itself, taking my practice in a new direction and resulting in a much more spontaneous response – each work is different.

What attracted you to digital media, installation and photography?

Perusing an investigation into the nature of reality has been the backbone of my practice, and for the most part I have always chosen to do this by engaging the viewer in a direct experience with light, space and matter, whether though an installation environment, live event, or through the documented forms of photography and video.

I prefer to work with as little mediation as possible, allowing room for the viewers mind to wander through the scenario I present, and I don’t generally engage overt narratives.

What has been the most interesting reaction you’ve received?

My last project in Sydney, Our Frozen Moment at Performance Space, made one viewer cry, whereas another viewer contacted me to recount a vivid childhood memory that the work evoked.

I also witnessed a young boy letting out a completely joyous, primal howl as he stood in the middle of the work for several minutes with his face held up to the falling rain.

Above: Michaela Gleave, Our Frozen Moment, 2012. Installation view, performance Space at The Carriage Works, Sydney. Photo: Silversalt Photography. courtesy: the artist and Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne

You’ve exhibited your works in Europe and Asia. Do you find that you receive different responses to your work from different viewers?

It’s always interesting to see how different contexts and audiences will alter the reading of a work and I very much enjoy seeing a show in multiple environments to see how it shifts.

The difference in response from children to adults to the elderly can at times be quite marked and the same variation can be at play across cultural barriers.

Does music play a part in your artworks?

I trained as a classical musician prior to attending art school and, while I haven’t worked with music directly for a number of years, sound is often a consideration in what I do.

I think a lot about the temporal unfolding of an experience or idea and am interested in the spatial properties of sound acting on an environment. For several years I rejected using pre-recorded sound in my work, preferring live experiences, but am interested in revisiting the spatio-temporal possibilities of acoustic environments and the ability sound has to introduce contradictory perceptual information into a given set of circumstances.

Instrumental music in particular can address similar questions as one might in a visual arts practice and I think the borders between these disciplines provides rich ground for multidisciplinary activity.

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