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Artist Profile: Rochelle Summerfield

Exploring transformation, wonder and humour

Grafton based artist, Rochelle Summerfield, has received an encouragement award in the highly coveted Windmill Trust Scholarship.

The Trust and the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) also announced James Blackwell as the recipient of the $5,000 2014 Windmill Trust Scholarship for his work of paper, protea fluff and gum nuts, 59 Flames.

Summerfield will use the funds to mount her photocollage works to aluminum for what she calls ‘a sexy, modern finish’.

Speaking as she travelled back to Grafton from Sydney where she accepted the encouragement award, Summerfield said that already it had brought some contacts, professionalism and support for her practice in the Sydney community.

Summerfield said overcoming distance and contacts as a regional artist is a work in progress, and the grant gives her financial support for presenting her  work professionally at *Brenda May Gallery and for establishing networks.

Here she talks about the influences in her work and in particular the power of the Clarence River that when it broke its banks in April last year was a very tangible force.

About her practice

I found my voice when I began using collage as inspiration for my pictures.

It was an ‘aha’ moment. The first discovery of how I would like to make pictures was finding myself lost in the Louvre, in Paris where I caught glimpses of the Mona Lisa behind crowds, and where I just fortuitously happened upon four small works by Arcimboldo, The Seasons. 

His work Spring, is a painting of intricate, detailed flowers that is a visual delight to the eye and then you get that ‘aha’ sense of pleasure as you recognize that the flowers are a face!

I started collecting small treasures of cut out paper limbs and found objects to make pictures as a puzzle of beguiling surface qualities.

I wanted my own heroine. Hannah Höch, a Dadaist with her radical collage inspired my approach to the female form while Max Ernst with his seamless collage book prints inspired the narrative structure, the use of dream, imagination and sexuality.

I looked for her through the looking glass.  She is a strong and active female.  I am trying to describe some sensation of the body, its affects and its amazing potential.  I am using the body to explore ideas on ways of being and our sense of identity.

My second discovery was moving to the beautiful Clarence Valley for love.  I am finding my time here a venture of discovery- my new relationship with my partner, Richard, living right on the mighty Clarence River, meeting people, discovering the history and community of the rural lifestyle.

 What do you do?

I make unique pictures, full of quirky humour that takes inspiration from everyday life and ideas about the body.  It’s not an ideal body, it is a grotesque body in that she is made from odd limbs and collaged, and she can be beastly, flamboyant and part bird or siren.  I am trying to express some sensation or emotion of the body.

I love to collage; it stimulates my ideas and processes.  Even the fine pencil drawings are inspired by innovative collage compositions.  I make a powerful female form.  She is made from a collection of assorted limbs from women’s magazines and found objects like chocolate wrappers or a feather.  She is what the body can become.  She is a beast, often flamboyant and sometimes she just wants to float away.In the midst of rising waters, my heroine is optimistic and transformative.

I trained in printmaking, loved etching and collagraphs.   And my use of collage is using the print detritus of contemporary life.

Why do you do it?

It’s a passion.  It drives me to work every day on something…I find I have to do it.

Collage enables me to work through ideas and make pictures that have multiple associations and levels of interpretations.  I love the physicality of the various materials and papers, and their beguiling surface qualities.

Making work is how I explore my ideas about ways of being in this world.  I communicate my ideas and stories through the making of pictures using diverse materials.

How do you do it?

Sometimes I begin with a feeling or movement that I want the collaged form to express.  Sometimes the emotion I want comes out of experimenting and chance when I combined some odd limbs.  I photograph the collage.  I combine it with drawings or play with it in the digital space layered over photographs of the mighty Clarence.  The picture may become a photocollage, or it might work better as pencil on paper.

View Summerfield’s website here

**Her exhibiti0n, Subject to Flooding ,is at the Brenda May gallery from 7 October to 1 November.