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22 Nov 18

Interview with Rebecca Baumann

Rebecca Baumann’s practice seeks to explore the dynamic between colour and emotion: ‘I think of colour as being emotive in the sense that it has the ability to go beyond conscious thought, to create a heightened sense of feeling in the body.’ The Perth-based artist works in various media including kinetic sculpture, installation and performance.

MECCA is a long-time supporter of the NGV and celebrates each Christmas season by collaborating with an Australian female contemporary artist. MECCA then supports the NGV to acquire a work by the artist. In 2018, Baumann has created a site-specific installation at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.

Please tell us about the work you created for the NGV’s permanent collection, its title and how it was created. What inspired it, how did it evolve and what do you hope viewers will experience?

Rebecca Baumann: The work I created is called Window work (intersections and notations), 2018, which is an immaterial intervention with the architecture of the NGV. With this work I used coloured transparent vinyl on a series of parallel glass windows in the intrafilament spaces on level two of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. The panels of the windows and handrails will visually overlap and interact with each other, creating a choreography of colour which shifts as you change your viewing position and move throughout the different spaces. The work will have a temporal quality, affected by the changing atmospheric conditions of the outside world. Through the interrelationship of colour, light and time, I hope to generate shifts in the viewer’s perception and experience.

In making this immersive colour environment I thought about the ‘lenses’ through which we view the world – how our personal experiences, environment, beliefs, values and so on, affect how we perceive reality. There are many ways to enter and exit the work and many viewing angles and overlapping points of view, all of which talk to the multiplicity of human experience.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to have my work shown on a larger platform, and to collaborate and work with both MECCA and the NGV.

What does it feel like to have a work going into the NGV’s permanent collection?

RB: It’s very exciting and a great honour, and amazing to think that Window work (intersections and notations) may be shown in years to come.

Do you think this is an exciting time for female artists?

RB: I think 2018 has been an exciting time to be a woman as, although there is still a long way to go, it feels like a shift may be happening in regards to the inequity that still exists.

Are there women who inspire your work, or women in general who are inspiring you at the moment?

RB: There are so many amazing artists who inspire me – both practising today, but also who have paved the way. Their work inspires and challenges me to be a better artist, to try to make better work. This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are too many to name here, but artists such as Tauba Auerbach, Pat Brassington, Kirstin Carlin, Petra Cortright, Grace Crowley, Isa Genzken, Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Roni Horn, Ann Veronica Janssens, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Hilma af Klint, Alicja Kwade, Agnes Martin, Sandra Selig, Cindy Sherman, Gemma Smith, Sarah Sze, Tatiana Trouve, Louise Weaver, Justene Williams and Haegue Yang.

How would you describe your artwork style and medium?

RB: My practice spans sculpture, installation and performance, and I often work site-responsively, using colour, light and time in an intervention with space. My materials are sourced from the everyday, commercial and industrial realms, where I repurpose fans, clocks and billboards, subverting their inherent language as a means to talk about the world around us. Often kinetic and ephemeral in nature, my work seeks to affect the audience through experiential, momentary and emotive qualities.

What has been the most fascinating thing you’ve discovered about colour?

RB: There are so many things! I still remember learning the fundamentals of how we see colour – that it isn’t inherent in all objects but is a result of your eye working with your brain to translate light into colour.

What is a typical day in your studio in Perth like?

RB: It’s always different – I might be researching new materials, doing a site visit, drawing.

What drew you to experiential art forms as a practice?

RB: The first experiential work I did was an interactive installation called Confetti international, 2007, which used twelve kilograms of confetti, a fan and conveyor belt. The audience would have to activate the work by placing confetti on the conveyor belt, which would then go to the fan and create ‘the moment’ or a big explosion of colour into the air. I guess though, my interest in experiential forms of art is linked to my interest in the audience. I often think about the ways I can implicate them, or give them an ‘entry point’ into a work, and some strategies I have used include interaction or immersion.

Is there a colour that you’re passionate about at the moment, perhaps a colour that you’re noticing more and more in your everyday?

RB: I always try to be aware and pay attention when I’m out in the world, for both experiences of colour but also experiences of light. I have been capturing ‘Found Light’ events since 2012, which are pictures of fleeting light compositions I see coming through windows at different times of day.

A really memorable experience of colour and light I have is from a few years ago when I was on residency in Finland in the winter of 2016. This involved a phenomena that the Finnish call ‘sininen hetki’, which translates to ‘the blue moment’. It’s a period of twilight in the polar winter when the light creates an immersive and magical experience of intense blue within the snowy landscape, and lasts for about an hour.

How do you like to celebrate the holidays? Do you have a ritual at that time of year?

RB: My rituals for the holiday season revolve around spending time with family and friends, eating a lot of my mum’s potato salad, going to the beach, napping and reading a good book.