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Arts & Culture

Artist on Artist: Gary Sweeney interviews Jayne Lawrence

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Jayne Lawrence and Gary Sweeney bug out in Lawrence’s studio

Photo: Jason Mandella, License: N/A

Jason Mandella

Wolfgang Laib. 'Pollen from Hazelnut' in the Marron Atrium at The Museum of Modern Art, 2013


I start with something that intrigues me—a figure, an insect, a structural unit. Then I walk away and do something unrelated to the piece at hand. I begin a process of unspecified looking; looking for part of a puzzle that has yet to be conceived. I don’t ever know what I am looking for, but I know it when I find it. Then, it’s back to the studio to see what develops.

It’s so refreshing to see beautiful, highly skilled drawings. Do you think craftsmanship will always find a place in the art world? It doesn’t seem as if students are taking the time to master traditional disciplines anymore.

I don’t know about the art world. It is constantly shifting, looking for the next mode of expression. Craftsmanship takes time. Maybe people are expecting technology to do everything for them. It has taken me 40 years to draw the way I do and it didn’t come easily. As far as students go, I don’t think you can walk into a university without any art experience and four years later expect to be a craftsman.

Is there one artist or piece of artwork that changed the way you look at the world?

Wolfgang Laib’s Pollen from Hazelnut. The piece was situated in a square room. The floor was painted a cool gray and a brilliant, warm yellow pollen field rested on the floor about one foot in from the white gallery walls. As I stood outside the room and took in the vista, I slowed my breathing and just stared at the floor illusion created by the juxtaposition of the two complementary colors; [it] blew me away. The whole floor appeared to float in mid-space, hovering in my visual field like some kind of Technicolor hologram. Placing me, who, remember, was standing outside the room, somehow inside that field. Cool! When I excitedly burst out, “Do you see what those colors are doing?” to a small child standing next to me, she ran screaming for her mother. So much for art education!

You and Leigh Anne Lester had one of the premiere artist-run galleries (Cactus Bra Space) in SA and we miss it. Is there any talk of a rebirth?

Thank you. We had a great run and really enjoyed the whole experience, but no, Cactus, as it was, has run its course.

Is there any stage in your life you’d like to be locked into forever?

(Expletive) NO! That would be awful. I have a perfect love/hate relationship with change. I need it, am grateful for it and find that most of the time it scares the hell out of me. Why would I ever want to give that up?

You don’t seem big on self-promotion. Are you put off by the gallery system?

I haven’t had much success with the gallery system. It’s not that I oppose self-promotion. I am a perfectionist. I work slowly. It has taken me four years to develop this current body of work. Gallery representation means production: produce enough work to keep buyers buying and your dealer interested. I haven’t felt that I could make that kind of commitment. As you can see by my studio, I don’t have that problem anymore, so please pass the word along. I’d love to get this work out there.

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