Meet WWAG's Artist in Residence, Sophie Chauncy!
Mona’s Fiction, Poetry and Experimental Forms Editor, Lauren, caught up with Sophie Chauncy, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery’s current Artist in Residence, to find out about her latest projects and plans.
Tell us a bit about Wagga Wagga Art Gallery Regional Artist Development (RAD) Program. What are the advantages?
The Residency is a four week development program for emerging artists, giving artists the opportunity to work in a spacious studio environment. Whilst there, artists can connect with other gallery staff and have access to the gallery collection. The program also offers mentoring, receiving this professional guidance has been invaluable as a young artist.
Working in such a beautiful space has given me the time to expand my practice and explore mediums and surfaces I otherwise wouldn’t have had the space or time to dedicate to. Having designated time to also explore who I am as an artist and what I want to say has been transforming in my practice. The community engagement from working in a public space has strengthened my ability to communicate and share my ideas with the public. These interactions have been delightful as working from home can often be an isolating experience.
Much of your current work revolves around the Murrumbidgee River. Why is this a special place for you?
Growing up by the Murrumbidgee River, I’ve always been inspired by the beauty and energy of its surrounding bushland and curious about its rich birdlife and the many other critters inhabiting the landscape here. The River is not just a special place for me but I believe a special place to all of the Riverina, life revolves around the dynamic waterflows of our region and the abundance of native plants and animals are dependent on the Murrumbidgee. I wish to simply remind people of our surroundings and encourage the community to nurture our unique environment.
What are you attempting to explore through your art that focuses on the river?
I have always felt dedicated to the conservation of our native species and depicted this through featuring beautiful native birds in almost all my work, however I have decided to use this time to focus on and respond to more specific environmental concerns. I am specifically investigating underwater and wetland species of the Riverina in one of my large mixed media works on paper. I am looking into introduced species (such as carp) and their impact on our delicate ecosystems. One of these works will hopefully appear in the Wagga Museum’s ‘Going Feral’ exhibition in February 2023.
Have you worked with the community to bring this vision to life?
I have regularly interacted with members of the community throughout this experience. Their stories, knowledge and experience of this area, Wagga in particular, has been both insightful and helpful in understanding more site specific environmental concerns to the Wagga region. The connection and collaboration with the art community at the gallery in particular has helped enormously in bringing this project to life.
Which media do you work with primarily?
My most recent work is primarily watercolour, pen and pencil however I do not confine my practice to solely this. The work produced during RAD is multidisciplinary, exploring mixed media on paper, textiles and sound. I initially worked in pen and acrylic to create more traditional nature inspired works on canvas. The Australian bush has been a reoccurring theme in all my work, yet like any artist, the desire to explore and experiment was pushed in my final years of university. It wasn’t until a wonderful uni lecturer introduced me to watercolour and encouraged ‘freeing’ up my style, becoming more loose in my approach. I began layering the freeness of watercolour with detailed imagery of native flora and fauna over the top.
What do you find are the difficulties of working in a rural space? Are there advantages as well?
Living and studying in Sydney for a short time, I quickly realised how competitive the art scene can be there. I’ve since realised working within the rural space is incredibly supportive and encouraging of its local artists. I love the Riverina, and I love working here. Besides the fact it is home, there is also sooooo much inspiration here and I feel really lucky to experience this beautiful landscape and share that through my practice.
Some disadvantages include distance from university art departments and limited access to big galleries and exhibitions in the city. Materials aren’t always easily sourced but we are lucky we can buy online. The only thing is shipping or freight can sometimes make these materials more expensive.
Who are the artists who inspire your work?
I am particularly interested and inspired by other environmentally engaged artists such as John Wolseley, John Olsen and Emily Imeson. I have also long admired the work of local artist Catherine Stewart since she lived down the road from me when I was a little girl living on a farm in Coleambally. I was always in awe of her painting and drawings of native birdlife. Another brilliant local artists work I find super interesting and beautiful is the work of Julia Roach.
Growing up on a farm and later by the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, Darlington Point, artist Sophie Chauncy is inspired by the energy and beauty of the MIA specifically and rural Australian
bushland more broadly. Chauncy studied Fine Arts in Sydney at the National Art School before completing her degree at the University of Wollongong and now regularly exhibits in the area in
which she grew up. In exploring the unique Australian landscape , Chauncy draws attention to the conservation of its
delicate ecosystems, articulated by both gestural and intuitive mark making layered with detailed imagery of native flora and fauna in her most recent works on paper.