Dec 15, 2011 12:00AM

Interview: Mark Alsweiler & Jedda-Daisy Culley

Part two of our interview with artists included in the Me Next Please show.

Me Next Please opens tonight, and is a group show exhibiting the work of exciting up-and-coming young Sydney-based artists. Featuring the work of Mike Bennet, Luka Du Chateau, Nathan Lewis, Billy Maynard, Albert Wolski, Jesse Hogan, Mark Alsweiler, Kit Baker and Jedda-Daisy Culley the show spans many artistic mediums and styles, so we decided to get to know a few of the fresh faces a little better. Yesterday we spoke to Baker and Hogan, and today, before the show's opening, we talk to Mark Alsweiler and Jedda-Daisy Culley.

Mark Alsweiler

Tara Rivkin: What art forms do you employ?
Mark Alsweiler: I mostly paint using acrylic on canvas or wood. Lately I've also been making sculptures out of wood ? basically turning figures out of my paintings into 3D representations. It's fun doing something a bit different, and I'll be doing a lot more of that now.

Tell us about the themes you explore through your work.
I like to work around contrast; life and death, old and new, night and day, male and female, and the relationships between those ideas. It's very broad, I know, but that kind of rounds everything up for me.

What do you look to for inspiration?
Since I was young, I've had a love of everything old. I used to want to own a second hand junk shop; I still do one day. A lot of the ideas I have are based around the imagery of yesteryear. I find old books and draw subject matter from those. I especially like imagery from old American-Indian books or imagery from Mexico. Music can also conjure up images in the mind. I constantly have music playing from morning to night, so often ideas are generated from songs too.

Images of skulls seem to be quite prevalent in your work. Is there a reason or is it just an aesthetic interest?
Yeah, I like skulls. I have stopped using them so much now in my newer work. They are an over-used subject. In my older work I basically used imagery out of my head rather than any reference material. This became boring so I wanted more of a challenge to paint things that were more realistic-looking so skulls and birds were it, rather than painting a random human for example. As I said before, life and death is one of the contrasts I like to work with, and the skull came into it there as well.

You're from New Zealand. What made you move from Otago to Sydney? Is there much of an art scene in Otago?
Dunedin is where I went to university; it's a cool little city. Lots of great stuff comes out of Dunedin. There is a good little art scene there. But after uni, I moved to Queenstown which is a nice tourist town, but there wasn't much of the same art I was into happening there. There was a lot of art happening here that I was into... Galleries like Monster Children and China Heights were showing work I was interested in. So I shifted over for a few months one summer and ended up emailing Mark Drew at the Heights for a show. He said yes. I had my first show here and just moved back and forth. I miss New Zealand but I have been here for two years straight now. It seemed natural to move here; more stuff of interest is happening here for me.

How has your work evolved over the years?
My ideas have always come from the same places. Moving to Sydney made me realise the high standard of work here. I've concentrated hard on working on my painting technique. I still have a lot to work on there but it definitely helped being here, being surrounded by more people's work. Also making the transition from working in my bedroom to having a studio has helped so much. Having a place to cut up wood, make a mess and having a place of work to go to each day has been so good.

Jedda-Daisy Culley

Tara Rivkin: What art forms do you use?
Jedda-Daisy Culley: I am less inspired by other art than by practices which break from fine art, or contemporary art discourse, such as color science and tribal craft practices. My most recent work 'Yellow Smoke' is a text-based weave that has 'Yellow Smoke' written across the piece. It's a poetic documentation about pissing in the water.

Tell us about the themes you explore through your work. What captures your interest?
Our surroundings, our lives, burnouts and what it is to be a human in the universe inspires me to create art. You could call it a continued education in cosmology and examining the universe and our place in it; in my art I am trying to make it a unified whole through exploring my day-to-day including hippie hobbies and a communal living environment. I'm exploring a blowout of light and supernatural landscape, like looking out through rose tinted glasses at peace in the universe.

Are there any other artists who inspire you?
Billy Bennm, who is an aboriginal landscape painter. He lives in the desert near Alice Springs.

How did you get into knitting and weaving?
It was a natural progression from making teenage friendship bands.

Has your art evolved over time or do you find you return to similar methods and ideas?
I am totally open to exploring new methods but, yeah, my art making 'philosophy' or 'methodology' is unchanging and similar themes are anchored in my mind. They inspire eternal aesthetics that lead to motifs of low-brow craft-influenced art forms.

Me Next Please opens tonight at the Old Hogarth Gallery (7 Walker Lane, Paddington) from 6:30 – 9:30PM, and will run until December 23.

Tara Rivkin