The Creative: Visual Artist Clare McFarlane

Published on April 15, 2014
Categories - Blog, Read About, The Creative

Local artist Clare McFarlane came onto our radar a few years ago, through her position as marketing assistant and the fantastic Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at UWA, and also through her gorgeous public art commission in the city. Recently, Clare has been working on another large scale mural as part of FORM’s PUBLIC project, so we thought it high time we featured her today.

Clare McFarlane studio

Official job title: Visual artist / marketing assistant at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.

Tell us about your career background and how you’ve come to where you are now:

I grew up in Kojonup, got into Special Art at Applecross Senior High School, and then went to Curtin Uni and did Fine Art there. I ended with a Masters in Creative Arts, then after a year working in retail I completed a Grad Dip in Applied Cultural Heritage. Meanwhile, I was continuing to paint and exhibit, with a solo show at The Church Gallery after their Manager Alison approached me at my first solo exhibition at The Verge. Eventually I got a position at the Holmes à Court Gallery and worked there until it closed five years later. Somewhere in there I got a studio at Gotham.

By then, The Church Gallery had become Turner Galleries and I was lucky enough to stay in their stable. I got a position at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery as a Collection Assistant but unfortunately could only be kept on as a Marketing Assistant – there is money for marketing but not collection management it would seem.

In 2011 I was asked if I’d be interested in painting a wall as part of a City of Perth initiative to revitalise Perth’s laneways. I did – the one off Hay St Mall – and enjoyed the scale and completely different environment of the work. I have pursued more public art like this and feel that it has fed back positively into my studio work – challenging the way I work and other preconceived ideas of my practice.

Describe your workspace:

I have a corner studio at Gotham Studios in Northbridge, looking over the James and William intersection – it is full of stuff and a bit of a mess.

I also share an office at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. It is also full of stuff and a bit of a mess – not such an interesting view though.

Clare McFarlane form PUBLIC 2

What is the best thing about your job?

Painting is great – painting I love. I think there is possibly no more satisfying a way to make a living than creating something for others. It is a privilege to be able to do so.

In my other job, I have always enjoyed working with art collections and at galleries. The best thing about working where I am know is seeing so many wonderful pieces of art.

Take us through a typical day of your work:

Ignoring the alarm for at least 15 minutes. A slow breakfast with tea, then usually getting into work late. Sitting at a desk mostly working – intersected by getting cups of tea, having people ask me to do stuff (oh the humanity) and going out to get coffee and food. Go home, then maybe yoga, a walk or if I am feeling especially energetic the gym. Then scavenge for food before some telly – this may be at my partner’s place or mine.

If it’s a studio day, then I enjoy an even slower breakfast. I usually try to get some household task done before I go in to the studio where I start by getting a coffee, then I move stuff around a bit, maybe do a bit of thinking, before getting started painting. Usually I try to work until the end of the day when I might meet up with my partner after his work and go for a drink – then back to scavenging for food.

What music do you listen to whilst you work?

I tend to listen to audiobooks when I paint – I have very little time to read and that way I can get through about one book a week! I most often listen to music in my car where the current mix CD contains Lorde, Chvrches, Childish Gambino, Duran Duran, Bloody Beetroots, and Émilie Simon among others.

Clare McFarlane form PUBLIC

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on a wall work for FORM as part of the PUBLIC project. It is very much a short sharp shock, as it usually take me a lot longer to do works of that size. I am also working towards a solo exhibition later this year at Turner Galleries.

What has been your proudest achievement?

I recently won a Percentage for Art Commission for the new State Administration Tribunal offices. It’s the first commission of this size for me so I’m very daunted, but if I am able to complete it all successfully then it will be a great achievement for me. Apart from that, I’m really proud of every solo exhibition I have. There is a huge amount of work that goes into it and they are such a public demonstration of what you do; each one is significant.

Which local artists/musicians/creatives do you admire?

I admire any female artist who has had children and still has an active, vibrant art career. It must take so much hard work and time to balance those two sides of your life. Amazing people! I always aspire to being able to support myself purely through my art practice. It is very hard and it would be so much harder for female artists who have had children. I’d love to say it’s the same for male artists but it is just not.

Any advice for those trying to enter into the creative community in Perth?

The cynical response would be don’t. It is low paid and over supplied already.

Alternatively, I would say that do some kind of arts management as well. I think working in galleries has helped me so much in understanding what a gallery needs from an artist. That is not including the natural networking (which I am still really bad at) and getting to know people that happens when you work in galleries, that is very valuable.

What do you love about Perth?

I love the bird life of Perth – you go to other cities and you never see the sheer variety of bird life. And there are stunning wildflowers in our parks and bush. We just need to stop turning the spaces into ugly housing estates or the like – just stop it people!

Clare McFarlane form PUBLIC 3

What does Perth need?

More public transport, (a rail line to the airport for crying out loud), real cycle paths along side roads (hey, I don’t have a bike but am sick of them being on the road and support it in principle – I’ve been to Amsterdam – it can work!), more trees. A street lined with mature trees is so much better than one without, and that is not including the cooling effect trees and other vegetation has on the local environment. I hate artificial grass – that stuff is evil!

Most frequented coffee spot?

The Tenth State is near Lawrence Wilson and also has an awesome selection of cakes and slices. It is singlehandedly responsible for certain clothes fitting issues.

New Edition on William Street, Northbridge, is a great place near my art studio, They have cakes and they do bagels, yay!

Best live music venue?

I honestly haven’t gone to see much live music – I haven’t been to the new arena that everyone has been so enthusiastic about. I’ve been to the Belvoir Amphitheatre a few times in the last five years. But it is so bloody far away.

Favourite beach?

Generally speaking the ones without people. More specifically, in Perth the one with the O’Connor sculpture and the power station nearby – North Coogee maybe. And Cable Beach, Broome, a stunning beach. But the south coast is festooned with many amazing beaches.

Rottnest or Margaret River?

I used to love going to Rottnest but I haven’t been in ages. These days Margaret River is probably more my style – wineries and forest. I must be getting old. Clare


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