For Melbourne-based artist Bobby Clark, abstract art is not just about observing and admiring but about connecting on an emotional level.
Photography: Lilli Waters for Hunter & Folk
Tell us a little about what you're working on at the moment?
I’m working on a number of different projects at the moment including a new body of work with the aim to exhibit later in the year. A collaboration with a Melbourne fashion brand for a not-for-profit cause and two separate big interior projects.
What’s your earliest memory of abstract art?
I think it was ‘Autumn Rhythm’ (number 30) by Jackson Pollock.
How did you respond to it that first time?
I had never seen that kind of art before. The memory is blurred but I do remember that particular painting opening my mind to the thought that art was so much bigger than I thought. I’d grown up around my Grandpa who painted landscapes and portraits, my Gran who loved impressionism and my mum who drew beautiful, hyper-realist pencil portraits - I had never experienced this level of abstract expressionism and it completely blew my mind.
Have you always been creative?
Always. I was never a kid to sit and watch a movie, I had to be ‘doing’ at all times and loved drawing, colouring, dancing and making up games using imagination. My cousin and I used to play for hours with a golf umbrella and a huge sheet on my Gran’s bed pretending we were sailing for weeks on end. We were always creating our own little world from nothing. Fish and chip shops from different leaves, baking cakes with mud…
What is it about abstract art in particular that you find so alluring?
Each person has their own interpretation of what is in front of them. Abstract art has such dividing opinions and can mean one thing to one person and something completely different to another. Your own thoughts are projected onto how you view abstract art. For me abstract art evokes deeper feelings when I am unsure what the piece is depicting.
Why are rich and earthy tones such a constant in your work?
I’ve always been drawn to earthy tones and classic colours, a palette that will transition through different times and genres and isn’t influenced heavily by trends.
Has your work evolved over the years?
Slowly, I feel. I am in a space of change. I feel a pull to mix up my practice, but I also don’t feel quite finished in my exploration of shape composition. I would like to experiment with large scale works and explore different mediums to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Do you think your environment can shape your work as an artist - how has living in Melbourne shaped your work?
My environment is incredibly important to my frame of mind. Being a Taurus, my home and studio space has to be in order or my work doesn’t flow. The same applies to my relationships with the people around me. I like a clear, organised work and personal space. Melbourne has been an incredibly nurturing place for me to develop my work. I found from the very beginning the creative industry in Melbourne was really open and encouraging.
As an artist, what’s one design element you always return to?
Shape and form.
How do ideas for your artwork begin?
Ideas come in so many different forms. I try not to look at other artists work and seek inspiration in fashion, architecture and design. I get the majority of my ideas at night just before I go to sleep or when I am out walking. I usually start with a piece of paper and sketch basic shapes in pencil if I am out and about. If I am working on a private commission, I start big straight away as I prefer to work big and build as I go.
Who inspires you the most?
My sculptor husband Steven (DenHolm). We both work extremely hard and he pushes me personally and professionally. He’s my sounding board for everything and gives it to me straight even if it’s not what I want to hear. His work is incredible. Our studios are next to one another so popping in and seeing him sculpt always gets me out of a creative lull.