Tess Guinery is an artist whose work crosses many mediums. From dancer to designer and most recently writer, Tess’ creative journey is taking her on a beautiful journey of its own.
Photography: Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher
You’re based on the Gold Coast - how has the city moulded your perspective?
I’ve lived here for about four years, and before here, many other lands such as Cape Town, Sydney, Mollymook, Canberra and Phillip Island… with lots of travel in-between. Every city, with its own soul, ways and heart - all carrying different vibes, rhythms and cultures, have moulded and shaped my perspective. The Gold Coast is a place where expression, art and pioneers can be found in every nook and corner. There’s always something beautiful going on. I think being in a city where people are daring to give things a go, collaborate and share ideas is a special kind of place. Living here has definitely shaped my perspective in many areas, but mostly creatively.
Have you always known that the creative world would be the focus of your career?
As far back as I can remember, creativity has been a part of my world. It’s in my blood. My mum, was (and is), the most resourcefully creative woman I know. Growing up, there was never a day we didn’t paint or cook or craft or run wild in glitter or spend afternoons drawing chalk roads for our bikes on footpaths, with the sounds of The Beatles blaring through the windows of our home.
Creativity for me, has become a way of living - it’s in the being, the doing, the dance, the stillness, the mundane, and everything in-between. I believe when we find our core purpose in life, our expression will forever change and grow, yet our core purpose will forever remain. I like to see it all like running water, creativity is fluid - it’s part of all we do.
Is there a creative aesthetic which ties your work together?
My ultimate rhythm, and heartbeat, is to express the love and beauty of my Creator - creatively, I think my aesthetic is heavily influenced by this. My method has always been improvisation, I find it always leads me somewhere surprising and beautiful. In terms of wrapping visual words around my aesthetic, I would say I’m heavily influenced by certain eras such as the 70’s and 90’s, alongside many wondrous memories of my childhood. Oh and I love patterns and colours - all the colours, all the clash with a slice of simple.
Is it easy for you to move from one medium to the next?
I see creativity to be much like water surging in and between all the parts of our lives, the more I adhere to this idea, the more I realise that all mediums are really just tools to express one and the same thing. Moving between say the paint brush, to dance, to poetry and to photography, is all just a way to express. I never feel obliged to one of them, I want to explore them all and feel the freedom to move into different expressions.
I always felt a sense of creative intuitive, this has led me to decipher when a season of something is done and when it’s time to move into the new, creatively. At the moment, rather than being in the paint, I’m finding myself writing more and more and for now, this works and it’s flowing. I love the creative journey, I love the surprise and mystery and playfulness of it all - it feels second nature, the mediums, just tools.
Your early years were spent as a dancer… how do you think this has shaped you into the artist you are today?
Absolutely, dance is movement and so is creativity… it’s full bodied and it moves. Writing is like dancing, as is painting. Dance has shaped so much of how I navigate creativity and life. Dancing is about letting go. It all works together, beautifully. I never related dance to be so strongly connected to everything, but it is! It’s even a way to move through life… a lot happens when you dance.
Tell us about your new project…
Can I respond in prose?
The Moon flower Monologues—
She was written in the shadows,
beneath the blankets of silent nights.
Her words—violet milk.
Her pages—golden tissues, for diamond tears.
The perfumes of her pages fly high,
laying to rest, upon beds of flowers.
Light—sewn into her every syllable,
holding anthems that carry hearts over bitter seas.
She is a scented, dancing whisper,
eyes closed, riding the wind,
her paper hands seeking wisdom’s gift,
whilst trekking naked & thin-skinned—
So, just as a moon flower,
dares to stand and bloom,
growing bright and free,
in the shadows of the moon;
May these gentle pages,
when planted just like seeds,
carry breath to move you (and others),
through the valleys and messy seas—
In the shadows—blooming.
Where did the inspiration first strike for this new project?
The words started to dance at me in the middle of the night when the twins were about four months, mostly whilst I was breastfeeding in the silence of the night.
The Moon Flower Monologues and her words found me in all sorts of places, mostly inconvenient ones. At midnight in the winter feeds, the early summer mornings, during the ‘come up for air’ dusk walks alone, underneath piles of tears while trekking some of life’s more midnight moments, and in amongst conversations that found themselves going way too late into the night, with friends and family and him (my love), over violet coloured milk.
These Milky soliloquies had some things to tell me and my heart was eager to listen - and when the sun’s mercy rose again and again and again, midnight after midnight, the words kept coming, and I wrote and wrote.
Your first book The Apricot Memoirs has been wildly successful - why do you think it resonates with such a wide audience?
Honestly, I never expected anyone to buy even one book when I wrote it, let alone see it travel as far as it has decided to go. It was a soul project, birthed in a very special season of life. Maybe people resonate with the heart of it? Or maybe it’s the French apricot paper and the killer print job?! I’m always shocked when I see orders coming in every week - it’s still baffling.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love my family and that we get to venture life to a rhythm created just for us. I believe we all have a purpose, beautifully and custom designed just for each of us and I have loved the journey of finding the hidden treasures of mine. I love that I get to be creative in the small and the big and I love doing it all with my little family… Caleb, my partner and my three daughters - Peaches, Hopps and June.
What’s in store for the rest of this year creatively?
I try to not plan too far ahead, I find it doesn’t really work for this little family of ours!
Whatever the rest of this year brings, creatively, I know I’ll be writing. For now, I have no plans to write another book, I feel as though my vocabulary needs expansion and more life experience to produce another body of work in the form of writing. I feel I have a lot more growing to do. I want to read more, experience more and play more and see what unfolds. I’m actually most excited to let the current books fly - they have this beautiful way of unfolding adventure - I want to sit back and let it happen, without me forcing my way. I like that.