Alana Collins

In Issue 42, emerging Hobart artist Alana Collins spoke about the inspirations and processes driving her drawing and installation practice.

I started working with line by accident. During art school I began making abstract pieces with graphite pencils. I wanted to experiment with pencil and see what it was capable of. I rarely planned a drawing, rather I would just let it unfold until a form started to emerge.

Some of my first drawings to come out of this process were very connected to trees. They resembled tree roots, bark or growth lines. As a result, I became more interested in how line manifests in nature, especially repetitive line – such as that which is seen in fungi, gemstones, woodgrains and rock formations.

Around this same time, I attended a 10-day Vipassana meditation course, which impacted my life and art significantly. I experienced greater levels of patience and focus as well as a heightened sense of awareness. The overall improvement in my levels of peace and happiness was palpable. It followed that I wanted my art practice to be meditative in nature, and I wanted to bring people in touch with heightened states of awareness through art. So I started making drawings that were very detailed but also very subtle. To see the drawing in its full detail, you would need to look closely.

My practice is rooted in patience, concentration and repetition. Like meditation it can also be physically demanding – I can only sit for an hour or so before parts of my body become strained. Usually I won’t draw for more than an hour per day and it has to be during daylight as this gives the best light for creating detail. A drawing with a total labour time of six to seven hours will end up taking a week to complete.

I don’t always succeed. Quite often, I will spend days on a piece and then realise that something about it isn’t quite working, or that I’ve made some kind of mistake. So I will put that aside and start again. Even though what I’m doing requires a lot of control, it can be unpredictable as well. The shapes form organically and I don’t always know where they’ll end up. Sometimes I feel like I am going nowhere.

I take inspiration from organic processes as they are often unpredictable and slow. My recent drawings are inspired by agates. I’m fascinated by them because of their psychedelic banding and the way they are formed. Agates are created in layers as cavities in rock are filled, and each is unique to the shape of the original cavity. The patterns are completely internal and I like the idea that they are born from emptiness.

Ultimately my art is about connection with nature. I’m interested in how line tells stories of growth and age. Technology has increased the pace of our lives so much that we have trouble relating to slower systems. In his book, Listening to the Land: Conversations about Nature, Culture and Eros, Jerry Mander said, ‘To really tune in to nature requires great slowness and calm.’

This is important because we need to live harmoniously in this world, and understand that ancient landscapes and life forms have value. If we can’t relate to the rest of the living world, then it becomes easy for us to destroy it. Hopefully my art slows people down a little.

This article was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 42, 2018

EXHIBITION
Alana Collins: A Cloud Floating in the Flower
6 October – 17 November, 2018
Private Projects, Moonah, Tas

 

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