Lottie Consalvo

Lottie Consalvo’s practice traverses painting, sculpture, performance, video and photography, mostly within a colour palette of earthy, neutral shades. When Artist Profile met up with her in Issue 44, we wanted to ask about the performative side of being Lottie.

Your education is in business, engineering, gold and silversmithing. How did you end up making art?
It was just a detour. My father is a painter and I was always painting and drawing.

Did you consider going to art school?
I was very pragmatic then. I didn’t think I could make a living from it.

Your colour palette is very earthy and tertiary based …
I get that a lot. I don’t like distractions. I might occasionally start with blue but I always end up with less, paring back and disappearing into black. I also prefer a matte surface. Nothing shiny.

Your clothing and studio are in neutral tones. Even your phone is brown! It reminds me of the work of Abstract Expressionists like Franz Kline. Do you feel an affinity towards them or is it coincidental?
I like that you said coincidental. I don’t feel like an Abstract Expressionist. My work is concept heavy and not so spontaneous. Agnes Martin was considered a Minimalist but she identified as an Abstract Expressionist. My work has a visual and physical dialogue with Abstract Expressionism but conceptually it relates more to Surrealism with dreams and past experiences moving in and out of reality and the imaginary.

Tell me about your performative painting, Ages and Ages, at Heide Museum of Modern Art earlier this year?
That was a performance work. It was made in-situ with no witnesses. Ten large painted panels were installed. I videoed the private performance and now I have this documentation that I haven’t shown to anyone. One day I might. But for the exhibition I didn’t feel the need for anyone to see it or me doing it. They can imagine me doing it.

Were you painting the horizontal line across the panels?
Yes, I situated myself psychologically within a particular memory and painted the white line. I‘ve just completed another video at Nobby’s Beach. I haven’t shown it yet either so I don’t really want to say too much about it. However, instead of preparing it inside the studio and taking it there, I did it on site, so it became a performance work.

A happening?
In a way, because hardly anyone knew I was doing it. The lifeguards knew I was coming at three o’clock. I made the work. There were some witnesses. One stayed for the whole event but for me there isn’t often a need for an audience.

Some artists think that a work isn’t complete without an audience.
For me art-making is no different to growing a garden. I don’t need a witness to validate its existence. The audience is an interesting aspect. I think when it is one-on-one, as in a durational performance, and a person comes in while you are performing, there often is an uncertainty as to what the viewer should be doing and the artist may become aware of this discomfort. Unless the work is about that I don’t think that needs to come into play. My work is not about performance. I don’t see myself as a performance artist. I just make performance-based works.

I’ve seen performances where viewers have intervened and done their own thing.
I’ve had that before. It was the third performance Happiness is an extreme emotion (2011) I had made, and it was a horrendous work in hindsight. It took place in Berlin. I’d made a confessional booth on the side of the road and was dressed entirely in white including my face. People were invited to write on this outfit their most intimate thoughts that they felt they couldn’t share. One of the first people to come in had done something on my face but I couldn’t see it until the end. They had drawn a happy smiley face! The whole time I had this smiley face drawn on me and I had no idea it was there. So, now when I plan a performance I decide what elements I am going to have, what I am going to be using, is there a need for the audience and if there isn’t they are not invited. I think you need to make the rules that allow you to make the work that feels right for you. It was a horrible performance. Don’t put that in [hahaha].

It made you think about how to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Is it because the lack of control changed the intention of the work?
Totally. But at Heide, even though it was a private performance, I had no control over the line that was painted. The line could only be what it was. I couldn’t be concerned with aesthetics or focused on the outcome. It had to be an honest performance that was made in the space. I didn’t reflect on it and that’s a big difference with a performance work and making a painting or sculpture in the studio. I was trying to hold the memory in the present and document it so it existed forever.

Is that memory a secret?
Yes. The curator (Brooke Babington) wanted to know if it was a happy or sad memory. I wondered if that would change the way she wrote about it. It was a moment of complete happiness, a fleeting moment that I only became aware of moments before the ending.

You also make objects. The Heide Show included a piece called The Hug (2018). Are these sculptures more incidental rather than objects in their own right?
Most of my sculptures are documents of an action. The Hug is what remained after hugging a wet plaster-form. I had dreamt of an embrace with a loved one and this work became a remnant of that dream.

I really liked Steer a Steady Ship (2012).
Funny you should pick that one. It’s an early performance and was very personal. I feel I exposed too much with this work. I don’t want people to just think about what initiated the piece because then that will be all it is about. I would do this performance very differently today. I actually still like the work, I would just strip it right back.

I agree you shouldn’t have to explain everything about your work. You might as well just write about it if that is what is important. What about Compartmentalise (2013–14)? That went on for a year.
It was made after I had my first child and was trying to find time to make art. I was overwhelmed by all the stuff we were given. So I reduced our family’s belongings to a minimum in an attempt to find clarity. I needed to get rid of the distractions.

Like your colour palette?
Yes [haha].

And the year-long performance Desires (2015–16)?
It was everything I wanted to do over a year. I worked methodically through the things that I thought would make me happy. Happiness has been the focus of my work for some time.

You must be happy to have a studio so close to where you live?
Yes. It is really important that my studio is close. It’s to trick myself into thinking I’m not working but rather something that just accidentally happens.

Lottie Consalvo | The Aerial View of an Anthem
5 September – 6 October 2019
Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney

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