Vanessa Stockard - Artist Statement
I paint from a head full of imagery.
From a lifetime of watching and looking at the world, filing away the small beauties, the absurdities, the injustices, the delicacies and then allowing my subconscious to somehow conjure these similes up in the studio, often years later.
As a teenager I had a couple of cats. One was a Manx, and she was not a nice cat, but I loved her like crazy. Later in life I met a couple more cats, just as diabolical, and similarly I clung onto, and stored away impressions I liked of their silliness, and ridiculous malice.
In my practice, I draw on these saved mirages of cats, and dogs, people, landscapes, art, literature, the natural world and often myself, and seek to pull some of the parts together in a painted work, like an existential Frankenstein.
The technique I use is a combination of brush strokes with the drawn line and is a daily juxtaposition of control and letting go. The idea of being something other inspires my works. Growing up I often felt like an outsider. I went to a girls’ boarding school where there was this perfect blonde brigade, and I was not that. My paintings are based on how I see life. Life is beautiful in so many ways, and yet hard and sad for many people, like the drifters and the outsiders. I often try to soften the pathos and sadness I see in the world by adding some comic relief to my paintings. Otherwise I feel we’d all fall in a hole. Hopefully that way you get the beautiful with a joke on top.
My school was surrounded by three halfway houses, and often on the way to and from the boarding house, the girls were flashed by peculiar people. To me those people never felt threatening, just completely outside the norm. Derek Milkwood is someone like that. He’s a gentle lovely character I paint, based on a guy I used to see in a Sydney park who would hang out naked in the reeds. The idea of being naked in front of people horrifies us as a society, and yet this guy was so far off kilter it was his modus operandi. I never met him or knew his name, so I gave him one because Derek Milkwood just sounded like a wrong name for a real misfit. I love him as a character, and I use his paintings to broach stuff I find unfair, funny or absurd in society. Isobel, my daughter, is my other great inspiration. She is four years old and is a full-on, vibrant, funny little actress. As I said when I was nominated as an Archibald finalist again, she has gifted me unicorn-glitter in a lolly-sweet haze while helping me grow a backbone and the ability to say no. Thanks to motherhood, I grapple daily with the challenge of living the moment, as opposed to wanting to paint the moments Isobel’s joy in life constantly inspire.
Vanessa Stockard was born in 1975 in Sydney and spent her formative years in a small country town in the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. At 12 she returned to Sydney as a boarder at Abbotsleigh. After graduating from the College of Fine Arts (COFA) Sydney in 1998 with a BFA, Stockard launched head first into the avant-garde art scene in the bohemian village of Glebe.
Stockard is one of the most dangerous artists on the Australian, and by extension, international scene. Her ethereal works of art are a window into the soul of a talented and complex artist, one whose legacy is bound to resonate well past her generation. The existential nature of her painting viscerally questions our concepts of social relationships and reality.
Twenty years of introspection and experimentation, ranging over a number of media, have forged Vanessa’s style and vulcanised her craft, enabling her to reveal complex misdemeanours, while simultaneously demanding the viewer’s self-reflection. She deals with isolation and sadness with intimate care and attention.
Vanessa is unhindered by failure, always continuing the discovery of things previously unseen, revealing work that is fresh, unlaboured and penetrating. The deceptive everyday nature of her subject matter belies hidden depths of relationship, feeling and emotion. One could describe her process as absence of thought, a freedom of construct, not unlike the stream of consciousness associated with authors such as Hemmingway and Thomas Wolfe.
If light and shade were students, she would be their master. This skill, combined with a naturally deft hand and a determined use of perspective, imbue her subjects with gravitas. The artist refers to set design elements that often alter and morph as her piece progresses. She has said she feels grounded from her ability to draw from the benign surrounds of familiar life, infusing these images with a meaning that yields a meditative satisfaction.
Stockard’s oeuvre features many pieces developed without any direct visual reference but rather from memory, often incorporating domestic pets such as cats and dogs. Juxtaposing the anthropomorphic nature these animals are given by our society, she infuses the personification of virtue and vice into the everyday canine and feline status quo of our pets. Cats with their fluffy comical exteriors glint with an instinctive urge to kill and cruelly torment their prey, dogs with their providence of happiness, loyalty and friendship are flung back onto Churchill’s menacing metaphor for depression.
The Kafkaesque mindset behind such works is reminiscent of the existentialist authors like Sartre and Camus. Absurdism appears with cake imagery and its relation to a childlike nostalgia for happiness which may never be real, but rather imaginary, unattainable and unachievable. It’s been said “pain is inexhaustible, it’s only people who get exhausted…”
One can never “have it all”, to be both the artist and patron. To intrinsically understand those things around us that others overlook is what we want from our artists, our creatives. They give voice to the profound mystery of the world around us, surrounded as we are with consumerism, pointless greed, deceit and dissatisfaction. There’s no pretension here in these paintings, just spontaneous insight and beauty. Some art is said to speak volumes, but these works are more like innocent and delicate poems, whispering untold truths with an economy of words.
2020 Young Curators, 3:33 Art Projects, Sydney
2018-19 Vanessa Stockard, 3:33 Art Projects, Clayton Utz, Sydney
2019 Enchanted, Van Rensburg Galleries, New York
2019 Vanessa Stockard, AKBelinger Gallery, Inverell
2019 Vanessa Stockard, Van Rensburg Galleries, Hong Kong
2018 Vanessa Stockard, Van Rensburg Galleries, New York
2017 Cold Comforts, curated by Amber Cresswell Bell, Sheffer Gallery
2017 Vanessa Stockard, Van Rensburg Galleries, New York
2016 Vanessa Stockard, AKBelinger Gallery, Inverell
2015 Halcyon, Wadsworth Gallery, Sydney
2015 La Vie en Rose, Art2Muse, Sydney
2014 Shift, Michael Reid, Murrurundi
2014 Textura, Art2Muse, Sydney
2013 Inside, Outside, Charles Hewitt, Sydney
2013 The Garden, Maunsell Wickes, Sydney
2012 Untethered, Maunsell Wickes, Sydney
2012 Tenebrism, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2011 Vanessa Stockard, Artist’s Deli, Bowral
2010 Quiesce, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2009 Siren’s Song, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2009 Taree Regional Gallery, Taree
2007/8/9 Murdoch Collections, Portland, USA
2007 Cork, Portland, USA
1999 Dendy Cinema Sydney
2019 Van Rensburg Galleries, AAF, Hong Kong
2019 Finalist – Moran Portrait Prize
2019 Finalist – Archibald NSW Art Gallery
2019 Derek and Friends, AKBellinger Gallery, Inverell
2018 Cat Show LA, LA
2018 Van Rensburg Galleries, Hong Kong
2018 Van Rensburg Galleries, New York
2018 Finalist – Archibald NSW Art Gallery
2017 Finalist - Portia Geach Portrait Prize
2017 Finalist – Archibald NSW Art Gallery
2016 Equus, Olsen Gallery, Sydney
2016 Birds Gallery, Melbourne
2016 Van Rensburg Galleries, Hong Kong
2016 Van Rensburg Galleries, New York
2015 The Moree Gallery, Moree
2015 Stones, Berrima
2015 Michael Reid, Murrurrundi
2015 Murdoch Collections, Portland, USA
2014 En Fleur, Queen Street Gallery, Woollahra
2014 Space Matters, ION, Kings Street Wharf, Sydney
2014 Autumn show, Bradman Art Gallery Centre, Bowral
2014 Murdoch Collections, Portland, Oregon.
2013 Goulburn Regional Gallery, Goulburn (award, highly commended)
2013 BCAG, Bradman Art gallery Centre, Bowral
2013 Sydney Children's Hospital, (permanent collection)
2013 Something Small, Charles Hewitt, Marrickville
2013 Is it a bird, Is it a plane, Charles Hewitt, Marrickville
2013 Wombat Hollow, Maunsell Wickes and Michael Yabsley, Kangaloon
2012 A Painterly Selection, Artist’s Deli, Bowral
2012 Views and Visions, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2011 Think Big, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2011 Mythos Fine Art, California, USA
2011 Murdoch Collections, Portland, USA
2010 About Flowers, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2010 Something Personal, Charles Hewitt Gallery, Sydney
2009 Don Capon, Sydney Eye Hospital, Sydney
2009 Blank_Space Art Gallery, Sydney
2009 Perlcontemporaryart, Vaucluse, NSW
2008 Taree Art Show, Taree, NSW
2007 Katayama, Portland, USA
2006/7 Guestroom Gallery, Portland, USA
2005 The Art Lounge, Sydney
2005 The Brush Gallery, Wingham, NSW
2005 Kelmans Winery, Hunter Valley, NSW
2003 Walcom Manning Art Prize
2003 Moulton Art Gallery Mona Vale, NSW
2002 Applause Gallery, South Melbourne
1998/9 Woollahra Art Show
1997-2004 Taree Art Exhibition
1997 Seal Rocks Show, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, NSW
2006-2007 Gilding and Carving with Dane Wilson, Master Framer, Katayama, USA
2003-2004 Julian Ashton Art School, (Anatomy and Life drawing)
2002-2003 North Sydney Art School, (Still Life and Landscape Painting)
1999-2001 The Framing School, Sydney, (Conservation and Object Framing)
1995-1999 University of NSW, COFA, BFA (painting)
1994 University of Sydney, Art History