Monday, June 11, 2012

out of africa: vanessa reynolds

In The Scout this week, I talk with artist Vanessa Reynolds from Newcastle, Australia. Her art is a reflection of her work as a humanitarian in Africa. I met her when she took a couple of my classes. Its not always easy to get to know all of your students, so when she invited me to her art exhibition I was truly disappointed that I couldn't make it. She showed me her art anyway and it is incredible. I bought one. And I'm waiting for more...

Vanessa, what are you doing with yourself right now?

I'm currently in my last year of a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Poverty and Development Studies, Visual Arts and Communication. 

But I'm also working with Kisaru Entito Project. It's a garden project in Maasailand, Kenya designed to assist the Maasai people to have healthy dietary options, to live longer and stronger by helping them not only be self-sufficient but being able to have a small industry to support their families.  It is also about raising awareness of issues such as HIV and AIDS. 

 I am working as support and help with fundraising ideas, networking with appropriate Government Departments as well as providing culturally sensitive insight in the setting up of a school and rescue home. I also participate in Amnesty International local action group. Any spare moment these days is spent painting and exploring art. 

Tell me about your art?

Future Reflection/acrylic on canvas
There is something so exciting and refreshing about creating art. I am inspired by things I see, life events and my own identity. I see many parallels between life and art, both of which are processes to be embraced and lessons to be learned. No experience in life and no brush mark are without a purpose in the big picture. The last few years I have been inspired by African art. I've also been working with stylized, abstract, fauve and pop art ideas. 

I enjoy working with oil and acrylic paint, mixed media and collage. I especially love painting with a pallet knife, as the end result can’t always be controlled, but provides interesting textures and a decorative surface. Being a florist I am also inspired by flowers and the beauty of nature. My art has a conceptual basis too – my recent exhibition was based on issues of poverty, the conditions of childbirth, importance of education and the impact of globalization for people living in developing countries. My love for travel, culture, adventure and art now have a way to inspire each other.

Tell me a little about the experience in Africa that inspired these works.

After living and working in Kenya for a year as a volunteer, my life was impacted in many ways as I began to see the world through new eyes. I worked as an assistant girls dean at a boarding school and took every opportunity I could to go on outreach trips to orphanages, the Kibera slums and to deliver water to Maasai villages during the months of drought. I came home determined not to forget things that I had experienced and wanted to give a voice to the suffering that often goes unnoticed. My passion for advocacy is now influencing my art. I want to provide opportunities for voices of poverty to be heard as well as the joys and positive things that are happening in developing countries.

Kibera Track/acrylic on canvas

Where have been exhibiting?

My first exhibition was held earlier this year at Ground Up, a gallery Café in Carrington, just outside of Newcastle.
My aim is to have my art hanging in public spaces to raise awareness of the need for protection of human rights and share the importance of empowerment in reducing levels of poverty around the world. 

What's next?

In the future I would love to be able to study art therapy for use when working with refugees and asylum seekers. Art is a powerful tool of expression and therapy. No matter what culture we belong to, art is a form of communication used where verbal communication is not always a possibility.  I hope to be something of a leader in raising awareness of human rights issues, with a passion for being out there amongst it the action. I want to be hands-on helping those who are underprivileged and exploited.

How can we find your art? 

Family Portrait/
acrylic and mixed
media on board
There are still some pieces hanging at Ground Up Espresso which is at 87 Young Street, Carrington (Newcastle). Open 7am-3pm weekdays and 8am-3pm weekends.

And I have a facebook page called Nomadic Art and a blog - Nomadic ArtyNess.

Thanks Vanessa - a talented artist, ready to get more than paint on her hands.
- the Scout. x

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