Al Munro and Waratah Lahy answer a few questions to shed a light on their developing collaborative practice formed for the upcoming exhibition ‘In Tandem’.
Have you worked on collaborative projects in the past, and if so what was the process like?
Al: No, I don’t think I have. Truth be told I’m a bit of a control freak, so it will be challenging to not be in control of every aspect of the work produced. Having said that, I really admire Waratah’s work, and we know each other well, so I working with her is an exciting opportunity.
Waratah: This is the first time I’ve ever worked on a collaborative project. I’ve always liked the idea of collaborating and have seen lots of great shared projects, but I’ve never tried anything this deliberate before.
Al Munro, ‘fictitious mineral drawing 4′ 2013, paint marker, glitter, paper – unframed, 14.5 x 14.5cm
You have met up to discuss ‘In Tandem’ already, what has been the result of these meetings? Did you chat about anything interesting beyond the project?
Al: Yes, we spent a lot of time talking about Paris, New York and overseas residencies in general, which was a nice digression. In our first meeting also talked about the connection of our work relating to patterns and grids, and skewing or disturbing these grids as a place to start. When we met earlier this week we spoke about prismatic structures; Wazza had been looking at some of my small ‘Fictitious Mineral‘ works on the Brenda May Gallery web site. She was interested in how I had used crystalline forms to disturb the space of the black shape, and how this reminded her of looking through patterned window panes which is one of the current themes in her work. We decided to use the mineral form as a kind of template and begin a series of painting/drawings/collages which responded to the crystalline fractured forms as a kind of lens. This relates to Waratah’s interest in looking into and through various glass lenses in her paintings and my interest in the role of the scientific lens in visualising the natural world.
Waratah: Al and I have met a few times and all the conversations have been interesting. Mostly we’ve been trying to establish the common ground between our work, which means articulating what we do individually. It’s surprisingly difficult, saying ‘this is what I do’ then trying to shift that to ‘this is what we could do’.
What aspects of or ideas within each other’s practices do you feel either crossover or are in opposition?
Al: Its the lens idea I think that is the point of connection. I don’t really see any opposing factors except Wazza is SUCH a good painter and I feel a little daunted by her technical skill…
Waratah: The hardest thing for me about working with Al is knowing what an incredibly organised artist she is! I see Al’s practice as being very thorough and thought-out, but she is also able to create such interesting images and objects because she’s always doing something – her hands are never still! She brings a wonderful mix of whimsy and intelligence to her work which I really enjoy. Some of the similarities in our work are attention to detail and also an enjoyment of materiality – neither of us is restricted to a particular method of working and that opens up possibilities for exploring different materials and ways of thinking about the work.
Waratah Lahy, ‘Carnavalet 2′ 2012, oil on canvas, 30 x 30cm
How have you been communicating with each other thus far?
Al: We text each other and also see each other at work (at the ANU School of Art).
Waratah: Al and I both work at the ANU School of Art and we’ve tended to meet up in a casual way – we’ve been for coffee and I’ve been to her office. I like it that we both work in the same place, it makes it much easier to keep in touch and to have an idea of what each other’s workload is like, and a couple of times when we’ve discussed ideas I’ve been able to go away and photocopy objects and get boards cut up so we’ve both had some of the same materials at the same time.
Can you give any indications as to what you are planning to create for ‘In Tandem’?
Al: At the moment it looks like it will be a series of small works on plywood which combine my drawn patterns with wazza’s painted scenes – both will be views through a lens into another world…
Waratah: I’m still not entirely sure what we will end up making, but at the moment I’m playing around with the idea of Al’s ‘Crystallography’ brooches, and the way in which they function as kind of lens, or window. I had boards of varying sizes cut to the same proportions as the brooch with the intention of painting on them, but at the moment I’m trying out some drawings and watercolours within the shape. The images I’m working with are all based on the patterns in the stained glass windows at the Musee Carnavalet in Paris.