Each year, the Artists in Residence Prize presents artists around the world with the opportunity to live and create at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland, during a three-month residency. Over the past 15 years, more than 100 artists from around the globe have taken part in the Artists in Residence program, producing diverse and inspired pieces of work influenced by their time abroad and the history, surroundings and heritage of the area. In 2015, the inaugural Australian sector of the competition was won by contemporary mixed-media artist, Joan Ross.
Joan Ross represents an exciting segment of Australia's creative talent, combining experimental new media with classical artistic disciplines. She works across several mediums, delving into print, painting, sculpture, video animation and installation. Her consistent aesthetic can be recognised by the tell-tale inclusion of fluorescent yellow aspects playfully re-envisioned into 19th century paintings. Her work explores colonial Australia and surrounding complexities still evident in our Australian cultural identity. Winning the 2015 Artists in Residency Prize allowed Joan to further investigate ideals of colonisation and the feelings of connection to land and place, not exclusive to Australia.
Emily. The merging of old and new in your art is really interesting. It seems to really draw on ideals of Australiana, particularly relating to our colonial past... How did you develop this theme in your work?
Joan. I was born in Scotland and brought to Australia as a baby, and have always felt a strong relationship to landscape. Being back here in the highlands, I can see this is not just an Australian affinity, but a general feeling of connection to land. Perhaps it could be in the genes?! I think the best way to communicate with an audience is to bring in elements of contemporary living that everyone can relate to, and I like the tension that this juxtaposition allows.
Emily. I'm sure this is a popular question but, why the fluoro?
Joan. I first saw the 'creep' of Hi Vis after 9/11 when all of the insurance premiums went up and there was a lot of fear manifesting. Workers were made to sign agreements to wear Hi Vis as a condition of their jobs, so not only were police and road workers wearing it, but plumbers and carpenters and all types of workers where the use of Hi Vis work wear wasn’t really that necessary. I also noticed that you could do anything you wanted to the land whilst you were wearing it, without being questioned. I began to use it as a metaphor for Colonisation as I saw it beginning to colonise my environment.
Emily. What has it meant for you as an artist to have been the winner of last year's Artists in Residence competition in terms of your message and the development of your work?
Joan. Winning the Glenfiddich Artist in Residency has been real gift. I’ve just come off the back of 3 solo exhibitions, and have needed some time to regroup and rethink my ideas. I have also been spending time here looking at politics. Particularly in relation to land, to the land clearances and Scotlands Right to Roam policy. So this body of work will open up and expound on the ideas I have already been touching on in Australia, including boundaries and ownership. The landscape here has been intense and spectacular, to say the least. And I’ve just come back from a trip to Skye - I couldn’t recommend it more!
Click here for details on the 2016 Artists in Residence Prize and to enter.