ARTIST IN RESIDENCE #2 – TAMARA ARMSTRONG
Created around the same premise as our BLA! (Brewing Local Artists) event, the Artist in Residence program is here to help generate exposure for local artists, and to engage and inspire our community with the depth of creative talent that exists here on the Coast.
Tamara Armstrong exhibited at BLA! 2017, also painting live at the event to a swag of admiring on-lookers and fans of her work. We’re proud to once again play host to Tamara’s work for the next few weeks as we feature her as our second ever Artist In Residence.
Tamara’s experience with a brush is as broad as it is colourful; from her days as a high school art teacher, having painted murals in various spots around the country, through to portraits of celebrities for the Archibald Prize and Portia Geach Memorial Award. Art is her paradise and it shows.
Scroll down to check out a little gallery of Tamara’s work.
You can be quoted as saying that painting is your ‘ultimate indulgence, your most treasured form of expression & your idea of paradise’. Has it always been this way for you?
Making art has absolutely always been my idea of paradise. I’ve always been creative and even as a child I enjoyed nothing more than spending time on my own in my bedroom drawing, painting, playing music and creating imaginary little worlds. I would just get lost in drawing or painting for hours and days on end and I couldn’t have been happier – I was that weird, quiet kid! These days I don’t have that luxury, there’s too much ‘adult’ stuff to tend to, so I treasure any time I get to spend alone in my studio.
Do you have a passion outside of your art?
I’m passionate about a lot of things in life, I have a very strong social conscience which just continues to reveal itself the more I devote my time to making art. I’m sure it annoys my friends and family! I advocate for fellow female artists here in this country and believe strongly that the Arts plays a really important role in education.
But second to my painting practice, I’m very passionate about fostering creativity in young people and realised I felt strongly about this when I was a high school art teacher, which was my main gig for 11 years. I now teach a lot of adults who experienced ‘art shame’ as young people and it instantly destroyed their creative confidence. Self-expression is a very liberating practice for young and old and it’s vital to a healthy mind and body.
The bold colours and geometric shapes in your work somehow blend perfectly with the organic shapes in the food, plant life and other subjects you choose to reference. Was this something that took you by surprise?
Thanks for noticing! They are a lot of fun to include and it was something that happened organically through experimenting with layers and drawing inspiration from the design world. I had a bunch of canvasses that I had previously built up layers on and I didn’t feel happy with them, so I started painting over some sections with geometric shapes and blocks and then I add a face or plant or single leaf over the top and liked the way I could add more interest and cover up the areas that weren’t so great. Now I just can’t handle a boring background, the busier the better!
You’ve mentioned that your work often deals with concepts of Self, Place and Empowerment and much of your portraiture work features female subjects. Is that a conscious decision?
Funnily enough when I first got right back into painting I was using reference images of faces from fashion magazines and then painting giant afros on to them, either as one big circle or loads of little circles, which I referred to as the ‘Bubble Afro’ and these were part of my ‘Hairy Ladies’ series. Most of the models were white, but a few were biracial. People kept asking me if they were self-portraits, which I found hysterical because I particularly loved painting from Vogue cover models and couldn’t believe anyone could see a similarity. After the afro phase I started painting these women with no hair at all, I called this the ‘Bold Beauty’ series and I too had shaved my head to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation. I certainly have used my art to explore my own notions of ‘Self’ and how I fit into the world as a very tall, biracial woman of colour myself and after a few years I started to realise that every portrait I painted did resemble me in some small way.
I now only paint portraits of real women I admire.
All of them are creative women of colour and women of substance and the sense of connection that comes from this process is really incredible and always challenges me in my approach to painting and how I see myself and others.
Tell us your experience and opinion of the growing art culture on the Gold Coast …
I first moved to the area nine years ago and found that there were loads of opportunities to experience the local Arts scene, if you actively went looking. A lot of it was underground though. So from the outside, it was hard to spot and many locals wouldn’t have had a clue these scenes existed. In the last few years though, it’s easy to see that the art culture of the coast is totally thriving, it’s suddenly much more visible.
Both the council and local business owners are really embracing the talent of local artists and supporting us in a way that is positive and more importantly, it makes visual art feel valid. In the past two years the Gold Coast City Council has paid me for the use of seven of my botanical artworks that they have had wrapped onto local traffic boxes and electrical cabinets all over the coast. To be paid as an artist and not just asked to donate work for ‘exposure’ is something that is becoming more readily understood by the corporate world. Finally!
Just last month I was approached by Burleigh Stocklands to custom design and paint an exterior wall at their Woolworth’s entry and was paid accordingly for my services, and they will also be getting more local artists in to paint various other walls around the centre in the coming year. To have local shopping centres (and breweries!) supporting artists in this way, says to me that times are definitely changing and the community is really showing a lot of love for urban art.
Now it’s up to the locals to get out there and continue to celebrate it, ask for more and seek new talent!
Zimi Paradise – Tamara Armstrong
Isata & Mariama – Tamara Armstrong
Isata & Mariama – Tamara Armstrong
Find Your Calm – Tamara Armstrong
Each month we’ll feature a new artist, with their work showing at our Taphouse in Burleigh and here online. You’ll be able to interact with them via social media, purchase their work or just stare in admiration at what they’ve created.
If you are interested in purchasing some artwork, you can get in touch with Tamara Armstrong via her website, or if you’re an artist and would like to be a part of BLA! or our Artist in Residence program, send us an email.