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An interview with Melissa Corbett

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Melissa Corbett, contemporary artist

Interview with Australian contemporary artist – Melissa Corbett

I recently had the pleasure of discussing the inspiration behind the works of fascinating young Australian contemporary artist – living in Spain, Melissa Corbett. Melissa is studying an MA in Arts Practice and Visual Culture at UCLM University in Spain.  Make sure to follow Melissa on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date on her latest work at MelissaCorbettArt.com


Stuart Bush – It is definitely about time I got round to interviewing and inviting other artists to participate in my blog. Thank you for being willing to participate. My first question is, as an Australian artist, how did you end up in Spain? And how has the cultural change affected your art?


Melissa Corbett – Thanks, Stuart! I actually moved to Spain because I wanted to focus on my artist life. In Australia, there were a number of obstacles to making that happen, such as being a full-time environmental activist. 


After COP21 (the annual UN climate conference) in Paris, I travelled south to Spain and fell in love with the country. I had reached a point in my life where I needed to focus on my creativity without distractions and moving to Spain has certainly helped with that. 

Featured image – Melissa Corbett, “Profunda en Rosa” 2018, collage on paper, 300 gsm – 21 x 29cm, Image courtesy of Melissa Corbett

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Melissa Corbett interview

How does a new art work come about?

SB – I think most people who love art want to get to know the artist and what goes on inside their head. When I look at your artwork and online presence, I am impressed by your body of work.  Your clearly passionate about climate change and protesting. If you were given an opportunity to give a TED talk, would you want to draw our attention to the impact we as humans are having on the world? Or would be another subject and why?


MC – Oh no, no I don’t think I would want to give a TED talk! I have a lot to say on different issues, but I really prefer to speak through my writing and my art.


SB – Do you think contemporary art has a vital role in improving our awareness about climate change? 


MC – Yes. In my masters, my artistic focus is on the ecological crisis and its origins in colonialism. The ecological crisis is an all-encompassing one, it’s a civilizational crisis and if we continue to deny and obfuscate the enormity of the destruction of our natural world and systems that we rely on, quite frankly we are doomed. 


Already in my country, we are tasting the fruits of years of environmental degradation, drought and the 6th mass extinction thanks to European colonisation. I’m trying to process what’s going on through my art, not so much to raise awareness but to deal with the death and dying process, to come to a deeper understanding of what is happening in the world. 


Obviously, it’s great if my art provokes people to think. I hope the sharp end of my pencil can take a good jab at our incompetent political and economic leaders too!!! 

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Christian Boltanski, Chance (detail), 2014, Carriageworks, Sydney. Image- Zan Wimberley

Contemporary Artist Interview with Melissa Corbett

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SB – When you think of a successful artist who is the first person that comes to mind and why?


MC – A couple of months ago I was at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and saw the works of Christian Boltanski for the first time. His work was was unnerving and thought-provoking. To me, it doesn’t get much more successful than an impressive folio of works and a retrospective at the Pompidou Centre during one’s lifetime! 


However, I think there are many forms of success. I think sometimes the most successful artists are the ones who just keep working on their art because it’s what they need to do, not necessarily because they are the most publicly lauded or financially successful artists. 


SB – When I look at your artwork, such as, ‘Profunda en Rosa’, a collage on paper, I notice the subdued tones of pinks, reds and many different references. Do the colours and tones give emphasis to a person, a memory or a narrative? 


MC – I like to play with colours. When I make collages it’s like creating an intuitive puzzle. I try to find the pieces that work well together and build forms to make a cohesive composition. There’s not much conscious thought involved in the process, which is something I really enjoy about collage as a medium. 


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SB – Do all the elements in your collages mean something? Or do you see them as a way so you can focus on playing with visual rules and patterns? Or alternatively, is there a hidden meaning or story that you like to keep out of reach? 


MC – No, I don’t consciously work on creating meaning. However, that doesn’t mean that meanings don’t arise from a piece as you work on it. For example “Noticias de Planeta Tierra” clearly is about conflict and loss, the uselessness of war. The pattern in the background is based on the marble behind Michelangelo’s sculpture “La Pieta”, which I think amplifies that meaning. 


SB – How important as a contemporary artist is the visual harmony and subject matter in your work? Are they equally important, or is one more important than the other? Or is there something else that you would like to draw the viewer attention to about your work? 


MC- I think it depends on what I am working on. With some pieces, my concerns are purely aesthetic. However, because I write and draw comics I have a lot more freedom on how I can express myself sometimes. I have tackled everything from social anxiety, philosophy, work, relationships and right now I am working on a comic about the Australian bushfires. 


I’m not the neatest of comic artists and sometimes it’s hard to create something that comes together aesthetically pleasing, but I enjoy the challenge regardless. 

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Contemporary artist interview

Learning how to live as an artist
Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Melissa Corbett, contemporary artist

©Melissa Corbett, “Noticias Desde el Planeta Tierra” (Series: El País) 2018, collage on paper, 300 gsm – 21 x 29cm – Image courtesy of Melissa Corbett

SB – Do you have an obsession, that you would like to explore with your art? 


MC – I guess being into comics and psychedelia makes me a bit strange, but where that will lead to next I have no idea. Fluxus and Art Brut have been newly integrated into my artistic obsessions and I would like to go in a more esoteric direction, eventually. 


SB – Where do you seek to go with your art?


MC – This year I would like to be showing my art publicly more often, plus start selling my art online. If I can do those things plus continue to create new art and work on my masters, I will be very happy with that. 

Contemporary Artist interview with Melissa Corbett

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