Chris Carmody

web-images-for-artist-profile3WQ305_23 S3, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 161.5 x 138.5 cm. Collection: Louis Carroll. Courtesy the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney.

TO: What was your earliest intimation that you were going to be an artist?

CC: In Year 5 at school, I had a particularly amazing and creative teacher who presented us with a questionnaire, which among other things asked: ‘what do you want to be’. Many years later, at the end of high school, that same teacher pulled out the DIY post-pac time-capsule he had placed the class’ answers in and I saw before me: ‘I want to be an artist’.
Was there a specific artwork, piece of writing or music, which revealed to you the power that art can have?
In 2013 I had a really great time walking through the Louisiana Museum near Copenhagen in Denmark after seeing Yoko Ono’s Half a Wind retrospective. Also the Issue 143 of October Journal, 2013.

Who were the most important of your teachers?

All of them

Are there aphorisms, are there words of advice you were given which you sometimes bear in mind when you are making a work?

a. Before my father passed away he asked me ‘can you find it in nature?’
b. ‘Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. When we enquire into any subject, the first thing we have to do is to know what books have treated of it. This leads us to look at catalogues, and at the backs of books in libraries.’ — Samuel Johnson (Boswell’s Life of Johnson)
c. Keep Clear
d. Always keep your eye on the ball.

How do objects or found material influence your approach to making art?

Classifying something as ‘found’ requires the acknowledgment of past or continuing purpose or function as well as the origin of the material or object within a framework of the action or experience of the ‘finder’.

For me the influence has two key parts: that the life of the object/material extends beyond my own creative process, and secondly that the moment of ‘finding’ something ignites a relationship with both the ‘thing’ and the potential to re-experience finding something. Both of these qualities can also hinder art making due either to a sense of preciousness or because you do too much finding and not enough making. Essentially, the use of found materials reflexively augments the course of artistic decision making: as the materials prevent any denial that the artist’s decisions are limited by forces beyond their control. Depends what you find though.

Perhaps also, we could point to the apparent necessity of the exploitation of ‘free labour’ or ‘free materials’ at the base level of capitalist production. The ‘Finder-Artist’ seems to disrupt this paradigm, whilst nonetheless contributing to market ‘renewal’ through freebies.

When you make a work, what are the qualities you would like it to evidence?


Who in your estimation are the greatest artists (any field, not just visual arts)? The greatest modern artists? The greatest abstract artists?

The Whole World + Martin Creed = The Whole World

Which Australian artists do you admire and respect the most?

Michael Callaghan, Ruth Waller, Bruce Reynolds, John Brack, Pat and Dick Larter, Clarice Beckett, Charlie Sofo, Fiona Hall

Which artists have influenced you longest and deepest?
My peers: Hannah Bath, Charlie Sofo, Tim Price, Julia Castiglioni Bradshaw, Emma Beer, Dioni Salas-Hammer, Greg Hodge, Bryan Spear, Richard Blackwell, Naomi Xeros, Simon Jenkins.
My Teachers: Patsy Payne, John Pratt, Viv Binns, Peter Maloney, Ruth Waller, Robert Boynes, Tess Horowitz, Heather Burness,
Other Artists: Clarice Beckett, Rosalie Gascoigne, Martin Creed, Rachel Whiteread, Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Pier Bonnard, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, Fiona Hall, Vija Celmins, Kandinsky, Emilia and Ilya Kabakov, Joseph Beuys, Ed Ruscha, Anni and Josef Albers,

What are the qualities you prize in your chosen medium/media?

The materials’ fluidity or dryness; re-usability; fugitivity of colours. When I look for existing fading I also find potential fading. Storage and transport. In short, mutability, pragmatics, conceptual romance, the ‘text’ of the material (in the intertextual sense). Perhaps a pun kick starts a fascination, often this is a level of meaning I have to move beyond.

What are the things that attract you to abstraction? What is it that attracts you to specific objects and how do these two streams intermingle and relate within your own work?

How is it that our sense of ‘drawn away-ness’ (abstraction) exists in a way that we can be ‘drawn into’? haha
I’m not so much trying to get inside, as trying to get outside of abstraction.

My work is about presence and absence. To me, my work sets up a dialogue between the abstract qualities of the faded materials I work with and our knowledge of ‘abstraction proper’, through fields of colour and edges both internal and external to the picture plane. Abstract painting has influenced the way we see, and the way we visualise our world. I have taken on this job of entering faded books into the discourse of abstraction – something which extends both backwards and forwards in time through the way we see and construct the world. Ideas have people, multiple people.

Perhaps the specificity of a found object grounds the concerns of an abstract artwork. That is to say: I am as interested in keeping one foot on the ground; as I am in keeping one foot off the ground.

Where do you find the objects that inform your artwork? Do you collect other objects that sit outside of your art practice?

a. My day to day life, at work, along the way to somewhere, in a place of use and disuse.
b. Yes, sticks for my fire. Books.

How do objects facilitate the visual language within your work? How do found objects coalesce within a composition/arrangement or direct its form and structure?

When something is an object, can its meaning be purely one thing or another?
Art is object, the visual language is within and without the object.
There is a relationship between the books and the paintings as objects, which has been mediated through my sight and hands, with the measured application of lines and edges soft and hard, colours and other things. A canvas is stretched to resemble the proportions of a particular book, at an exact scale. But the painting can only exactly be itself. A struggle ensues.
I have approached source materials in different ways. I will put things side by side, lay them in the light near a window, photograph them, scan them, draw them, frottage from them, measure them, find more of them, talk about them, read them, unwrap them, cover them, shelve them. I process things in multiple ways in order to get to know them.

Do you feel any affinities or connections between your own work and that of say Picasso, Braque or Motherwell? Have they influenced your own practice directly / indirectly?

Picasso, Braque and Motherwell as well as other artists have influenced my work both directly and indirectly, before I even made it. I feel like that is an important point.

Motherwell’s process and stated concepts about abstraction have influenced my work. As with Barnett Newman and Kurt Schwitters.

Who are/were the writers who have been most important to you during your lifetime?

Rebecca Solnit, Adam Geczy, Patrick White, Manning Clark, Hal Foster, Ann Curthoys, Benedetto Croce, Kerouac, Dylan, Swift, Warhol, Motherwell,

What are the most inspiring books about art and artists that you have ever read?
Art & Fear, Wanderlust – Rebecca Solnit, Interaction of Colour – Joseph Albers

Anything else you would like to add?

A punch line, humour is crucial

Download PDF of interview – chris-carmody


Chris Carmody is an emerging Australian artist who lives and works in the Blue Mountains, NSW. Born in 1986, he graduated from the Australian National University with combined Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Visual Arts with First Class Honours in Painting.

Carmody has held six solo exhibitions over the past five years and participated in almost thirty group exhibitions and community projects since 2006. He was awarded the Qantas Foundation Encouragement of Contemporary Art Award (2012), Canberra Contemporary Art Space (CCAS) Emerging Artist Support Scheme (2010) and Honours Painting Studio Endowment Scholarship (2009).

Carmody is inspired by found objects, particularly books stored in libraries with partially faded covers. These objects speak of the accumulative degradation caused by light and the elements over time. In his paintings, these objects and their associations are given renewed life. The visual decay of the book is recorded through a medium and material which equally react to light and air, reflecting notions of entropy, duration, and time.

Updated:  4 November 2016/ Responsible Officer:  DHG Director/ Page Contact:  Drill Hall Gallery