A miscellaneous collection of fabric, ceramic, furniture, tableware, and other found objects are altered and melded together to form colorful jewelry and sculpture. In these works by Australian artist Margarita Sampson, opposites attract the organic to the man-made, and it becomes increasingly evident that Margarita’s interest in biological growth, down to a microscopic level, is expressed and brought to life in the microbial colonies she creates in both her jewelry and sculpture.

Margarita’s recent work has produced carved, painted and overwhelmed chairs and couches; they buckle under the weight of extensive growth of nautical, marine life and forms inspired by her childhood beside the sea. Furniture sculptures seem to bend, distort, sag under beneath brightly patterned, upholstered organic growths… perseverance of Life and nature and perseverance of death and decay.

It’s easy to see how Margarita’s vibrant soft sculpture and brooches have become noteworthy in recent times, receiving much acclaim for her Infectious Desires solo show in 2015.  She has also participated in Sydney’s annual Sculpture by the Sea since 1997, from which she has earned many awards and is now excited be be showing two new pieces in the upcoming beautiful.bizarre curated group exhibition Bitter | Sweet at 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace on the Gold Coast from 18 March to 29 April 2017 .

“I’m interested in the idea of colonisation, growth, opportunistic expansion, the organic versus the inorganic, taking over spaces and re-contextualising them. I don’t like to be too specific with the forms in my work, I like them to be suggestive enough of any number of possibilities so that the viewer brings their own story and imagination to the party….then the work starts to resonate, through that conversation. If a work answers it’s own questions it’s dead.” ~ Margarita Sampson

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Read on to learn about Margarita Sampson’s (not) helpful studio mates, her inspirations and process, and of course what she’s working on for Bitter | Sweet. If you wish to receive the collectors preview for the ‘Bitter | Sweet’ exhibition, please contact Gallery Director, Terri Lew terri@19karen.com.au

What are you preparing for beautiful.bizarre’s curated exhibit ‘Bitter | Sweet’? How were you inspired by the show’s theme, and what do you hope viewers will take away from your contribution and the whole show in general?

The work I am making is a two-part piece called ‘Seeker #1 & #2: Somewhere My Love”. I was thinking about the particular emotional flavor of bitter/sweetness, and desire. This led me to thinking about dating/hookup apps, and how through our phones they map the city or space we live in with objects of potential desire moving around us as we move also.  Perhaps the loneliness brings… the vulnerability, hopefulness of posting a listing, and the way we can flick through people as if they are on a supermarket shelf. This all led me to make work, which was two life forms in soft sculpture, quite pumped up and seductive, which are mapping the gallery space by moving around in an apparently random fashion and from time to time encountering each other. It’s the first time I’ve made work which uses basic robotics (we are hacking robo-vacuum cleaners with sensors etc) and I’m very excited.

I hope people who come to the show will be moved by the works, by the sadness and beauty and transience – it’s interesting to have a show curated about an emotional response to the world.

Work for Bitter | Sweet: ‘Seeker #1: ‘Somewhere My Love’

margarita sampson

Work in progress for Bitter | Sweet: ‘Seeker #2 & Seeker #1: ‘Somewhere My Love’

Your work seems to be influenced by, and maybe the study of, biology… especially the branch of ecology. What are your studies related to how organisms interact with their environments… what is the source that causes you to actuate this subject in your artwork?

I grew up immersed in the natural environment on Norfolk Island, no television, most of our time outdoors and I loved watching how things responded to each other- the underwater world is so chaotic and yet hierarchical and ordered. It’s influenced all of my work since because it’s an alien yet familiar way to comment on our own patterns of behavior. I don’t see a human as different from a sea anemone, just an extension of it. I even find calling the things outside of us ‘the natural world’ difficult because it posits a division. If we understood ourselves to be within a giant interdependent system, we wouldn’t be in the ecological disaster we’re currently encountering. It’s heartbreaking. What do you do?

As Meryl Streep said, quoting Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart and turn it into art”.  The real bitter-sweetness is that we have the most astonishingly complex ecosystem and it’s crumbling in front of us and becoming non-functional. I don’t know what to do with that except to try to ‘walk lightly’ on the earth and make some bittersweet art.

margarita sampsonUnsTABLE: Black Masses, 2015

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UnsTABLE: OT (set), 2015

Tell us how it has been working towards this exhibit with beautiful.bizarre in a curatorial role?

The beautiful.bizarre team has been really enthusiastic and courteous curators; they clearly have an absolute passion for the artwork. They are also super-efficient, sometimes to my chagrin when I’m trying to wriggle out of a deadline!

margarita sampson

Florence / Kiss Kiss, 2013

margarita sampson

Boll, 2016

margarita sampson

Anna Nicole (Ca Plane Pour Moi), 2016

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Klaus, 2012

You once lived on Norfolk Island, but you now live in a city. Do you ever miss or want to go back to where you grew up?

Actually I just spent a month on Norfolk over summer. I still have a house there, my partner is from there and our families are there. I love it so much, it’s where my heart rests. I took some city friends home with me this summer and they said ‘ man, it’s like some magical place that’s been kept a secret’. We swam in a school of hundreds of thousands of tiny blue fish. We swam in rock pools and lagoons and saw electric-blue sea-urchins, and sat on clifftops and drank wine & watched the sun go down over the sea. The air is soft and scented of pine-trees and the ocean. The night sky is mind-blowing. The temperature was in the mid-20’s all summer! You should go! (Tell them I sent you & make sure you track down some passion fruit pie while you are there….)

I’m always sad when I leave but it’s too hard to make the art I want to make in such a remote location.

margarita sampson

The Yearning, 2012 Sculpture by the Sea

margarita sampson

The Yearning, 2012 Sculpture by the Sea

margarita sampson

Urchins SXSEA, 1997 Sculpture by the Sea

Your cat is quite involved in your art practice, and could be coming out in the playfulness of your sculpture as well as some of the furrier forms. Tell us more about this little studio helper, and how you think he/she may (or may not) affect your work.

I have two Siamese cats- Audrey Golightly (she has a black diamante collar) and Maceo (named after the Jane’s Addiction song). Siamese are very interested in what you are up to and while I was trying to cut fabric on my hands and knees in the studio yesterday, Audrey was lying on my back and Maceo was sticking his paws where the scissors were cutting.

I have to make them an inviting fabric-nest in the morning or they bother me endlessly. Audrey is on my lap now & woke me up this morning by jamming her paw in my mouth. It’s a surprising way to wake up. They are my spirit companions. I can’t live without animals. We’ve also two chickens, Prudence & Vera, and a back garden full of birds. No one bothers each other.

margarita sampson

Square Becomes Blobby : Coral, 2016 Brooch & studio helper Audrey Golightly

What steps are you taking for the future? Please tell us about your upcoming projects and ideas.

My work for the last 6 years took natural growth systems and applied them to domestic furniture which was falling to it’s knees or becoming overwhelmed. New works are still riffing on this but are beginning to move within a space. I want work that follows you around, or recoils from you – the observer influences the work.

My partner is an electronics engineer, so he’s going back to uni stuff where he is tinkering on motherboards with a soldering iron and working from geeky how-to sites on the net. It’s an interesting fusion of our capabilities.

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Zsa Zsa, 2012

margarita sampson

Pussy Galore, 2012

margarita sampsonBev & Eli, 2014 & Baby Jane, 2014

margarita sampson

Marlon, 2015

margarita sampson

Marlon, 2015

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