What makes artists come to Queenstown?
We talked with Jessie Pangas about her experience visiting Queenstown as an artist. Jessie is a printmaker and painter based on the North-West Coast of Tasmania. You can see her captivating studies of built environments and natural spaces here. Her work is typically devoid of human figures but yet replete with the sense of human presence; as if they had momentarily wandered off from shyness.
Q Bank Gallery: What brought you to Queenstown and the Bank Annex, as Q Bank Gallery was formerly called when it was part of LARQ?
Jessie Pangas: It was Raymond [Arnold], the founder of LARQ. I had seen his work and loved it. It felt very ‘Tasmanian’ to me and coming from a real connection to place so when I learned that that place was Queenstown I was fascinated. Being Tasmanian I had made several trips ‘through’ Queenstown growing up and had always recoiled from the rawness of it, shocked by the scars on the land from the mining that has taken place there, particularly in such stark contrast to the beauty and grandeur of the wilderness that surrounded it. It was so uncomfortable.
[pullquote]Being Tasmanian I had made several trips ‘through’ Queenstown growing up and had always recoiled from the rawness of it, shocked by the scars on the land from the mining that has taken place there, particularly in such stark contrast to the beauty and grandeur of the wilderness that surrounded it. [/pullquote] So to go back there as an adult with a different intent was a great education for me. I went with new eyes and I went to stay and I am so glad I did. Now it is one of, if not my favourite, Tasmanian, and artistic destinations – precisely because of the complex intersection of nature, human history and industry, character and artistic community that is nestled there. Now I make the trip at least once a year (more if I can help it) just to steep in it. On these trips, the Q Bank Gallery is always an important and highly anticipated port of call, providing such a grand shelter from the wild west coast weather for the presiding artist in residence. Right smack bang in the middle of the main street, with the opportunity for passers-by to look in, the former Bank is always, it seems to me, a hive of activity, its walls covered in new work every time I go from Lisa Garland’s wonderful black and white large-scale portraits of local resident’s (she is having a solo exhibition at the Devonport Regional Gallery at the moment) to Richard Kenton Webb‘s prolific output of drawings and paintings in yellow ochre made from the very ground of Queenstown itself, to my good friend Ross Byer‘s who lined the walls with 50 drawings during his stay.
Q Bank Gallery: Do you find your artistic style (rather than content) being influenced by your surroundings? And if so, what influence did Queenstown have, and what tips would you give someone doing an artist in residency in Queenstown?
Jessie Pangas: Queenstown has definitely has influenced me, but more in the process of making than medium or method. Being in Queenstown has taught me the importance of ‘being’ in place, physically and not just metaphysically – to walk in it, through it, to engage it every day no matter what the weather. It rains so much in the West you could go days without venturing outside if you were waiting for the sun, but Queenstown is no a place to haul up in your studio. You can do that anywhere. In Queenstown it is the engagement with place, the going out and coming in, the dialogue between place and artistic practice where its value lies and meaning discovered/made.[pullquote]In my home studio the natural environment does not feel so significant, so imposing as in Queenstown[/pullquote]And I have taken this practice away with me from Queenstown too. In my home studio the natural environment does not feel so significant, so imposing as in Queenstown, it is much more domestic but yet I chose to walk out in it every day as part of my artistic practice, not in addition to it but as part of it and even here on the pastoral North West Coast it is in that intersection between place and my studio practice that the true work is done. So that is my answer to the third question too. My tips for anyone doing an artists residence in Queenstown is to bring wet weather gear (your warmest clothes) and good hiking boots and prepared to get wet! Go out every day and walk in the landscape, natural and man-made and engage with the community, the people too who have lived it and have the stories to tell. Every day.
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