Artist Spotlight #43: Nancy Downes


Nancy Downes

This year’s SALA in the Square was the perfect location to showcase Nancy Downes’ bold and remarkable artwork. A popular area amongst tourists and locals on their lunch break, this installation would have undoubtedly brightened up their day in an otherwise gloomy and wintry August. In our latest spotlight, Nancy tells us about her future exhibitions and the experiences that inspire her work.

Q: Hello Nancy! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

A: I’m an emerging visual artist specialising in sculpture and installation. I grew up in both Melbourne and Byron Bay, and began my art studies in Sydney originally, but have lived in Adelaide for 13 years now.

This year I’ve been busy discovering the beauty and possibilities of collaboration with Lucy Turnbull (now in New York) and have been involved in three collaborative exhibitions with her. I’ve also been busy planning for next year, with shows interstate and a residency in Japan. It’s all very exciting.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-2-46-52-pmNancy and Lucy Turnbull’s collaborative work at SALA in the Square

Q: Who inspires you? What inspires your art?

A: My art is inspired by phenomena experienced by humans, or perhaps ‘limited’ experiences, but those which play out in quite ordinary settings or with ordinary objects. I’m really interested in how such experiences, combined with other experiential factors that are involved in coming into ones own self, form the layers of a person. They could also be seen as lenses through which people filter experiences.

Q: Do you have a preferred medium?

A: I originally studied painting, but could never contain things to one canvas. Installation seems a much better fit.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-3-06-35-pmPoint of Navigation

Q: How would you describe your style?

A: Hmm. My son describes my personal style as Vintage Goth, which I think is hilarious. Otherwise, I could tentatively speculate that it falls in with New Materialism and contains some conventions of the Gothic, with dense blacks and contemplations on the corporeal.

Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: from lingering idea to putting it into practice?

A: Often my ideas will emerge as shapes or parts of shapes after some deep introspection and/or research of some kind; often when I’m thinking about how something feels, or must feel (affect) some play on words, objects or occurrences comes to mind and things move from there. Next, I try to work from the viewer’s perspective, and work out how to engage their senses, rather than be explicit about my meaning. I’m just attempting to offer a set of circumstances in which the viewer may experience something, or notice something that is aligned with the affect I’m focusing on. This is why I often produce installations (to stimulate an embodied consumption of the work).

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-3-06-45-pmPresent Absent

Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?

A: So far I have been fortunate enough to be offered a few solo shows interstate, in Melbourne, Perth and Canberra, and have been accepted into a residency program in Japan, all for 2017. I hope I’m predominantly in this beloved hometown for the next five years, but with plenty more interstate shows and international residencies.

Q: If you could recommend one artist, who would it be?

A: Basil, aged 12. At 1 he drew elaborate cars, at 3 a perfect elephant, and now windows into the soul.



Q: Where can we find more of your work?

A: Come to SEVENTH Gallery in February for a peek if you can. Otherwise , visit my Facebook page.

Q: If you could choose who sang our new national anthem, who would you pick?

A: Pauline Pantsdown, for a satirical truth-stained shake-up.

– Masya Zabidi

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