Monday, August 2, 2010

Natasha Willmett

A few flights of stairs is always in order, especially when I'm carrying a kit of cameras. It reminds me of how fit I used to think I was. I play my usual mind game and imagine what sort of person will answer the door. I'm growing accustomed to my disappointments

Natasha greets me warmly and ushers me in.  I'm immediately flooded with a wash of brilliant colours. Once again I sense a strong connection between the artists and her work. Natasha wears her art like a debutante's bouquet. The walls are covered with images that have the same impact as a spring garden on a sunny day and Natasha moves through her garden with ease. There seems only just enough space for the conventional shackles of modern life.

 I find myself being once again reminded of those days long ago when my old man would drag me through the galleries. I would stare in amazement at the paintings on the wall. 'How do they do that?', I would ask. 'It's comes from inside their head' he would reply and we would move on to a Streeton or a Bunny. 'Close your mouth before you swallow a fly' he would add.
I check now to see if my mouth is open.

I literally trip over her studio. The moral here is that if you are distracted at eye level you had better know what's at your feet. Natasha's studio is now at my feet. 'I like sitting on the floor when I work' she comments after noticing my look of surprise. A work in progress rests on an easel. Tubes of paint and brushes are neatly arranged at the perimeter of a blue tarpaulin. 'I decided not to tidy up' she adds. Natasha's perception of 'untidy' is obviously far from mine.

Natasha (she signs her work 'Tash') makes no bones about being at the 'beginnings' of her craft. She always knew she had a creative side, that was somehow denied her by others. Only recently have all the factors come together to fully express that creativity; accepting a challenge and working under pressure has been among those factors.

She's an experimenter, a simple and important ingredient in the creative process. There is a character that runs through all her work; strong, vibrant, colourful, in spite of her experimenting with style and subject. She is her own worst critic, which is not unusual for any artist, but she is not afraid to display her work to herself. There is some nervousness about displaying work to others, but the idea of a complete stranger having one of her paintings in their house pleases her. 'They'll pass my painting every day, see it, and enjoy it' she says and she looks off into a distant place; possibly where we all live sometimes.
I take a stab at her age and miss by a few years. I find age targets are difficult to define. We agree on what is appropriate and move on. The only thing I can divulge here is that out birthdays are 4 days apart. The distance between our birth dates will be revealed only under threat of death.

We discuss the seedy side of art: selling one's work. Natasha is somewhat apologetic about asking for money. 'When I'm famous or dead' is her response when I suggest a higher price for a canvas just sold. Yet she dreams of a time when she can paint for a living. 'Just a dream' she ponders and looks to that distant place again.

She reveals the presence of the 'artists eye', a peculiar developmental obsession that takes possesion of an emerging artist whereby they see everything around them in a new artistic light, where form and colour become part of what they see; where they start to take notice of the world. They see instead of just look. 'How do you transfer that image you 'see' to the canvas?' I ask. 'I start with colours and shapes. I don't always know what the end product will look like. I find commissions difficult because I'm expected to paint towards a final product.'
As I leave I make a mental note to come back in a year or so. I'm interested in seeing where Natasha will take her art. One thing is for sure; her art is firmly imbedded in her persona. You can guarentee that if you have one of Natasha's paintings hanging in your home, she will be no further away than a pleasant thought.

Thanks Natasha.

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