An award winning designer and artist speaks about her playful and dynamic artworks.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi I’m Tess – a multi-faceted artist and designer from New Zealand. I create digital collage prints that touch on the world of surrealism and forge an interplay between dreams and reality.
Characterized by bold colours and pictorial representations, the compositions calmly bend the laws of nature. The energetic works often hint at deeper meanings, unveiled through captions which are paired alongside. Both explosive and playful, my prints aim at inserting magic into the mundane, provoking imagination and providing a brief escape from reality.
What role does creativity play in your life?
Only recently have I become comfortable referring to myself as an artist. I guess I reached a point where I acccepted andcommitted to it. I think my desire to create will always be an important part of my life. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to share my work with the world.
Your artworks are very specific and unique. What was your journey to developing your visual style?
I have always loved collage and started juxtaposing various media and motifs to create something new and exciting when I was young. I relied on collage heavily as a form of therapy during my adolescence to help me recover from a sporting injury that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
Art helped me calm myself and express my emotions as I leant to deal with new physical limitations. Although it’s evolved into something a lot more exciting and exhilarating since then, I still find it meditative – a natural release from the pressures of everyday life.
Which current art world trends are you following? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m driven by emotion; my personal experiences allow me to engage with existing materials and assign new contexts to them. I often draw inspiration from philosophy – particularly Existentialism. I’m captivated by the surrealist movement and artists such as Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. Surrealism is liberating. It’s about freedom and the validation of your own unconscious. It encourages you to use your imagination.
However, I try not to focus too much on found imagery as I find it easy for these influences to emanate in my work subconsciously. A lot of my work is a personal release, my narratives are as much autobiographical as they are about self-discovery.
What inspires you to stay creative and curious? How do you sustain your creativity?
For me, lived experience is conducive to being creative and thus I find inspiration from the world around me. I frequently draw from my own experiences to inform my works.
If I’ve stopped for a while and find it hard to get the rhythm back, returning to nature always helps.
Are you currently working on a new body of work? What technique do you use? What is your favourite technique and why?
Yes, I’m constantly creating! Collage art has always interested me. I think bringing different influences together and making something new is often what the creative act is all about. A lot of what I do is re-purpose old imagery. I like to bring old photographs back to life and re-pack them in a modern, unique and totally different way, blurring the boundaries between fiction and reality. Being able to collect, cut, edit and paste together different images and meanings to create something unique is exciting.
I know you won some pretty amazing awards. Can you tell us about them and how they changed your career?
I’m lucky to have had the experience of living aboard in both Cologne and London. In 2019, I won an international design competition with Pol Roger, Pentland Brands and the Sir Winston Churchill society. This sparked my move to the UK where I was working as a designer until recently. Being overseas has helped me reconceptualise myself and my work, and has influenced the change of themes present in my art.
I am also the recipient of the 2019 AIMES Emerging Talent Arts Award. It’s such an incredible feeling to be recognised within your local community, and one that motivates me daily.
Is creating art your job or a hobby?
I juggle working commercially as a graphic designer and being an artist. I creatively fill the grey area between the two. I enjoy being able to respond to images and see where they take me. Not having an objective when I start a piece is liberating and a nice contrast to my graphic design work.
What would be your advice to artists at the beginning of their journey?
Using the arts to help and inspire young people who have not had the love, support and experience I have had is something I deeply value and find exciting about being involved in the creative industry. It’s not about self-preservation – it’s about sharing, growth and community. My advice to those at the beginning of their journey would be to create and continue creating despite the opinion of others.
What are the challenges you experience as a female artist?
As both an artist and women I’ve always really battled with imposter syndrome. I often lack confidence in myself and feel inferior alongside my peers and more established creatives within the industry. I do think New Zealand is lucky to have some amazing people doing great things that help raise our community.
A wonderful example is Sprit – a beautiful soon-to-be released book of conversations celebrating creative women in New Zealand by friends Jannine Wilkinson and Ann Orman. Projects like this really help, nurture, instil confidence and shine light on female artists.
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
The redistribution of excessive wealth and power to offset extreme poverty and deprivation.
Who is the most important woman in your life and how did she influence you in your journey as an artist or as a woman?
I was introduced to Amanda Betts in 2015 and was immediately inspired by her big heart, wisdom and dedication. Amanda is the founder of HeartSpeak, and is continuously finding different ways to provide workshops, mentoring, and events to raise funds, light and awareness for people from all walks of life. I was so inspired by Amanda’s work, ethos and mission that I volunteered to help in return for her guidance. Amanda encouraged me to pursue my interest in art and start producing work on a larger scale and her mentorship gave me the tools needed to make this a success. She has been paramount in my journey from a high-school art student to a commercial artist, designer and mentor. Amanda has an incredible ability of unlocking the potential of those around her, helping them craft their talents into reputable skills.