Q & A with Marni Stuart
How would you describe your work?
My surface patterns celebrate the endemic flora of Australia, intermingling it with elements of nostalgia. Images of banksias, the bush and native flora connect deeply with my childhood. To time spent in the bush, camping as a scout, to exploring books about gum-nut fairies, sitting around a campfire, knowing the different types of spiders and snakes, eating bush tucker. My mother is deeply in love with Australiana, our childhood puppets were kookaburras and ring tailed possums, she played Don Spencer on repeat. My grandmother’s home was a green wilderness. A true green thumb, she lived in the garden, it overflowed with an abundance of produce.
Can you give us some insight into your process for creating your artworks?
Each piece starts by hand, using drawing, painting and other mark making techniques to create croquis and motifs, that are scanned into Photoshop or Illustrator and placed into repeat for printing.
My current go-to tool is a large collection of sharpies that I use to build up croquis in my sketchbook. As you can imagine, as a working and studying mother-of-two, my time is very limited and my ability to sit and focus on a painting has disappeared. Now I work when I can, for as long as I can, so I need to use materials that can set up and packed up at a moments notice, that can also travel with me throughout the day.
Within my pieces the shapes are simplified and abstracted, foregrounds and backgrounds are flattened to create single depth of perception. Focal points are often removed, replaced with a repetitive rhythm of bold elements to provide a piece that compliments, but doesn’t direct the form of the garment it sits upon. Colour is harnessed with confidence, with bright contrasting hues thrashing it out of the page. The repeats twist and wind across the print with a detailed level of complexity, blurring the lines between the start and end of each repeat.
Is there a typical day in the studio or is every day different?
My life is made up of many parts, I’m a full time lecturer at Torrens University, a part time PhD student at RMIT, a mother of a 2 year old and a four year old and a surface pattern designer. Which adds up to much more than one week can hold.
So every day is made of up patch worked parts, sometimes teaching classes, which have been online through the year due to COVID, sometimes doing my PhD writing and research, mostly parenting alongside my husband, and in the tiny moments in between, whilst the kids are occupied, I draw.
What inspires you when you are creating your artworks?
The area of native habitat I’m exploring at the moment is the Wallum coastal heathland, ie. the area around the NENSW and SEQ. Here the plants are spindly, flowers are small and hardy. These are a response to the harsh sun, the gusty winds and the drying salt spray. Their flowers are often so small they’re overlooked, but when you give them time, they show show you some pretty spectacular sights. Since exploring this pocket of wildflowers I have been found endless inspiration. My only challenge is finding the time to get it all down.
What would your dream project/collaboration be (apart from working with Consequence of Change!?
Consequence of Change is certainly a dream project. Finding brands that care for the same things you do, is an absolute dream come true. I am so incredibly passionate about ecological conservation, and would love to use my designs to help protect habitats further. My aim within the work follows on from conservationists like Kathleen McArthur who worked tirelessly to raise the public’s awareness and understanding of the real value of Australian native plants. I would love to be able to collaborate with national parks, environmental reserves or preservation societies to document and promote the plants they work so hard to protect.
Who are your favourite artists and why?
My absolute favourites at the moment probably wouldn’t consider themselves artists, wildflower women is probably a more appropriate title. Women like Kathleen McArthur, Vera Scarth, Estelle Thompson, Elizabeth McDonald, Jean Galbraith and Winifred Waddell spent their lives finding, documenting and promoting the Australian endemic plants so that we could all know them better.