Sally West is an international artist who will be exhibiting at Moby’s Resort on Blueys Beach this month on the 25th.
Hi Sally. Your paintings are seen all over the world and are currently showing in Italy, Germany, London, Hong Kong and New York, as well as Sydney and Melbourne. That’s outstanding mileage for an artist. How does it feel for you?
In the ‘90s all I did was paint and travel around the world. I also lived in various places along the way, in particular Italy and Ireland. It was a fantastic experience and I am really glad I did that … It showed me the world is such a small place and helped me to believe that I can exhibit anywhere I want.
I’ve been to all the places I exhibit in and I love them all. I just love to travel and it’s great to have a career which has created an excuse to do just that!
> How well are your paintings received in other countries, and Australia too?
My work is doing really well abroad at the moment … perhaps this is because my work does look so Australian and therefore it’s perceived as exotic in other countries? I’m not really sure.
I’m excited about an upcoming solo exhibition in New York in the next 12-18 months at the Contemporary Art Network. It’s a great honour to be part of such an international gallery in New York. Also, I am involved with an amazing gallery/dealer in Italy, and this has been very rewarding. Their passion and enthusiasm for art makes dealing with them just such a pleasure.
I am also currently showing in a group exhibition in London that opened only last week. It’s my first showing in London, so I’m yet to know how my work is received there, although I’m feeling very positive about it.
> Tell us what inspired you to pick up a paintbrush and what caused you to develop your style?
I grew up in central New South Wales, near Condobolin on a sheep and wheat station. Life was pretty quiet … Just myself, my brother, lots of sheep, dogs, cows and plenty of solitude. My brother and I spent most of our time exploring the land and riding motorbikes and living in a way that was so disconnected from the rest of the world.
I used to draw in the dirt a lot with sticks. I don’t remember having any textas or paints before I started school, not like what my children carry around in their bulging pencil cases! I really got into drawing when I started school. My mother says I became a lot calmer person once I discovered this creative outlet I threw myself into it and I won the Australia Post art prize when I was 7! I think this was the time I thought to myself that this is what I would do forever. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make a living from it one day, as that was unheard of where I came from, but I just knew I would always do it.
> Your artworks make a statement about Australian farming being overtaken by business enterprise. Tell us a bit more about why your art gives farmers a voice?
Most Australians live in the cities these days, but much of our foreign exchange earnings are off the land. I have huge empathy for this great land and what it offers, and our farmers are going through the toughest of times. Eight years of drought combined with the credit crunch has really hit farmers hard. They are our people and we need to give them all the support we can give, and I just hope people see my paintings as my expression of my passion for the land.
> You have raised over $50,000 for various charities. How important is this to you?
I believe in giving back. I’ve been blessed with a very fortunate life. It feels good to give to a charity and know that it will help people who really need it.
> You are based at Blueys Beach … tell us about your lifestyle and how such a beautiful place can impact your art.
I am living my dream, living in a truly beautiful part of the world and walking distance from the beach, something that both my husband and I have always dreamt of. My husband is a surfer and grew up in the inner west of Sydney, so we shared this dream when we met and we will never take our home for granted – it’s way too special.
Our children are so lucky to be growing up in this environment. They have the best of so many worlds, as we travel a lot. They will come to New York with me for my solo show, we take them out to central New South Wales all the time to where I grew up, as my family is still there and they just love it. We ride motorbikes and muster sheep and stuff like that. We also spend a lot of time in Sydney, because my husband’s family and my mother are there. I feel that the beaches and environment of Blueys is constantly inspiring me to paint bigger and better and to seize opportunities that come my way. It’s a quiet place to live and allows your mind to be still and really focus on what the job at hand is.
> How does painting make you feel? Do you think of it as business, or is it more of a spiritual journey for you?
Painting allows me to feel liberated, free, happy … I can’t describe it fully. I go into this strange zone, my husband says my eyes glaze over and it’s hard to distract me once I’m in the zone. When my children were babies they used to sleep in a bassinet in the studio, and it was a beautiful time. I really enjoyed painting with the company of their little souls.
Painting is everything to me; it allows me to lose my anxieties and insecurities. I’m quite sure I would go completely insane if I didn’t have painting in my life. Painting is my passion and I do make money from it, so by definition it is a business, but I don’t think of painting as a business. It’s just something I have to do.
> Why should people attend the show?
As I exhibit regularly overseas, this Sydney showing is a fantastic opportunity for people to view the works in a gallery that is accessible. It’s my second solo show in Sydney this year, which I guess means that I might not show there for a while, but then again … who knows! > Where can people view your works online?
You can view my work at many places online, but the first place you would look would be my website: www.sallywestart.com