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In the Spotlight: An Interview with Aboriginal artist Elizabeth Close

In the Spotlight: An Interview with Aboriginal artist Elizabeth Close

Carbon Creative is proudly Aboriginal. In the last 10 years, Carbon has evolved a lot and this ended up being celebrated with a rebrand for our 10th anniversary. To represent our story in a unique and visual way, we invited Aboriginal artist Elizabeth Close to step into our studio space and transform our main office wall into an inspired and meaningful mural, one that celebrates who we are and connects us all.

We chatted to Elizabeth to find out a bit more on what drives her and her artworks.

Where is your mob from? Did you grow up there?

I’m a Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara woman from the APY Lands in Central Australia. I was born in Adelaide but spent many of my childhood years living in rural and remote Aboriginal communities that are very close to my own.

How did you get involved with art?

I fell into it, I was always creating something. My grandmother taught me to draw, but I really struggled in art classes at school because there were so many constraints. Can you believe, I failed art! Fast forward a decade and I needed some art on the walls of our new house. I couldn’t afford to buy artwork at that time so I just made my own! I got a canvas and some paint and just threw them together but I really loved them and poured my soul into them. My lived experience as an Aboriginal woman gave me the tools to use art as an expression of the sociopolitical discourse with regard to land rights and so forth.

What are the main influences and inspiration for your work? 

Definitely the Central Australian desert! So much vivid colour. I’m completely biased but I really think that it’s the most beautiful place on earth. It’s the place of my ancestors; all the songlines and landscapes make up our Tjukurpa (dreaming, stories, lore) so it’s the source of much of my inspiration.

Can you tell us a bit about the mural artwork that you created for the Carbon Creative studio?

I titled this artwork Inuntji, in my Native Pitjantjatjara language, means ‘growth’ or ‘fresh growth’. Most of the time that relates to plant life, but here, I’ve titled it to reflects the story of Carbon itself. I was tasked with representing Carbon’s story in mural form. Essentially, it moves from left to right, it starts with feathered strokes— illustrating Carbons first steps, but also the evolution of creativity and ideas. But these strokes gather momentum, they grow right angles, they find each other and they come together in a wave of bold lines to form squares within squares; ideas within ideas and they form the building blocks of Carbon as a business and organisation. It celebrates Carbon’s 10th year and evolution from an emerging concept to an established and incredibly dynamic team. Inuntji represents growth, ideas and creativity, collaboration and teamwork; and having spent two full days with the Carbon team; I think this is an apt illustration!

If you got to pick any spot in the world to travel, where would you go?

Anywhere where I can spend time with and learn from other Indigenous cultures. My artwork has gone all over the world and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to First Nations people in a number of countries. We have so much in common! Our connection to land and the world around us seems to be a universal concept for Indigenous peoples; so anywhere where I can learn from other First Nations people.  

What does a typical day look like for you?

It’s busy! I have three small children so it starts by getting them ready for school and Kindy. Then baby Bentji and I go to meetings, paint murals or come home and paint in my studio until it’s time to get the big kids. Then it’s dinner/bath/bed and if I’m lucky I’ll get to spend some more time painting or spend time with my poor neglected husband!

What’s the best advice you ever received? 

You do you. And do it with grace and integrity.

What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

Gosh that’s a super hard one! I’ve got a number of works commissioned by clothing companies and by companies for Reconciliation Action Plans and such; but I think it would have to be my first ever piece of public street art. It was an 80 square metre wall— a huge undertaking. I had to learn how to use a scissor lift (and I’m petrified of heights!!!!) and it held so many firsts (first use of aerosol, first wall, first time using a scaffold and a scissor lift). It came out beautifully and I’ve done probably 20 or more walls since. I love and feel strongly about the importance of public art, particularly as a form of protest. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the original street artists! Some of those cave paintings are tens of thousands of years old!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on some large scale canvas works and have some street art in the works as part of the Adelaide Fringe festival. I’m collaborating with a couple of other International street artists—one from Kenya and one from the UK and we have some amazing things in store!

Which of your artworks would be your favourite? 

Gosh that’s like asking me which of my children I love most!! Over 10 years of professional practice, I’ve painted literally thousands of works, I honestly can’t answer that!