CAROLINE PHILLIPS

I’ve been a resident of Darebin my whole life. I grew up in Northcote, then after lots of travel I settled a bit further north in Preston – where I lived for 20 years – before moving to Reservoir in 2017. My visual arts practice encompasses sculpture and photography, where I explore embodied objects as a strategy for contemporary feminist aesthetics. These works usually involve recycled and industrial materials, as well as craft materials, handmade into minimalist forms. So I love to scrounge around in recycling depots and op shops, and have huge stashes of materials in my home studio. I’ve exhibited in 10 solo shows and 50 group exhibitions in Australia and Internationally, and attended residencies in Paris, New York and Toronto. I’ve also spent a lot of time on collaborative projects with other artists, in particular on projects that support and advocate for women artists. Currently I am Secretary of the Women’s Art Register, which is a national, artist-run organisation of women artists, and an archive of the documentation of work by over 5000 artists. It is a continual source of inspiration and collaboration, where I work with some amazing women on a range of projects.

What have you been working on during COVID-19?

I was meant to be at two artists residencies in Europe during the first lockdown, and one was to include a solo show, so it was very disappointing not to be able to carry out these plans. I’ve been working at home on developing some new sculptures, and spending time sorting through my own archives and preparing a catalogue of works. I have a work in the current A1 Darebin Art Salon, online until September 4, with Bundoora Homestead. So you can vote for my Iso Portrait, made from a performance photograph, with mixed media collage. I’ve also been fortunate to be exhibiting some work in an exhibition with two of my friends and colleagues, Stephania Leigh and Karryn Argus, called BooBoo. We met through art school, and have shown work together before. We are all concerned with similar ideas in our art practice, although we express them in different ways through our work. This exhibition is on at Assembly Point, in Southbank. It’s a perfect exhibition for these Covid-19 times, as the exhibition is outdoors and covid-safe, with the works in glass vitrines, and open 24/7.

How has COVID-19 affected your practice?

The flip side of having to cancel my travel plans, has meant that Covid-19 has created time to pause and reflect on my practice. In sorting out my ‘stuff’ for my catalogue of works, I have enjoyed revisiting past works and seeing links and transitions in my work that I was not aware of before, or had not had time to really think about. It has also meant my studio is in a state of chaos, with boxes everywhere, but I am enjoying living in that kind of ‘suspended moment’, which seems appropriate in this time of uncertainty and global chaos. Early on in the first lockdown, I was invited to do an interview with George Paton Gallery, providing a further avenue to look back, through the eyes of the present. Now we are in lockdown again, I am continuing to explore new works in my studio. Although this covid-19 pandemic is extremely challenging, and everyone has been affected in different ways, I am fortunate to have a strong community of artist friends and peers, and we have worked hard to support each other to get through this together.

Click here to learn more about Caroline Phillips.

Blobbing 2020, series of 3 sculptures, recycled cotton and rubber, acrylic wool, builder’s twine and octopus strap. Installation view, BooBoo  at Assembly Point, Melbourne 2020.
L-R Blobbing, with Acquiescence 1, by Stephania Leigh. Photograph by Clare Rae.