QH: Tell us a bit about your art journey. How and when did you decide to become an artist?
ZS: My artistic journey started at a very early age. My earliest memories are of being a 5-year-old, coming home from school, racing up to my bedroom and drawing nonstop. I always knew that I would have a career in being creative.
I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School and was exhibiting my work in the last year, and since then have never stopped. Every job I have had was to support my art, buy materials and get it out there in front of an audience. I can not imagine doing anything else. It really does feel like it is what I am meant to be doing.
QH: How do you describe your art and style?
ZS: I am continually engaging with the natural world. A keen observer, I have an inbuilt desire to express the landscape around me. My objective is to evoke a visual connection, whether it be a sense of place, a feeling or a memory. My work is an accumulation of different thoughts and imagery rather than of a particular place.
My style is abstract; the technique I employ is painting in layers, obscuring and revealing, addition and erasure, just as nature does to survive and thrive.
QH: What kind of mediums do you like to work with and why?
ZS: I have always painted in acrylic, mainly due to its fast drying quality. It allows me to make changes to multiple works at the same time. I’m always moving, reacting and being engaged in the work. Most recently, I have taken to painting on wooden panels. It allows a more robust surface to work on, and I am also now using tools for etching into the surface. I love the more tactile experience and the effects it creates, but it also feels as if I am honouring the landscapes I paint by working on a material from the land.
QH: What are some of your influences and inspirations?
ZS: My main source of inspiration is nature. It could be as simple as a plant’s shadow dancing through dabbled light or the pattern made by bark shedding on a spotted gum eucalyptus tree. I wish to elevate and celebrate the common landscape and acknowledge our connection with it, as well as the relationship above and below the surface.
We live in such a beautiful country, blessed with so many different terrains and botanicals. How could we not be inspired?
QH: We’d love an insight into your creative process. What does a typical day involve for you when making art?
ZS: With two young kids, I am trying my best to be organized (not sure how well I’m doing!). A typical day is getting my son, Jaz and daughter, Jade, off to daycare/school, then racing back to the studio while guzzling a strong large latte!
I will start by working through what painting needs urgent attention, whether for an art prize or an upcoming exhibition. And depending on my mood will either change into my overalls and start painting or jump on the computer to admin. The admin part does take up a fair bit of time, as it can be colour-correcting photographs, social media posts, website updates, working out timelines etc.
I find when the household is asleep, that’s when I get my solid hours of painting in, which could be 10 pm to 2 am. Hence the strong coffee needed in the morning!
Regardless I paint every single day, whether it be for two hours or ten hours. I always have music playing while I paint; Stan Getz and soft jazz are always on high rotation.
QH: What are you working on at the moment?
ZS:I have just finished some new work for Gallery Rayé, and I have some upcoming exhibitions. I am about to start some larger works as entries to various major art prizes, one being the Wynne Prize (Art Gallery of NSW). Once they are finished, I will be working on paintings for a group show in Melbourne next year.
QH: What do you enjoy doing when not creating art?
ZS: When I am not creating art, my family is everything. We spend a lot of time outdoors, whether at the beach foraging and finding special treasures or running around in greenery discovering a creature, butterfly or cicada. Having young children helps my artistic process immeasurably; the freshness of their developing minds and interest in the natural world is an absolute joy to be beside.
Obviously, the last few years have caused many changes, but before that, travelling and immersing myself in different cultures has always been important to me. I never want to stop being a sponge, absorbing as much visual imagery as possible.
QH: Tell us a little about your home and studio space and how it influences your creative process.
In 2009 we purchased a (very) run-down terrace in Sydney. It was built in 1891, and the front part was the local store for the neighbourhood. Once we finished renovating, I was beyond excited to turn this into a gallery space for emerging artists. We have had some great exhibitions here, but the pandemic forced me to change direction, so now I have the best painting studio!
As you can imagine, white walls and high ceilings are what every artist wants. I can paint and reflect on work in a space made for displaying artwork.
It still very much looks like a messy studio space, with brushes, paint jars, and emptying coffee mugs everywhere, so I guess not much has changed since art school.
Discover more of Zoe Sernack’s work at Gallery Rayé, a primarily online boutique art gallery on the Sunshine Coast representing exciting emerging and established Australian contemporary artists. galleryraye.com