Making a mark in your place
My name is Elizabeth Yanyi Close and I am Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara woman. I am a Contemporary Aboriginal Visual Artist. I have a dynamic multi-disciplinary visual arts practice that speaks to both my own, personal connection to Country, and the concept of connection to place and space more broadly. I work primarily in 2D and have both a studio practice and a large-scale public arts practice.
Grief played a large role in why I became an artist. I have always been creative and spent much time as a small child drawing and painting with my grandmother who was also very creative. But I actually failed art at school in year 8 because I ‘refused to engage with structured art activities’. From then, I didn’t continue with any kind of visual art subjects and really only returned to it when my grandmother passed away when I was 22. I was so overwhelmed with grief at the loss of my strongest connection to my Anangu culture, and I needed to process that grief.
Around 2009 I returned to the thing she and I shared and began to paint to process my profound sadness at her loss. But I soon discovered what a powerful conduit art can be to culture. Giving me an ability to connect with my grandmother through those stories. What started out as a therapeutic tool and a hobby, soon flourished into a part time arts practice, and by 2016 I was ready to step into a full-time arts practice which is where I am today
My work is a bold and vibrant fusion and expression of contemporary Aboriginal Art borne from ancient storytelling. I use a vivid palette to express both my own personal connection to country, and the concept of landscape and connection to place and space more broadly. I work primarily in 2D, but I am constantly innovating, both in my studio practice and within my public arts practice.
The strong Aboriginal women who came before me inspire me. My Kami - my paternal Grandmother who has passed, and my many extended Kami still living and creating up home on Country and Aboriginal woman artists more broadly are central. They work incredibly hard; and it is through their groundbreaking work for decades that has fostered an environment where Aboriginal Art is valued. I am inspired by my Tjamu for his cultural strength and his passing down of Anangu Tjukurpa and cultural knowledge to the next generations.
I am inspired by so many other artists, some of whom I have been lucky enough to work with and learn from, particularly in the public space. It was the experience of creating a 5 storey, 72m long mural with a Sydney based artist named Georgia Hill, that gave me the confidence to know how to approach, design and deliver works on a mammoth scale. It was my previous work with James Cochran aka Jimmy C, that gave me the confidence to fly half way around the world by myself to create a wall with him in France; the first opportunity I got to take my public art practice overseas. The list is absolutely endless and inspiration is everywhere; we need only pause and take notice.
I think artists have many roles. I think we inspire, surprise, and evoke emotion, but fundamentally I believe that the artists' role is to challenge ideas and perceptions; to provoke thought and discussion.
The role of the artist working in the public space is amplified somewhat because it takes place outside of artistic circles that are limited only to those that choose to be there. Public art transcends power dynamics and privilege; It takes art off the walls of the wealthy and out of the galleries and places it unapologetically in the public realm for everyone to enjoy and be challenged by. It tells the story of the community; it challenges ideas and perceptions; it takes bravery on the part of the artist.
I see my role within public art as increasing the visibility of Aboriginal Arts and Culture. Aboriginal Art on large scale both enriches the public space, and more broadly reflects an Australia that I would like to live in- one in which all cultures are valued. This is what drives me to create.
I enjoy creating works that challenge, that have a strong aesthetic and deep meaning. I enjoy the ability to experiment and take risks; even if that means there are works that are disasters; I learn from each and every work that goes wrong and I take that forward into the next one. Without risk there is no evolution. I love that sudden rush of inspiration where I sit bolt upright because I have something new I want to try - writing myself a note at 3am because I know I’ll have forgotten by morning.
One of the things I value most about being an artist is the ability to collaborate with others. Success in establishing an arts practice rarely happens in a vacuum. Elements of it come from relationships with galleries, institutions and organisations, but most importantly it comes from relationships with other artists. Collaboration has been a central tenant of my arts practice; I learn something new every time I work with another artist; be it technique, medium, themes or ideas. Through relationships, comes opportunity.
'The Ripples' - a collaboration by Elizabeth Close and James Cochran aka Jimmy C
Make your mark inspired by Elizabeth Close
- Photographs of your home or school printed
- Tracing paper
- Permanent markers/textas
- Overhead projector (optional)
Take a photo of the front of your school or home. Print this image at least A4 in size. Place a piece of paper over your photograph and trace the outline of the building.
Using pencil first, design a mural for the front of the building that conveys how you feel about this place. Use coloured pencils or textas to enhance your design. Consider what lines, colours, shapes, patterns or images you will use and how together these elements will make a cohesive design.
Take it further - upsize your mural
Place an acetate sheet (clear plastic) over the photograph and outline details of the building using texta. Draw your design from Step 2 onto the acetate.
Before you display the acetate sheets in a well lit window (or backed onto white paper), you can also play with scale by placing your acetate design on an overhead projector, projecting it onto a wall to see how the mural would look - upsized.