October 19, 2013I met artist Imogen Joy when we were both volunteering at the Brett Whitley Studio in Sydney in 2000. In 2002 and 2003 we worked together at ArtExpress where we co-curated Art Express at the State Library. Collaborating with her to create what was to become a star exhibition for high school students and teachers was a time of great joy.
Update July 2015: Tell me about where love has intervened in your life?
Love seems to have intervened many times throughout my life, and often when I have been facing a challenge ahead. The last time this happened was perhaps the most profound to date. I’ve always believed that you should never keep a loved one inside a cage. Earlier this year, (2015) we were preparing for a huge phase in my loved one’s life as he prepared to go overseas to qualify as a Helicopter Pilot, a mission that may well take most of the year. Nervous about the time we would spend apart, but delighted at the opportunity that awaited him, we busily prepared for this new phase, only to discover a week before he left, that there was a little tiny symbol of our love growing inside me. Our baby boy will arrive in October this year. Love intervened to ensure that, despite the physical distance, I would have the love of my life with me through this challenging time.
What are you passionate about? Living life to the full, and helping others to do that too. The driving forces which allow me to do this are Art and Capoeira. Art exercises my imagination whilst Capoeira exercises my body and spirit.
What has been a time when you felt joy? To me, it ‘s a sudden burst of happiness … like a crescendo where everything in the soul resonates and sings out loud.
As a child joy was always just there under the surface, whether running through cornfields with my brother or cycling down hills in rural France until I thought the bike would take flight into the sky.
As an adult, it’s really the moments which echo childhood experiences that bring me joy … when the child inside me shines through. Jumping out of a plane last year on my birthday I thought my heart would burst open!
Capoeira brings me a lot of joy as it’s inherently childlike in the way a game is played with another person inside a circle. I love suddenly throwing myself on to my hands and looking at the world the ‘wrong’ way up – the world always looks very different, and joyful, when I am upside down.
How did you start your working life and what path have you taken since? When I finished university I was only certain about one thing – I wanted to see more of the world. I had fallen in love with Spanish culture, was ready for an adventure and went to start a life in Spain as a teacher of English as a foreign language. The intention was not to stay in that career for long but use it as a means to travel and see other cultures.
Circumstances cut the dream short and I found myself quite suddenly in Australia, and uncertain of whether I’d made the right choice. I knew I wanted to work with art. My first job in Sydney was as a graphic designer in a clothing factory where the boss would shout at a different employee every day. Rather than wait my turn I quickly escaped and found myself back teaching. Some exciting but short-lived opportunities came along the way including working for the Brett Whiteley studio, and then Art Express as a curator and resource developer, but teaching was the only sustainable form of employment, so I decided to embrace it for a while.
Still I ached for a more creative career and in 2005 completed my Master of Art where I relished having time and studio space to pursue my work and explore ideas through drawing and printmaking. More than ever I wanted to make my living from art, but this still didn’t happen. My work was shown in some galleries and I won a couple of art prizes, yet after graduating I needed to look after myself and survive financially. Being an artist, although my dream, couldn’t pay the rent (especially Sydney rent!). Recently I have moved into curriculum development. I give myself one dedicated creative day a week where I draw and paint from my home studio, and that day is exquisitely precious to me.
What is the best career lesson you have learnt along the way? Realising that being an Artist isn’t simply a career label that you put on yourself. I used to struggle saying “I am an Artist” to people in the past, but now I know that is first and foremost who I am. I love the freedom of doing my own work, but I also think art is a tool for living and should be used in many ways to enrich and transform lives, not just for your own gain.
What was the starting point for your most recent art work? Earlier this year I underwent two operations after my appendix perforated and I lost part of my colon as a result. Strangely, out of medical trauma came a flood of colour. My work has always been quite monochromatic but I am now working on a series of mixed media images with watercolour and ink, using symbols of the hospital experience interspersed with more familiar symbols from my childhood such as deckchairs and the pebbles from my beloved Brighton beach (UK), where I grew up.
What’s been your best decision? Letting true love in – letting someone love me for the “me-ness” of me, not simply a pale version of me.
Who inspires you? That’s an easy one … my mum. She has an incredible inner strength, humility, determination and discipline. She is also (although she’ll deny every last scrap) a very talented artist and poet. Despite our geographical separation (Mum lives in France) she describes us as being connected by an ‘invisible thread’, which I love. I feel it tug gently every time we speak.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? My maternal Grandfather, to find out what it was like being a messenger between the trenches as a seventeen-year-old boy during the First World War. Living through something so horrific which shakes collective conscience in that way must really colour the way you view life, and that would have been an interesting conversation to have with him.
What do you still want to achieve? I love projects. I want to get involved in creative projects (maybe overseas) where I can help others who truly need it, through art or capoeira or teaching. I also dream about collaborations with set designers and animators as I love creating ‘worlds’. Another dream is to publish an illustrated book, called “Sophie, Saturn and the Seahorse” which I’ve been working on for some time.
What are you reading? ‘The Game’ by A.S Byatt
Anything else? A quick word on the surname Joy. This belonged to my dear stepfather PJ. When Mum took the name I had to share it with her. It felt right. PJ was a beautiful soul and their union brought a lot of joy into my life, quite literally. As a gesture I adopted the surname, in all but legal documents, and feel very privileged to attempt to emulate this name through the way I live life.