Sydney based artist Catriona Pollard works with foraged organic materials to make contemporary sculptural weavings. “My work explores the connection and relationship we have with our environment and the beauty it shares with us,” explains Catriona. “It has been described as emotionally-authentic, uniquely contemporary, raw and visually stunning.”
Catriona owns a PR agency which is her full time job, so she creates her art in the evenings and on weekends. Finding enough time for her art has been a challenge lately in the lead up to her solo exhibition, 11:11, which opened at Sydney Road Gallery a couple of days ago. “I had so little time I got up at sunrise and worked until I needed to go into the office, then came home and worked until late into the evening. It can be really challenging at times, but my art brings me so much joy I just deal with the fatigue!”
Q & A with Catriona Pollard
What path led you to this creative place?
Even though I’ve been drawn towards art, I always felt I couldn’t do art because I can’t draw (even my stick figures are abstract!). A few years ago I got to the point where I was starting to get burnt out by the intense pressure of constantly managing the ups and downs of a running business and the million other things I do.
I did some reassessing and realised I needed to incorporate creativity and art into my life. For me it wasn’t finding balance, it was deeper than that. I needed to find creativity that wasn’t about perfection, but more about exploration and play.
I’ve always been interested in many forms of craft, so I booked into a week-long basketry course. I picked up a vine to weave and was hooked. For me it’s about the combination of nature, imagination and beauty that attracted me to sculptural basketry.
How would you describe yourself in six words?
Grounded, creative, seeking, connected, spiritual, generous.
Where do you find inspiration and motivation?
The type of art I do isn’t about perfection; it’s about exploration and play. For me, it’s about being still, and letting the beauty emerge.
I use materials to tell my stories and they represent every facet of me. I use nature and basketry as a way to connect with people that goes beyond physical beauty, but really touches them in a personal and profound way.
Nature is my inspiration. Growing up in country NSW with summers at the beach and every other school holidays camping and walking through National Parks has resulted in a deep connection with the natural world around me.
As I walk through the bush tracks around Sydney Harbour, inspiration presents itself. I see a fallen tree with the roots exposed, and an idea for a sculpture is illuminated. Or as I wade through the rock pools at Balmoral, the shape of the water against the rocks becomes an idea for a sculpture.
What are the essential items in your workspace?
I can make where ever I am. I’ve have sat on a train from Rome to Florence weaving a basket, on the beach at Byron bay, under a tree in the forest and on a concrete floor in a gallery. The only thing I need is material and my imagination.
I use no tools. (Well very few, maybe seceuters occasionally). That is actually one of the things I love about what I do. It’s very much about the simplicity. I recently spent two days in a friend’s forest in the South Coast and pulled vines down and made sculptures as I collected each vine.
What would be your dream job or collaboration?
I’d love to do some public installations or big ephemeral pieces. I’d really love to teach creativity and sculptural basketry in corporate Australia (or OS) to help them understand the connection between our imagination, hands and nature.
Who or what are your biggest creative influences?
Nature is my main inspiration as this is where I find beauty, peace and energy. For me, the power of natural beauty energises me; it makes my soul sing. The late Virginia Kaiser played a significant role in contemporary Australian basketry. Her works are held in many private and public collections including the Australian National Gallery. Her work was very connected to the landscape around her and I have one piece of her work which I treasure.
What advice do you have for aspiring creatives?
Don’t compare yourself to others. So often we seek validation from others about our work but just keep true to yourself and find the joy in creating not selling.
Find ways to keep creating. In the beginning I decided to enter awards so I had a deadline to make major pieces. When I decided to have my first solo it was because I wanted to have a year of creativity and knew I needed a deadline to work towards.
Listen to your blocks. I kept hearing myself say, I don’t have a studio so I can’t make. That was just an excuse. Now I put drop sheets down on my carpet and make anyway and just deal with the mess.
11:11 Catriona Pollard
Catriona’s exhibition titled 11:11 showcases unique nature based sculptures which explore the synchronicity of now. Beautifully constructed pieces highlight the link between raw foraged organic materials, like vines and seed pods, with earthy materials like base metals including copper, and natural elements like charcoal, clay and ash. They represent the magic of simple moments that can be easily missed in our hectic lives.
Commenting on the exhibition, Catriona explains “As a master number, 11 symbolises the link between human and spirit; darkness and light; scarcity and abundance. Have you ever looked at the clock and noticed the time to be exactly 11:11? For many people it represents a single moment in time that encourages us to pause and reflect even just for a moment, and to focus our attention on our desires rather than our fears.”
The exhibition runs from 26 October to 12 November 2017 at Sydney Road Gallery, Shop 2, 563 Sydney Road, Seaforth, NSW. Gallery hours are Thursday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, and Sunday 9am – 12pm. Read more about artists’ collective Sydney Road Gallery here.