Monique Lovering spent over two decades in the design industry as a graphic designer before she began to explore painting. Now based in Sydney, Australia, her gorgeous, colorful paintings demand the viewer–and her–to slow down and embrace the process of viewing and making, respectively.
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in the UK. Formative years spent in New Zealand before travelling to Australia to study at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane. I majored in Graphic Design and spent over 25 years in the design industry. My work took me to the UK and it was then that I started to explore painting and drawing in between working as a Freelance Art Director.
Italy was my inspiration, I went there whenever possible to learn more about the language and art history. My passion had become painting and all that I could experience to enrich my own practice as a painter. Eventually I landed in Sicily by default. A friend in Florence had recommended that i visit and so I did, spending a month there initially. Palermo was my base and this city and its energy intrigued me. The tension, the push and pull of everyday life and the history of invasion of this small island adrift in the Mediterranean. My studio was set up in my apartment there in the old part of the city. It was a magical beginning, being there in a Palazzo which had been subdivided into allotted spaces. Ramshackle and divine.
After 2 years in Palermo I decided to head back to New Zealand and Australia, at the time of the financial crisis in Europe and globally. I have been in Sydney now for 8 years, and in this time established myself as an artist and art therapist. My practice is my life, whether working with children or alone in my space, connected to my work. Making art is my lifeline and the connection to self is what interests me, in turn the universal connection with the viewer.
Working with children who have diverse challenges is so wonderful, just to hold a space for them to be themselves and to explore their potential is a gift.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
Art has always been a part of my life. Ever since I remember I was making things at home, sewing, painting and drawing… it’s always been part of my being. At the age of 13 I discovered Art History. Falling in love with the Renaissance period was the beginning of my love affair with Italian art.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I love my studio space as it is in a garden and I enjoy the silence and bird life. Pitched at the end of a street, it is a quick walk to to beach. It is in this space that I can be alone and utilize the space to my own needs, whether that be working on the floor or the walls.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am exploring – THE IDEA OF ‘SLOWING DOWN’ – the process. My paintings are landscapes of emotion. I work intuitively on several paintings at the same time, so each time I go into the studio I sit for some time looking at the work before responding to the surfaces.
I am interested in the ‘latent time’ in painting, what happens over a time span before the painting decides it is completed. The recall of memory and the sense of impermanence in life, filtering through my work. I want to ‘slow down’ the process of painting, giving space to the process. Because so much in the digital world is about speed, I want to slow the experience of seeing and allow the eye of the viewer to explore and revisit the work as if seeing it for the first time.
At some point during this process I will ask of the painting – where does it go now? If I cannot go anywhere with it then it’s finished. I want to make work specific to painting that cannot be made by any other media – the sense of something being authentic to painting.
What is your process like?
Initially I begin with pencil, graphite and charcoal and by doing this I am drawing the emotional response to a memory of the past. Sometimes I close my eyes and enter my inner world and allow the material to take flight without any judgment, purely allowing the unconscious to express itself. I feel that this process allows me to work a lot deeper. Then I will introduce paint, first beginning with transparent layers and then building to denser strokes or marks made with my fingers.
This building of layers can happen over many weeks or days. Then there are the days when I sit with the work observing the surfaces, the push and pull sensations, what draws me in and then pushes me away. I aim to leave the painting where there is something suggested, hinted at in the motion of marks. There is an element of openness and transparency in the making, seducing the viewer to look further, challenging their perception.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Purging. I recall dumping lots of canvases in a bin in Florence. It was strange to throw away work, yet this opened me up to do more work and better work. It was impulsive and so freeing…………
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
Art Therapy. I work with children with diverse issues that challenge their way of being in the world. This work feeds my humanity, nourishes my spirit and flows into my practice. It’s wonderful to explore perception and symbols and meaning.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Many friends are my mentors, the advice I have always referred to is – ‘be true to yourself and work with integrity.’
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
‘Follow your bliss’ – Joseph Campbell
Listen to your inner world, step by step take action towards that which gives you vitality and unexplained fizzy moments. It may not be be easy at times, there are always challenges, they are part of the evolution process. Have faith and believe daily.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Community is a reflection of humanity, when you find it hold on tight and nourish all aspects. It means shared experiences, collaborations and compassion for all of life’s up and downs.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
When I arrive I usually spend the first 40 mins or so looking around at what was left from the previous visit. Then I decide what to do for the day or the next few hours depending on time. I meditate to bring myself into the space and be as present as I can possibly be for the moment. So I am open for the process and can work more intuitively… Then I brew a cuppa and put the music on and start by reflecting…
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I went to art school many years ago, graduated as a Graphic Designer and spent almost 25 years in the industry. Certainly there have been many influences along the way that led me to explore painting. Over the years I read a lot, drew and developed a very keen eye for detail. Art school itself was influential on many levels, and the experiences I had to explore life drawing, and seeing as much art as I could wherever I was living.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The disjointed phases, the awkward experiences. The failures and the successes. Not allowing the outer world to overshadow my inner world. When things seem to be challenging, the courage to always surrender and go back to the work. To start again.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
Oddly, to know that my work is specific to me.
What are you working on right now?
Body of work for an exhibit in Berlin.