Collector’s Corner presents a series of conversations with avid art collectors, searching for the rich stories and ideas that are woven into their incredible (and enviable!) collections. The collectors we chat with show a boundless support of contemporary art, with their ever-growing enthusiasm entwined with the story and artists of Arts Project Australia.
For Collector’s Corner #5 we caught up with artist Sassy Park. Based in Sydney, Park is currently completing a Masters in ceramics at the National Art School, having previously studied painting at Sydney College of the Arts. Between working at various galleries in Australia and overseas before starting her Masters, she eventually found herself at Darren Knight Gallery in Sydney, where she first became acquainted with Arts Project Australia.
Through Darren Knight’s philosophy and approach to art and artists, Park found a great match to her own ideas. Her time at the gallery allowed her to meet and find out about a wide range of art practices and practitioners. Arts Project became one of these areas of interest, with new artists to follow and new artwork to engage with. Nowadays, When she’s not creating or studying, Sassy spends time with her partner Karl and their three children (not to mention the chickens and cats!).
Have a read of our interview with Sassy, where she delves into the intuition behind collecting, how her daughter inspires her practice and why “looking at art is like falling in love.”
We’re curious as to how you first became interested in art? Did you have an art epiphany for instance?
I grew up in a regional town in Queensland, a bit bereft of cultural pursuits, but perhaps that made it all the more exciting to seek out and buy my first artwork at about 16 years of age from the only commercial gallery in town. My parents, unconventionally for the times, encouraged me to go on to art school, although my father warned me about the boys, having briefly been an art student himself in London. From this background I’ve always loved all aspects of art; the making, thinking, looking, curating, collecting, caring for art and advocating for artists.
How would you describe your approach to collecting art? Do you think being an artist yourself influences the pieces you collect?
Collecting art is a compulsive pursuit, like any other form of collecting. However, I have always thought that it is far more enriching buying an artwork than say, a pair of shoes. I still use this judgement when I think of spending on something—what would I rather have? This is much easier now as I’ve taken to wearing Birkenstocks, which leaves even more in the art budget. I am constantly amazed when I walk into people’s houses with barren walls lacking any form of visual stimulus. I suppose I have a need to be surrounded by all the things I love, which includes art. Being an artist maybe makes me more confident about what I think is great and rewarding. I’m also interested in what other artists buy and collect as a reflection and insight into their own work.
What do you love about collecting art and what compels you to collect and keep collecting?
Being surrounded by and living with art keeps me collecting. Obviously this can become problematic with diminishing wall and shelf space. I do rehang and rearrange occasionally, which is like having a mini curatorial project in your own home. Looking at art is like falling in love. When an artwork hits you, there is a rush of excitement and an impulse to keep it near to you. You keep them in your heart and head as well as on the wall. It’s a continuous dialogue. You think about the beauty and the ideas that arise out of the work, the ideas of the artist, what were they thinking about, how did they go about making it.
Generally speaking, which contemporary artist do you most admire and why?
Visiting museums and galleries wherever I go has excited and inspired me, but then I am equally in awe of my own children’s artwork: seeing what comes from their imaginations. I was profoundly impressed when my daughter, Lotte, first started making ceramics at the age of eight; how had she combined the two-dimensional painting with the three-dimensional form? She really started me on my pathway in ceramics. Also, artists that show some vulnerability in their work, or come from a personal place, further interest me. Noel McKenna is one such artist, as well as a friend. I continue to admire and fall for his work: the artist and the work are mutually exclusive but also bound up in one another.
Do you have a memorable art-related experience or moment? Either as an artist or a collector?
After working in galleries, I now really enjoy putting people in touch with pieces that they end up loving and buying. This reinforces my convictions about the meaning and purpose of art as an integral part of life. In recent years, I have had the experience of people responding to my own work. It feels like the tables have turned when I am on the receiving end. It’s a wonderful feeling to receive feedback because as an artist you are embedded in the relationship with the art object. To see them out in the world and having a life of their own is quite strange. Maybe they take a little part of me with them.
What was your first encounter with Arts Project and when did you first start to become interested in artwork by our artists?
I think I first saw Arts Project artists at Peter Fay’s travelling exhibition Home Sweet Home in 2007, as well as encountering the ceramics of Alan Constable. The work was immediately intriguing and compelling to me. Then it was exciting to following up the artists, visiting Melbourne, and seeing Arts Project exhibitions, as well as representation at art fairs and wider group shows. I try and visit when I come to Melbourne and have curated a show in Sydney with Arts Project artists, Lisa Reid and Alan Constable. I’ve always come away from my contact with Arts Project deeply impressed with their philosophy and passion.
Can you talk about the artworks you have collected from Arts Project? Is there a pride of place where they sit or hang?
I like the idea of the mantlepiece as a central focus for the display of objects in the home. This is an area I often arrange with pieces such as Ruth Howard’s Pile or Alan Constable’s cameras. Alan Constable’s cameras work grouped or solo, and I like the connection to ceramics and photography, reflecting my and Karl’s careers. I was thrilled when Karl became enamoured with one of Chris Mason’s ladies, which now sits pride of place on the bookshelf next to the mantlepiece. I also have Lisa Reid’s work TA Adler Contessa 2, a life-size ceramic typewriter and script describing a ‘harrowing disaster at Summer Bay’ from the TV soap. It is a masterpiece but I need a larger area to display it!
If you were to purchase another Arts Project artwork right now, which artist would you look at and why?
I just realised I have collected solely ceramic sculptures from Arts Project artists, which I suppose is unsurprising. I am always interested in what clay can do. More pieces by Lisa Reid and Ruth Howard would be a goal, and I’ve seen some shoes Lisa made which I think are great. I like Ruth Howard’s paintings and Alan Constable’s drawings too. I’ve always enjoyed the strong graphic colours of Julian Martin’s pastel drawings and the immediacy of Boris Cipusev’s pen drawings. I am also drawn to works based on contemporary pop culture, which several of the artists make their subject matter.
And finally, what pearls of wisdom would you give a first-time collector?
Don’t be afraid to go with a gut instinct. It’s worth recognising when something has connected with you, maybe deeply or even superficially, that it is something special. Also buy what you like and what you can afford as this provides the longest enjoyment of an art collection.
This is Arts Project Australia’s fifth edition of Collector’s Corner. Have a read of Collector’s Corner #1 with Clive Scott, Manager of Sofitel Melbourne; Collector’s Corner #2 with Abi Crompton, founder and director of Third Drawer Down; Collector’s Corner #3 with Kim Butterworth and Graham Meadowcroft, publishers of Art Guide Australia; and Collector’s Corner #4 with artist Ricky Swallow. Stay tuned for further editions and feel free to gander through our art collections, as well as find out more about Arts Project Australia’s artists and art.