Town Hall Gallery has now reopened with a COVID-Safe Plan in place. We are excited to welcome visitors back!

Our final Community Exhibitions for 2020 - ‘Creepy Crawlies’ and ‘Coffee Zombie’ - are currently installed and available to view in person or online. These two concurrent exhibitions employ humour and the bizarre to reveal the comedic in our everyday. We chatted to the exhibiting artists Ian Napier and Suhasini Seelin to learn more about their backgrounds and inspiration. The interview below gives insight into each artist’s unique approach to creating their work. 

Tell us a little about your background and how this led to becoming an artist.

Suhasini Seelin: I’m an actor, performing artist and concept artist. I have acted, directed and performed in live art shows and created concept art.

I wanted to become an actor when I was growing up in India. In India acting it is frowned upon as a profession, financial uncertainty being one of the reasons. So I studied advertising, the closest acceptable creative field. I came to Melbourne to study Film and TV.

I started working in advertising research and slowly branched off into doing theatre. I embraced all kinds of opportunities that presented themselves, leading to performance art and such.

Ian Napier: My first art teacher was John Brack at the tender age of 11-12 years old. Unfortunately it was only for two years as I was destined to become a civil engineer like my uncle.

I then went on to study architecture at RMIT and later the University of Melbourne. I mixed and taught with artists including Anne Montgomery and others. Painting safaris with Rick Amor and Andrew Southgate gave me an introduction into painting techniques. 

What particular themes interest and inspire you as an artist?

Suhasini: I have two broad categories that inspire me, both connected to everyday life in a way. 
The first category includes objects and beings that I see around me; bugs and bees on leaves, spiders weaving webs, ants carrying food, dead insects on the street, birds flying, clouds forming, people walking with their varied pace, curious items at op shops.  Secondly ideas and themes that stem from living life, such as clutter and its effect on our lives, excessive hoarding, waste and recycling, shops, their owners and the act of purchase and sale. Consumerism one could say. ugliness and beauty and the intersection between the two, kind of like yin and yang; waiting for something and what it means, to name a few! 

Ian: Three main themes interest me. The first is people and animals, including some prehistoric varieties. The second is the countryside and farms, influenced by my early childhood. The third is the sea. I sailed my yacht on Port Philip Bay and Gippsland Lakes. I also lived over the Portsea General Store for six months, where I painted, swam and fished on the pier at night.

What is your creative process?

Suhasini: I’m primarily a performer, and my artform involves still and moving image. 
I work with collaborators on photography and editing, while I conceptualise and perform in my work. My daily practice involves physical training and reflection. I try different creative exercises every few days which spurs ideas and takes me into different directions. 

Every so often, I get an idea – a muse which starts forming layers in my mind, which I explore through my body. I then experiment with it, film it, write about it and produce some output along with my collaborators. Some of this material I use, and others never see light of day! 

Ian: My creative process is simple. If I feel good about life - relationships, friends, family, wellbeing - I produce my best work. The reverse happens when things are ‘not working’ so I destroy or paint over work. I have a sense of humour and this is portrayed in a whimsical sense about life - how ridiculous we seem and so ephemeral. I write messages on my paintings which are sometimes emotional, such as ‘Broke Heart Café’.

What do you find the most challenging about being an artist?

Suhasini: Explaining to people what I ‘do’ on a daily basis! 

Finding the balance between creating work, and the financials of funding and distribution, finding avenues to submit and show work and dealing with the uncertainty of it all.

The challenge of creating something meaningful, of a certain quality, of being able to translate concepts into a body of work.

My biggest fear though is what might happen to me if I stop creating!  

Ian: The challenge is to produce some ‘great work.’ I use the word with hesitation because it is not for me to judge, that is for others. I hope the onlookers and owners of my work can relate to it personally. This would give me total pleasure. 

See ‘Creepy Crawlies’ and ‘Coffee Zombie’ in person or view as part of Town Hall Gallery’s online exhibitions.