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Josh Foley

Headshot of Josh Foley

Bachelor of Contemporary Art with Honours 2004

The world is currently in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. What impact is the current situation having on you from a practical and professional perspective? Do you think the surreal environment we are living in will influence or impact your art?

It has shut the museum and postponed several commissions and art prizes. Practically I am working from home more. In some ways this allows me to re-focus and re-connect with aspects of my practice and life that are integral. It shifts my relationship to time – which I appreciate. The direction of my work remains the same – the subject matter may be affected and the medium to be employed might be different, but I feel as though the impetus of my work was already in a realm that talked about things such as the coronavirus – living in a vacuum, conjunctions of microcosm & macrocosm, and finding oblique referential viewpoints to describe the material of our phenomenological/ontological self.

Why did you become an artist?

A biological imperative. At a certain point my focus shifted from illustration to painting… around the age of fourteen.

You were the youngest artist to be awarded the Glover Prize in 2011 (age 27), what impact did winning an award like that at such a young age have on your career?

The boost in financial resources and attention gained from this was helpful. I gained confidence from the recognition of the judges and this galvanised all the work I had been doing on my own. The input and comments from the esteemed judges were invaluable to my development.

You were one of the first graduates of the Bachelor of Contemporary Arts in Launceston, how did studying at a tertiary level influence your art/practice?

Being one of the first to do a degree, which specialised in contemporary art, was highly informative. My progression from first year to honours took me a long way both in the way I wrote and made art, but also how I thought about it.

How has living and working in Tasmania influenced you as an artist?

The isolation can help with forming your idiosyncrasies, not being drowned out by all the different perspectives. Having the space can be good. It can make it challenging to branch out into different arenas, but you must learn to take the good with the bad. Having the density of creative people here can also be quite inspiring.

One of your latest creations, Calculating Infinity, was launched in Launceston as part of the MONA FOMA festival. Tell us about this unique ‘live art’ project.

The project involved me inhabiting the main gallery at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG). It was both a working studio and an incubator for ideas.

The premise was the interpretation of the QVMAG collection within the wider umbrella of calculating infinity, which is about investigating time. It’s a moving, living artwork. I felt as though I could create a performative space, which played into an aspect of my practice that includes different egos and identities that I like to work with. I invited collaborators, including my own alter ego, to come and perform.

The exhibition will remain at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery throughout 2020.

You had a large space and blank canvas to fill, what challenges and opportunities did this present?

Working in the space was surreal. I’ve been coming here ever since I was a child, it was a great source of inspiration and still is. I worked furiously to refashion the space into something that was unique. It took 10 weeks to complete.

The historic walls were covered in cladding. The first four days I spent mapping it out, but there was a lot of room for intuition and play left within that. It’s a large space, but the longer I worked in here, the smaller it became. I’ve worked on singular paintings for six months at a time, but nothing on this scale before. The gallery was open the whole time and this allowed collaboration to occur. For instance, some of the doors were painted by primary school children. One visitor wrote in Mandarin on the wall, another traced my outline on the wall and we also had performances within the space.

What was it like as a local artist being part of MONA FOMA?

It was an amazing way to get people interested and participating; they activated the energy of the space. It was also curated well and their aesthetic fits with themes I am playing with, such as absurdity and surrealism. The gallery also had record numbers of visitors.

What are you hoping people will take away from the artwork?

I hope it will provoke thought and allow them to investigate the themes within the artwork with their own imagination.

How you would describe your style of art?

Hyperrealist abstraction.

Image credit: Anjie Blair

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