Imagination and collaboration: a chat with artist and curator Amy Roser

Amy Roser is an artist, curator, and art director based in Sydney, right now working between Art Pharmacy Consulting and Vandal Gallery in Redfern.

There’s a few events on the calendar for Amy in 2018. Soon she’ll be opening So Far So Good, a passion project and group exhibition promoting positive discussion around mental health, and on September 22nd she’s playing a curatorial hand at St. O’Donnell’s Select Gallery 5, an event showing a broad range of local music, art, and fashion in Sydney.

Ahead of those soirees, we caught up to chat about her process, inspiration, and the relationship between art and psychology.

Good (neon sign) amy roser artist
Good (neon sign)

Ahead of a few key shows down the line  in 2018, we talk inspiration with Sydney-based artist and curator Amy Roser.

HAPPY: Describe your creative process.

AMY: The word ‘process’ doesn’t really factor in to it, it’s more like organised chaos informed and inspired by x… mostly I have a lot of ideas and whatever comes to fruition is the result of killing my darlings as much as I can bare. I tend to lean into ideas really strongly and see how motivated I am to work at them, for those ideas that don’t get completed they usually lead me somewhere else interesting. Every attempt I’ve made, successful or not, means I’m right here now and I’ve learned whatever it is that I now know.

For particular goals that I want to achieve, I have been writing those down every day so that I don’t forget about all of ‘the things’ and so that I can decide over time what I’m willing to let go of and what’s important… by writing things down I soon learn what it is that I care about.

When it comes to curating I find it’s a lot easier to envision something and choose artists or artworks based on a feeling. When it comes to making my own work it’s much easier for the ideas to live inside my head and never materialise, I’m trying to overcome that counter-productive perfectionism because it doesn’t lend to a prolific art-making practise haha… you could say my art is ephemeral, it just exists in imagination.

Photo courtesy of St. O’Donnell

Curating a show is something that is becoming well within my comfort zone, my ‘day job’ as an Art Director and my boss are to thank for that. I don’t have a fear of failure, it’s less personal than showing your own work and you learn to let go of control and let artists make whatever comes out. The outcome always needs to be loose otherwise you get caught up in details.

Things change as an artist, right up until the day of install. There’s definitely a long and pretty tight list of things that need to happen leading up to an exhibition, but now that it’s second nature I don’t really know what those things are, they’re automatic. The theme of the show is contemporary ‘Pilgrimage.’ Anyone who knows me knows that I get myself stuck in an abyss of philosophical readings most days of the week, the existential questions are endless so I like to pick certain topics and tease out what they could mean with no particular end point in mind.

This show for Select Gallery 5 wonders what pilgrimage means to us these days, and how we go outside of ourselves to find out who we are on the inside. The St. O’Donnell Select Gallery was, for me, the perfect opportunity to explore this. The boys bring together a diverse group of people from the art, fashion and music industry as well as people who just enjoy a damn good event, so I was thinking (which is always dangerous) that we could all get together for this show and talk about the things that take us to another place, a holier place.

For me, it’s art and philosophy but for the next guy it could be making films, or eating plasterboard or dressing up taxidermy insects in little outfits… the road to self-discovery is very unique for everyone. Whatever it is that puts you in touch with your inner self, that’s what I want to talk about through this show. Anyway, I digress… my process is the futile attempt to wrangle my ideas and nail them down.

Royal Fucking Meltdown

HAPPY: What’s your ideal collaboration?

AMY: My ideal collaboration is any collaboration, it’s cross-disciplinary and it’s multi-layered… whatever it is. I think it’s really important to explore the many perspectives of others, it makes the work produced far more discerning – contextually of course, there are loads of ways that individual work is stronger, but you know what I mean… it’s vital to consider what others think. Outcomes can be more diverse, meaningful and incredible when you have a whole community involved and invested.

HAPPY: What are some themes or motifs that you find consistently crop up in your work?

AMY: Constant themes in my work are broadly drawn from philosophy and psychology – I studied Psychology for a couple of years before completing my Fine Arts degree so there’s always a mixture of both fields in my work and the way that I think. Most notably I like to be playful whatever the aesthetic outcome, and underlying points of discussion are intuition, mental health and trusting oneself. I love reading and writing, so I’m drawn to text-based art and artwork that is expressive and kinetic.

Sabotage Motorcycles x Art Pharmacy

HAPPY: Where do you draw inspiration from? Does this change between projects?

AMY: Inspiration always starts with research I guess, I’ve always been fascinated with human behaviour so I’m naturally always researching. Whether it’s in books, in observing people, in observing myself… I’m kind of always on high alert, I notice a lot of things and I love the nuances of human language.

I write everything down that I find interesting, I have lists in my phone and in diaries dating back to like… 1994 haha. Scary. How old am I? I must be in my late 50s. On a serious note, I research every day – I prefer to learn rather than watch TV or movies but since I discovered speculative fiction I’ve been a little more open to discovering concepts that are other worldly, I’m yet to be fully persuaded or inspired though. I watched some of Blade Runner the other day, I remain incredulous.

Folded pink paint, on pink paint

HAPPY: What’s the single most important piece of creative advice you’ve been given?

AMY: Any time I am feeling insecure about an idea, my artwork, the way I’m dressed, something I’ve said, or a mistake Ive made, my director Emilya always says “don’t worry about what anyone else thinks”. She reinforces this every day, it’s nice to be able to be open and honest and not have to pretend to be anyone else other than myself in matters of creativity and at work. To have a leader who allows me to be totally free is very empowering, and that filters into all areas of my life and into the way I approach art. I’m lucky to have a mentor who supports me no matter what.

HAPPY: What are you working on now?

AMY: I’m currently working on a passion project that I’m lucky enough to work on as a part of my job at Art Pharmacy Consulting, my boss knows it means a lot to me so the whole team are helping me get it done. It’s an exhibition I’ve been conjuring up in my head for a year called So Far So Good, it’s opening before Select Gallery 5 so I hope ya’ll come along.

It’s a text-based group show that aims to get people talking positively about mental health, with 100% of profits going to One Wave and Batyr, two local mental health non-profits. Dealing with personal stuff can be a really isolating experience so I am really passionate about starting up a dialogue with a big group of people and celebrating those who champion the mental health space every day.

I have 13 artists, a poet, the St O’Donnell boys on the music, a VR company, a number of brands, and loads of friends on board to help me realise the project – it opens on RUOK? Day and it’s already been a big success in terms of bringing a community together to acknowledge something that often gets swept under the rug. Stay tuned… I guess this is my ideal collaboration, just quietly. Tough but rewarding… and meaningful.

Photo courtesy of St. O’Donnell

HAPPY: How do you personally define success as an artist?

AMY: Better than I was yesterday. Success in general is a very individual experience, it’s not an end point, I think it’s a feeling. For me the boundaries extend further every time I reach a little goal and I realise that I can achieve more through small wins. Eventually you turn around and realise how far you’ve come.

If I defined it in terms of the amount of art I make I would be a failure, haha. Yet I feel very successful in terms of how happy I am and who/where I was a year ago. The lessons I’ve learned at work, the skills I’ve been handed by Emilya, and the women I work with are invaluable and I feel so grateful to be able to share those lessons with other artists and help them to progress too. I’m an Art Director in my day job and I love every single moment of it, which is good because not many people love their jobs… I feel very successful because I’m doing what I would be doing if I wasn’t getting paid.


St. O’Donnell’s Select Gallery 5 takes place on Saturday September 22 – Details