An icon of the Perth arts scene and a Fremantle
local, Susan Flavell’s work takes many forms – from drawing to ceramics; textiles to metals – but it’s her huge cardboard sculptures that really can’t be ignored.
Once one of her massive beast-like forms occupies a space, it owns it, and you, the viewer, become the viewed. Not that her pieces are intimidating – quite the opposite – the familiarity of the simple cardboard construction lends them a casual air.
Susan’s sculptures have the feeling of kindergarten art projects realised on a heroic scale by a master craftsperson. As Susan says, “They stand in a space with you and look like they’re looking back at you and breathing.”
For Susan, space is at once a luxury and a necessary limitation. “You can make any space work, but the more space you’ve got, the more you can do, and the more you can collect.”
‘The last cardboard work I did was stabled in my small studio and I had to bring it outside in order to work on it. As a sculptor, the more height you give me, the more height I’ll use.’
“The last cardboard work I did was stabled in my small studio and I had to bring it outside in order to work on it. As a sculptor, the more height you give me, the more height I’ll use.”
The important thing for Susan is to remain open to possibilities throughout the creative process and not to restrict her work with preconceived notions of the outcome. And this is where her creative space becomes important.
Living in Fremantle puts her amongst a community of like-minded creatives – unbelievably, four other artists live on her street.
This community pro-vides a fertile field for ideas, support, and when needed, criticism. Living in a place that is stimulating in its own right is important to Susan. “A lot of it is about being open-minded and not having fixed ideas before you start. You wait for things to come to you in a way. When you’re simply looking around, looking for materials, going op-shopping, or you see something on the street; you’re looking for things to give you ideas before you’ve even planned a piece,” she explains.
This approach to inspiration extends into Susan’s domestic space.
“I’ve got a lot of collections of things. I try to buy a small piece of someone else’s art each year. I have pieces I’ve found in op-shops all the way through to some really exquisite jewellery work or paintings,” she said.
“I’m not too hierarchical about what I collect,” Susan adds. “My house is quite small but has lots of different surfaces and is pretty crowded now with everything I’ve collected.”
“But I’m not the type of person who can’t get rid of things, you have to be willing to give things up to make space for new things,” she said of her willingness to alternate her interior style.
“Don’t be afraid to change it up, sometimes it’s good to get rid of things to put new things up!”
Susan is represented by Turner Galleries in Perth.