Mixed Messages in Art and Life- in discussion with Fiona Minto

Local artist Fiona Minto is one of a group of artists exhibiting in 'Mixed Messages', opening Saturday May 4th, 5.30 pm at the Framing Gallery in Bellingen.

Local artist Fiona Minto is one of a group of artists exhibiting in ‘Mixed Messages’, opening Saturday May 4th, 5.30 pm at the Framing Gallery in Bellingen.  “Mixed Messages is an apt theme for the exhibition, as it reflects the nature of artistic discourse generally.  There is also room for each artist to interpret the theme on a more personal level. Artists put ideas or messages out into the world but they have no control over how the viewer will respond to, or interpret them. Therefore the messages are non prescriptive, and open to interpretation and debate,” says Fiona.

The ‘Mixed Messages’ exhibition is bringing together ten local artists and has been described as ‘funky, off beat and provocative’. It is one of a number of exhibitions, workshops, discussions and artistic delights that will be happening in the Bellingen Shire from May 3rd until 5th as part of ‘Open Up to Art’ (OUTA).

Fiona’s emotive and quite surreal works involve hand-painting black and white photos to create images that are “purposefully ambiguous” says Fiona.  On the eve of this ambitious and highly anticipated event, we have chatted with Fiona about her works, collaborating with artists to create an event like OUTA and the significance of art in a broader context.

What brought you to the Bellingen Shire Fiona?

I moved here 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my son, as I wanted him to grow up in a beautiful, rural environment.

Are you a full-time artist?

I am also a secondary Visual Arts teacher, working in local schools and teaching after-school classes for the past 9 years.

What mediums do you work with?

I mainly work in photography and ceramics, and I also enjoy drawing. These mediums often overlap in my work.

Your recent exhibition at the Bellingen Brewery & Co- ‘Bloom’ was described as both “unique” and “surreal”.  Can you describe your works for Bloom and the process used?

‘Bloom’ included works by Nadine Rahman and myself.  I hand-painted close-up photographs of different parts of the human body. The technique involved printing digital black and white photographs using traditional darkroom techniques and then painting them using photo oils.

Local artist Fiona Minto is one of a group of artists exhibiting in 'Mixed Messages', opening Saturday May 4th, 5.30 pm at the Framing Gallery in Bellingen.

‘Remembering’ by Fiona Minto from the exhibition ‘Bloom’.

This was how black and white photographs were coloured before the invention of colour photography. I used non-realistic colours to give the photos a surreal and unearthly feeling and making them even more difficult to identify. Many people commented that they resembled landscapes.

The over arching theme for OUTA this year is Y Art- so why art Fiona?

Sometimes I find it hard to justify making art because of the financial and time constraints involved in raising a child. However, I will always say yes to art! The making and viewing of art is integral to our experience as human beings. It goes back as far as we do. It is a human reflection and response to what is going on in the world.  Art helps us to make sense of it all, or at least opens up and furthers the discussion of thoughts and ideas, and we are all richer for it. As the world becomes more complex and multifaceted, discussion around art reflects this. A world without art would be a very sad place indeed.

How would you describe your upcoming show for ‘Mixed Messages’?

I have interpreted the theme by considering the mixed messages that can happen when we form judgments about events and subsequently people, from afar, without knowing the context. This can happen a lot in small towns, as we live so closely and see a lot of other people’s lives from the outside, but don’t necessarily know the details or intricacies around situations.

Local artist Fiona Minto is one of a group of artists exhibiting in 'Mixed Messages', opening Saturday May 4th, 5.30 pm at the Framing Gallery in Bellingen.

‘In Situ’ by Fiona Minto for ‘Mixed Messages’

Close-knit communities are also a microcosm of what happens in a broader societal context. I’ve hand painted black and white photographs using a similar technique to my previous exhibition but on a larger scale. This time the photos are of different scenes taking place, and are again purposefully ambiguous, highlighting how easy it can be to get our wires crossed and how there are many different ways to interpret any situation.

Have you enjoyed the experience of collaborating with a group of artists to bring about such an extraordinary weekend of art?  

Collaborating with a group of artists who are challenging ideas and creating edgy and contemporary work for OUTA has been one of the most exciting creative experiences I’ve had since moving to the area. The importance of having an artistic community cannot be understated. We are incredibly lucky to have an event like this in a rural area, which supports and provides a platform for local artists to push their ideas rather than just focus purely on aesthetics in art. OUTA promises to be an engaging and dynamic weekend and I’m very much looking forward to it.

For the full Open Up to Art Program

Bellingen Shire's biennial Open Up To Art weekend, occurring May 3-5, is bringing together a diverse collection of visual artists from multiple disciplines.

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