On the Couch with Meredith Turnbull

Meredith Turnbull AAR On the CouchWho is Meredith Turnbull?
I’m an artist and mother, living and working in Naarm, Melbourne. I’m a settler-Australian of Celtic (Welsh/Scottish), Sephardic Jewish (Portuguese) and Huguenot (Dutch) cultural heritage. I’m also a writer, jeweller, curator, craft lover and enthusiastic small space gardener.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Sometimes I think I’d like to do everything differently, practice art differently, live differently. Questioning and doubt run concurrent lines through my life and practice. Not in the sense of trying something new for the sake of it but in asking myself, is what I’m doing valuable? How can I support others? How is what I’m doing connected to this country, this place? However I’m committed to being an artist. It’s not a hobby, it’s my reality I don’t have a back up plan and like all the other serious artists I know I work hard to pay for the privilege of being an artist and to support myself and my family.

Who inspires you and why?
This is a long list of friends, family, fellow artists, historical and contemporary. I have the opportunity to work with and observe some amazing people and forces. They inspire me but I also take motivation from what I choose to differentiate myself from and how to be in the world.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’m a practical person, so rather than talk in the abstract I’ll tell you what I try to do day-to-day. I try and support other artists, whether informally or within specific public outcomes and platforms. I also try and write about practice and showcase other artists’ works.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
As an artist and sessional lecturer, with a partner who is also an artist and sessional lecturer, with a three and a half year old daughter holidays haven’t figured much in my life in recent years. That said we are lucky enough to have some friends and family to visit in Australia, including my in-laws in the Upper Yarra Valley and friends in Byron Bay. As a family we are also lucky enough to sometimes go on holiday with my parents. We will be going to Sydney to celebrate my Dad’s birthday this month. We are all very much looking forward to that.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
As a parent with a small child this has probably changed in recent times and focuses on more daytime activities. But of course we tell friends about all the galleries in Melbourne. If it was right now, I’d take them to see Terror Nullius by Sodajerk at ACMI, visit the Koorie Heritage Trust and Blak Dot Contemporary Indigenous Art Space in Brunswick.

What are you currently reading?
I’m always reading for work and for pleasure so I just finished ‘Art and the Animal’ a chapter in Australian/American feminist philosopher Elizabeth Grosz’s book Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art and I’m also reading two other books at the moment, American artist and writer Paul Chan’s Selected Writings, 2000-2014 that an artist and friend from work lent me and Geonpul woman, feminist and theorist Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s Talkin’ up to the white woman.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m really into podcasts at the moment because I can listen while working in the garden, while cleaning, driving, working in the studio and I listen to a lot of them. My favorite is Pretty for An Aboriginal by Nakkiah Lui and Miranda Tapsell, who in their intro say Pretty for An Aboriginal is about all the things ‘Australia has difficulty talking about like relationships, sex, dating, being a total boss, weight and most difficult of all, race’. I’m also listening to Judge John Hodgman, Call your Girlfriend, Conversations and a bunch of others. On the turntable at the moment is Arthur Russell’s World of Echo and LCD Soundsystem’s This is Happening.

Happiness is?
Gardening, catching up with friends, going out for dinner, watching a good/bad tv series/movie, a dream, an aspiration, the future, my daughter when she is laughing, the feeling of completing a big project.

What does the future hold for you?
I’ve produced 17 exhibitions since my daughter Roma was born in 2014. Finished my PhD and done a bunch of other projects. I’ve just spent the last 5 months working on Closer. This project has been an incredible opportunity for me. Right now I’m thinking about making more work in the studio and allowing it to emerge naturally over time. I’d love to work with and research other collections and I’d also like to spend some more time with my daughter before she goes to school in a couple of years, more time with my family and more time in the garden.

Meredith’s latest exhibition, Closer, is on display at The Ian Potter Museum of Art – The University of Melbourne until 1 July 2018. For more information, visit: www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au for details.

Image: Meredith Turnbull (supplied)

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