Arts / Destination

Artist Vicki Lee launches her eponymous gallery in Surry Hills

“My goal as an artist is to make anyone feel anything, and I think to really feel something you need to be moved … there’s no better way to do that then in real life.” Sydney-based creator Vicki Lee has always had an artistic temperament. “When I was a kid, my first memory of an artwork that I did was this big wall that I used to trace my hands in different colours,” she recalls. “I remember collecting the colours and thinking about how I’m going to make the form different.” Though the realities of life lead her down various professional avenues, it was a desire to communicate through visual storytelling and expression that eventually drew her back to the arts, creating works of her own as well as in collaboration with partner Ted O’Donnell.

Here, on the precipice of opening her own eponymous art gallery, Lee talks to RUSSH about her practice, new creative space and experiencing art in the physical realm.

Can you tell us a bit more about your artistic practice? Is there a medium you primarily work with?

You know what? I just can’t really stick to one thing – it’s kind of the bane of my existence, but at the same time it’s the thing that keeps things fresh for me. And hopefully my family as well because I like to change things up, you know. Movement and that dynamic energy is sort of the basis of the world, so it doesn’t make sense to be consistent … Always different, always moving. Give me anything you’ve got and I’ll take it. And do you know what? I love the feeling of that change, it’s like the shift changing in your car. I always drive manual cars for that reason. It’s like the sense of control when you do shift those gears you can really feel in the car a surge of energy when you change, and it’s your choice when to change them.

In light of the impact that technology has had on the creative sphere, and the ease with which artists can showcase their works on an international platform, what made you decide to open a physical gallery?

You know, we all love digital. It’s easy, it’s accessible. Not paying rent? It’s fucking awesome. But … my goal as an artist is to make anyone feel anything, and I think to really feel something you need to be moved … and there’s no better way to do that then in real life. I’m really excited to create a space that I can invite people into to hear and to smell, not just to see things. All of it, all at once, and to be moved. I think we’re all being taken by this digital reality and I’m not opposed to it, I want to be a part of that, and the technology that comes with that is amazing. But at the same time there is a real space to strip things back. I always think the best meal is three ingredients, but they’re fresh , you know – olive oil, salt, garlic and that’s it. You could have the best meal of your life with these three simple ingredients. And I think that’s the goal of the space, just to strip things back … really feel on that very basic human level.

“The thing that I love and am passionate about is the story. The story that is told through visual communication … through colours and shapes, and through more abstract forms.”

“I’m really excited to get back on canvas, I started on canvas and I’ve been delving into more slippery kind of non-absorbing materials.”

What drew you to this particular space?

The space feels like New York. There’s a little alleyway … there’s bars, there’s a hipster coffee place where they don’t even have food, they only have coffee. You know those places where their aprons are made from the perfect denim? It feels like New York, and I’ve always wanted to open a gallery in New York as soon as we can because I think our work suits New York. This space is all concrete, it’s like a concrete bunker, which is probably not traditional for an art gallery but it just feels modern. It feels now.

Can you describe the gallery and the types of works you’ll exhibit?

It’s split level. The top level will be my work and the bottom level will be Ted and mine’s collaborative floral work. So we’ve got two types of floral work, some photographs that I’ve painted over and then also our most well-known work which is just the photographs and prints.

What future plans do you have for this gallery and beyond?

Oh, I’ve got it all mapped out. I’m going to make the work in Greece, which is what I’ve decided, and them I’m going to ship it (not on an airplane but on a ship, like in the old days) to New York and Sydney, and then I’m sort of forced to live in two places. So that’s my goal, but I think my goal is to basically create a space where I can basically create art all the time, instead of being on Instagram all the time.