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The Friday Files - by The Callen Collective

The Friday Files introduces you to the artists of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

This week my next guest for the Friday Files is artist and sculptor, Liz Walker. An artist with that wonderful knack of being able to make beautiful and intriguing items from things we discard and undervalue. Always creative, bursting with ideas inspired by found objects, this wonderfully vivid lady is in the middle of preparing for a new exhibition that speaks volumes when it comes to the things humans throw away. I spoke with Liz in her studio at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula where she told me about her work, what inspires her and the things that keep her up at night.

Liz is an artist with the type of studio that you could explore all day. In fact, Liz has two studios, one for smaller more delicate work, and one for larger, on the tools type work which involves cutting metal, riveting, forming and reassembling. Full of intricate and interesting things, with cabinets, capsules, wire, bones, wings, bits of string, Liz’s sculptures are brought to life with a great acuity for fine and detailed work, lots of patience and a clear plan of what she is doing. The walls, shelves and surfaces are a showcase of her special treasures, things she has made and experimented with over the years, ideas for new work and materials that she is using.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Liz has always been very creative and artistic, teaching herself art, pottery and fine craft. She spent some time in rural New South Wales and returned to Victoria to run a restaurant and B&B. The drive to do more with art and sculpture, curiosity to delve deeply into social and political ideas, and the challenge to communicate to a wider audience, saw Liz return to study over a 5 year period completing a diploma, a degree and then a Masters of Art at RMIT.

Looking around Liz’s studio/s you see her materials range from tin sheeting, wire, hose pipe, old electrical cables, bicycle bits, cigarette buts, old clock cases, bits of beach plastic – things that are left over, used, broken, forgotten, left, and discarded. That human process of use and discard is a very strong element of inspiration in Liz’s sculptures and works. In many cases, this process and related ideas of waste, litter, care for the environment are the things that keep her up at night. She never uses new, always found, used and old items.

Liz is currently preparing a body of work for an upcoming exhibition looking at the volumes of plastic waste in our waterways and oceans. She has been collecting very colourful, tiny plastic pellets, fishing lines, plastic bands, bottle tops and other items that are quite simply choking our sea life. This work is being completed with a community grant from the Mornington Peninsula Council and will travel to a number of places for exhibition.

Previous works have addressed social and political issues like asylum seekers, homelessness family violence, and the waste associated with planned obsolescence. All of her work has a strong message of awareness of waste, shame, carelessness and that these things need to change. Naming the work is very important to Liz’s process and once she has found the right name for a piece, a project or a collection, her work is transformed with meaning and strength.

Some titles for you to ponder include: “1 minute to midnight” which shows a doom’s day clock filled with cigarette butts; “While we were sleeping” is a wall of shame with portraits of beach rubbish and the things people carelessly throw away; “Watchman’s rattle” is a time capsule containing fishing line, fishing hooks, shells, sea urchins and netting that is all caught up together in a tangle. These themes and the protection of our beaches, sea life and waterways are explored over and over and hold very special meaning and concern for Liz. And while the themes are serious and often sobering, they are delivered with a creative twist, a sense of humour and liveliness that has you wondering, thinking and challenging your own conscience and habits.

I took a few photos while I was at Liz’s studio of things she has put together, some details of past works and a few of her newer pieces.

Images left to right: "Watchman's Rattle"; 1 Minute to Midnight"; Metal feathers made from found materials.

Liz is a member of the Peninsula Studio Trail Inc and will be showing at the upcoming Annual Exhibition, Mornington between 23rd September and 3rd October. Her studio will be open for Open Studio Weekend in November, follow this link to check the dates and details.

Contact details for Liz Walker are as follows:

The Friday Files is published every Friday. Read my earlier posts here.

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