In Conversation with Artist Clare Thackway
Clare’s work explores the ways in which we perform and move our bodies through spaces both literal and emotional.
In her finely wrought portraits and figurative paintings, the body becomes a language through which she contemplates moments of universal human experience, from the emotional to the societal.
We spent a day with the beautiful Clare in her studio in Austinmer, to learn more about what it takes to lead a fulfilling creative life as an artist and a mother.
Where did you grow up?
In Canberra. My favourite memories are of walking and riding through the bush and pine forest plantation near our house and the views of the Brindabella mountains.
Where have you lived and where is home for you now?
Towards the end of my studies at ANU Canberra School of Art I went on exchange to Glasgow School of Art. After that I moved to Sydney and lived in several terraces in the inner-city. I won the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship which took me back to Europe and I lived for a year Berlin. After a short stint back in Canberra I moved to the Illawarra. I currently live in Austinmer, sandwiched between the rainforest escarpment and the ocean.
How would you describe yourself in a few words?
Perceptive, independent, determined.
Who is in your immediate world right now?
My husband, Gregory Hodge, who is also an artist, and our preschool-aged daughter and toddler son.
Can you tell us a little about your artistic practice and what you’re working on?
I make paintings and I have worked with video and sculpture. I am working on a series of new large-scale figurative paintings that incorporate draped sets and costumes that I have made using wide striped fabrics. The stripe in these paintings provides a striking contrast to the subtlety of flesh and the repetitive directional lines allow for rhythmic and formal compositional choices.
When did you first realise you were creative?
From a young age I was always drawing and looking at old master paintings. I had a book of Rubens drawings that I tried my hardest to copy. Rubens work is all figure and drapery. Looking at this book now I can see the things I was interested in then are still really important to me and my thinking about painting.
Where do you think your fascination with portraiture and figuration comes from?
The human condition, lived experience, connectivity, tension, gesture, pose, expression, touch, motion, movement and painting history.
Do you have any studio rituals for pleasure or productivity?
I open or close the blinds, depending on the light. Then I scrape the dry oil paint off my glass palette and wash my brushes from the day before. I don’t see much of my studio practice as creative thinking . There are bursts of creativity, often when I am away from the studio. I set parameters for a project and then it is a matter of research, execution and persistence.
What do you get up to outside of your artistic practice?
I work in education and public programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Between there and the studio I am with my family. We like to spend time outdoors, going to parks, and ocean pools. I try to savour the moments in the day when we tinker quietly in each other’s company.
Do you have a favourite place you’ve travelled to?
Cities I really love: Rome, Istanbul, Fez, Varanassi, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Havana.
What are you listening to and reading at the moment?
In my book pile at the moment is The Devil’s Cloth, A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric by Michel Pastoureau and The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. I listen to podcasts and audio books while painting. I have just finished the Open Yale courses on psychology.
Who inspires you?
At the moment I am looking at Avant-garde artists Sophie Tauber-Arp and Sonia Delaunay, contemporary figurative painters Mircea Suciu and Marcel Dzama and Australian artists Lauren Brincat and Lottie Consalvo just to name a few.
What are you most looking forward to?
We are spending time in Paris toward the end of this year, which I am excited about.