My kind of work/life trail doesn’t lend itself to typical CV presentation, never will and I’ve always dreaded any mention of them to be honest, but I think I’ve found a way to get it to work for me: its a story. And its a very LONG story so lots and lots of words, scrolling down endlessly. Or its just my CV
Scroll down to read year-by-year, or choose a time period from the list below to be taken directly to a specific part of the story. Fascinating stuff!
1968 – 1980
Having an Australian expat childhood isn't incredibly unusual, many Australian families moved throughout South East Asia during the 70's and mine was one of them. My father was a civil engineer, working for the Aus Govt and the World Bank, building bridges, dams, airstrips and various major infrastructures around Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. I would say the universal theme would be geographical beauty. The highlands of PNG, the mountains of West Java, all of it, stunning & unforgettable. Just because a child doesn't have the vocabulary to express that doesn't mean a child is unaware or unappreciative of it.
The biggest problem this childhood has caused me? I’ve never really known how to answer that annoying question, “where are you from?”
From this though, I learned adaptability & resilience; that there are many different worlds, and different versions of those worlds, in this world. This, I have never doubted. I have never expected anything different of life but difference.
1987 – 1989
Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) Queensland College of Art (now Griffith University). I really enjoyed my time at art college, it was fun and revelatory. It was sex, drugs and alternative music. I majored in sculpture (pleasingly, a far less fashionable choice than painting) and art history, with minors in lithography and drawing.
I had been involved in a few exhibitions (including Little Masters at Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, and Art Bilong Tudei with art students from Port Moresby at the Riverside Center in Brisbane) prior to and for a short while after graduation and assumed that I would continue my art practice forever after. In this, I was not wrong, although the continual exhibitions weren’t to occur. Life subsequent to 1989 was an unplanned, naturally occurring thing, featuring the usual imperative to work for a living most of all. But it followed that artmaking is the only work I can do, so that’s what I've always done, more or less. Except for a short while in an antique auctions house, from which I learnt a lot about antiques & how to plough earnings back into the antiques auction house by collecting antiques . My dream job as a forklift driver never came to anything but I felt better for having the license for it; it could've been really handy, or at least, handier than teaching. Art is a dodgy business and forklifts are fun.
Two things stand out from this art college time however. Firstly, I recall one of my lecturers exclaiming that Gauguin was a singularly untalented artist, but that clearly if one continued with one’s practice as rigorously & single-mindedly as did he, one would likewise achieve a commensurate level of skill/acclaim as a successful artist. Or something like that. All of it very, very debatable. But I never forgot this comment & the implication that hard work, dedication to craft, and commitment to continual practice were not only recommended, but crucial for those who live as artists, was not lost on me. I think it’s jolly good advice, generally. Keep working, kids, and things get made. You have to do the work.
The other advice I heard during these years and have followed to this day is: always be reading novels. Read as many novels as you can. Novels offer a very real, valuable & incredibly accessible insight into other people’s lives and thoughts. Read paperbacks, even hardbacks if you have to. All the time. I devour them. I'm always reading. But the thing is, its true: much about being human is to be learnt between the pages of a good novel. With this, one is seldom idle So always be reading novels.
1990 – 2001
My artworking-working life.
From there I conjured a career as a 'specialist painter'. Where making a living with your hands immersed in a bucket full of paint for 10 hours a day is classed as 'keeping your hand in'. In other words, work that involved any kind-of-arty use of kind-of-arty materials. Not that I'm dismissive of it, on the contrary, it was mad fun most of the time. Many of the projects I worked on during these years were international & personally challenging; I made things as a model-maker, elbow deep in fibreglass, polyurethane and sawdust; as a scenic painter of large scale public works; as a studio assistant/technician to working artists; and as a painter/decorator and gilder. But mostly the latter; oh my word, LOTS of gilding. Fabulously glamorous private residences and flash corporate offices but also huge commercial construction sites; worlds of wildly variable conditions demanding long hours and hard physical labour. It was busy. I worked and worked, paid by the hour, through lots of airports, tight deadlines, and much duty free Tanqueray.
During these years I operated from three studios in Sydney, the first in Redfern and the other two in Surry Hills and in one of those, I mounted an exhibition: Rosie Perl Studio Show 1999. Lots of beers with friends. I completed numerous major commissioned artworks & my work is in private and public collections across the world but not being with a commercial fine art gallery at this time was a chip on my shoulder because such is the art world culture. But in truth, I loved the challenge of working within a client brief, and bringing my own expression to the commissions was of itself very satisfying and rewarding. That wonderful feeling of accomplishment thats a thrill to live in. Also, again, I made a living from it, a position not easily come by in this industry. Like I say, art is a dodgy business and Tanqueray does not pay for itself.
And another thing; although this line of work afforded me the chances to go 'home', to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong often, I found that those places weren’t my home either, really, nor had they ever been; I had actually been an outsider there too, only no one had told me. Those worlds of my childhood turned out to have been not real worlds at all, just colonial fantasy lands. And the sad and desperate end-days of it. That situation has confounded me ever since. My answer to that 'where are you from' question is more like I come from Nowhere. Funny how that can matter, in hazy, undermining way.
Also a nother nother thing in amongst all that, I spent 1997 working at the Research Library, in the Art Gallery of South Australia. A year in Adelaide! That one came out of nowhere and was a welcome relief from all the physical exertions that were beginning to exhaust me. I loved morning teas in the library with Max Carter and the real friendship of Jin Whittington. Mostly I loved being cut loose from filing ephemera to wander the aisles and randomly select any book I desired, thence to sit against the stacks & read the whole damn thing, including the pictures. A privileged position, entirely due to Jin's incredible generosity in keeping me around. I wasnt very good at filing and honestly, that secret reading time was all I was really there for in the first place, and I think she knew that. Thanks, Jin, my friend.
2004 – 2009
Ah, Europe. One adores it.
These years, living in in London, were pretty mad on a few fronts that I wont detail here, but I bloody loved Europe & living in NW3. We traveled widely, frequently and with great pleasure. Oh boy we travelled, from Cairo (I loved Cairo!) to Biarritz (Biarritz!). Who wouldn't? For all my years as an expat, I'd never been to Europe and I couldnt get enough. I always thought people who said oh I LHOVE Frahaaance were dickheads…until I went to France.
In London, having young children is a social entree card and from there I made some true friends-of-the-heart, people it will always be my pleasure to know and love, and for that alone I am grateful. Women friends can save your life
I also spent time as a professional artist within Lauderdale House, Highgate, through Borough of Camden, outreach "working alongside young people who – through demographic, health or economic reasons – may find arts activities difficult to access." It embedded me a level deeper in my neighborhood and taught me how the tiniest bit of emotional generosity can profoundly change lives and if its only for that day, that afternoon or an hour, for that time we all live better and more kindly in the world.
I also went along to various workshops at the Tate Gallery such as those in experimental drawing (which was amazing) although I must say, I visited the British Museum more than any art gallery. I loved it so much, all the things that I'd only ever seen in books were right in front of me, and the Great Court itself! That space is amazing! It never lost its awesome factor to me. Also, there was a bus stop at the end of my street that went straight to their door; why wouldn't you go all the time? The 24 bus is a doubledecker & everything! Then we always had hotdogs afterwards, sitting on the grass in Russell Square. Those were good days. The National Portrait Gallery was a close second favorite.
I loved taking Polly Pollock’s Basketry course at City Lit in Covent Garden. I sought that out specifically because I wanted to know how to make the sculptures in my head, the sculptures I'm still making in fact. It was so good and knowing basketry techniques is a permanent skill. I’ll always know! Basketry is forever. But then, the joke around one’s social circle at the time was of course along the lines of “yes well you are a bit of a basket case, old bean,” etc. What a hoot.
(Rosie Gets a Proper Job With a Business Card She Didn't Make Herself.)
Associate, Graphis|Art; art consultants, specialising in advising, sourcing and procuring artworks for international hotels and resorts.
I first started collaborating with Graphis around 1996, and since then we've completed many projects together, spanning many many commissions. Returning from London, there was an opportunity to become a client facing consultant that I leapt at & I have learnt so, so much about so, so much. Its an amazing opportunity to develop professionally & to continue to collaborate with other artists and clients on a wide range of projects in a variety of international locations. We often commission unique artworks and support local art practices wherever the client location may be. Its an exciting design challenge/solution activity and it fascinates me.
Also, I must admit, its a much much better answer to that "so what do you do?" question, if I say I’m an art consultant, rather than "oh, I’m... an... artist..." it sounds so convincingly important. And its so cool!
2013 - ONGOING. Artworkerprojects
born in 2013
...Tiny figures feature in front of intricately-sculpted landscapes and move in and out of body masks, Perl’s homage to Papuan wicker-woven tribal pieces....Large canvases sprawl large across walls, marked with tribal markings or etchings of Chantilly gold leaf lace, pushing the viewer’s psyche front and centre....Each piece is cut and measured intricately, taking Perl weeks on end to complete each section, a process she finds compelling as the images in her mind become objects....”The works in this exhibition are a method of reconciling my childhood sense of self with my renewed experience and how this informs and progresses my present.” Ugh, shudder, sorry I sound like this but it cant be helped. The press, you know..
See gallery for artwork images.
Thus far, 2017 is shaping up ok. I'm currently working on a commission for a 5 star hotel/resort and looking down the barrel of another year of homeschooling and everything will be alright. It really will.
Studio be like:
That was 2018.
No major changes. This piece kept me going all year, it became a habit more than an artwork and I learnt heaps from it. It had two iterations, the first being a double layered grid taken from one of our house produced board game designs. While this piece is an observation on living with my eldest son's autism, I think the ideas are in time with how we all navigate the world now. We construct a barricade: we do social media. Squares on gallery pages like gridded scaffolding, scaffolding as containment. Constructing a world, partitioning & separating from the natural world, commodifying it. We have created a world obsessed by surfaces and there's a fundamental failure of societal cohesion; maybe if we squint our eyes it'll all come together but for now, just keep walking the line.
Autism cuts through this in a different mental process because the rules of engagement are irrelevant, everything is new & experienced as a new encounter, every day, considered and negotiated according to its singular merit. Every time. Nothing is assumed when life is re-evaluated daily, resulting in constant anxiety and existential pain. And that shit has to be contained. Designing board games is comforting because of the order it imposes.
In both cases, the landscape is compressed across the width, increasing the interior pressure, just like suburban landscapes can feel. Drama like you wouldn’t believe.
So if you think about it, life is really like this for all of us, its just that we're more willing & able to stomach it without dissent, we're better at faking/lying about our ease, or our sense of ease in this world. Either way, our compulsion to map God looks the same & the result is a lot of noise. So in the interests of visual harmony, I ditched the grid.
In the second iteration, the mass of small marks that create the batik design manifest the compulsive, repetitive physical tics associated with autism. Both landscape & patterning are crushed vertically, compressed towards each other as in an inward facing dialogue, navigating the densely detailed, simple & complex negotiations surrounding family life.
I wrote those last two sentences for an art prize entry & I blame the awkward, self conscious wannabe art speak for zero result. I get so wound up doing those. It cant be the artwork's fault, that bit is genius