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.
Given this, I sometimes visit this page and revise/rewrite my story; its a work in progress, just like everyone else's.
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. So many options.
1968 – 1980
Having an Australian expat childhood isn't so terribly 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. I majored in sculpture (pleasingly, a far less fashionable choice than painting) and art history, with minors in printmaking 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. But it follows 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 debatable. I never forgot this comment though & 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 always 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. This was the perfect reason/excuse to read paperbacks. All the time. I devour them. I'm always reading. But thing is, its true: much about being human is to be learnt between the pages of a good novel. And one is seldom idle etc etc so always be reading novels.
1990 – 2001
My artworking-working life.
From there I conjured a career as a 'specialist painter'. That way working for 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 sometimes, and 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 work, 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 was a real chip on my shoulder. Then. In truth I loved the challenge of working within a client brief, and bringing my own expression to the commissions was in itself, very satisfying and rewarding. Also, 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. 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 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 incredibly 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.
*Possibly inaccurate & no offence intended
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!);we travelled and who wouldn't? For all my years as an expat, I'd never been to Europe.
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.
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."
The Tate’s various workshops such as those in experimental drawing were an amazing opportunity I availed myself of, although I must say, I visited the British Museum more than any art gallery. I loved it & was deeply entranced by not just the things that I'd only ever seen in books being right there in front of me, but by 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, its surprising how fascinating it is.
Commercial galleries were less frequently attended but above all else, I loved taking Polly Pollock’s Basketry course at City Lit in Covent Garden. I sought that out specifically because I wanted to acquire the skills to make the sculptures in my head; the sculptures I'm still making in fact. It was really great and knowing basketry techniques is a permanent skill. 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, whilst maintaining my own practice as an independent artist, and we've completed many projects, spanning many many commissions ever since. I'm now more visible as a client facing consultant as well, which has been fun, challenging & a great learning curve. 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 a design challenge/solution activity and it fascinates me still.
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..." I’m sure it illuminates nothing at all to those asking, but it sounds so convincingly important. And no one gets artworker, any more than proclaming 'artist' does; I mean people always, always then say, "what kind of artist and then what do you say? And being an art consultant is an unbelievably great job for lots of reasons.
2013 - ONGOING
With my eldest son’s autism diagnosis, I’ve cut back my work commitments and now work almost exclusively from my studio at home. I am still available to consult, just less so abroad; not a bad thing after so many years of travelling.
My son sits in the middle of the autism spectrum, with significant needs, and its been astonishing how much good has come from the acute and unexpected change of circumstance. I though home schooling would be the end of my life but in fact, its been a career defining period of prolific art-making.
So, finding myself more limited in professional work opportunities, I began this website & committed to maintain a self-accountability through it, developing the personal work that is at the heart of my practice. Essentially, I'm a working artist who has by design or accident specialised in commissioned artworks for commercial projects, with a passionate interest in process, materials and how they convey meaning and beauty. A website is the perfect framework for collating & evaluating the information that feeds and informs creativity. Working in the arts industry, working on commissions to a brief, I've kept my own work more or less to myself all these years, its been a pretty private occupation till now. The chip has fallen from my shoulder regarding that but creativity most certainly doesn't thrive in a vacuum and endless interior spiraling is self-defeating. Believe me. I've done lots of it. So I started writing it up & compiling images, sorting through the work and following tangents; making conversations-with-self, in an effort to distill & articulate what it is I’m really trying to figure out. Meanwhile things get made, and thats the thing. In my work, it’s all about time; time as a concept and as told by the practice of artmaking.
And I'm more & more sure that the best is yet to come.
...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.”
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 a second year of homeschooling and everything will be alright. It really will.
Studio be like: