We recently came across two incredibly talented students who are studying at the Australian National University School of Art and decided to find out more about them. Meet Divya Melaluca and Harriet Mitchell in our two part interview series ‘Talking Art’.
Name: Divya Melaluca
Leiden: What first drew you to art?
Divya: I have always felt that my strongest and heightened sense was my eyesight. So I’ve always been drawn to really looking and observing my surroundings. Things have felt very ‘alive’ and ‘appear’ at me or ‘into’ me shall we say. I only started drawing and painting a few years back when I was in a highly strange time and needed a creative release or understanding. From then on I realized that the experience of creating was something that made me feel whole and deeply at peace with myself and life. It gave me a narrative. I love the narrative and mythology I experience when looking at a painting or conjuring up one. It transports me to another place, like a portal.
L: Tell us a little bit about your artistic practice. What medium do you prefer? What scale? What subject matter?
D: My art practice is random in the sense that I feel like I’m kind of ‘winging it’ at the moment. This is because I’m still in early stages of understanding the medium of oil paint and the technique of painting and drawing. I use oil paint, because I love the richness and vibrancy of it. I want to create a ‘world’. A landscape to enter. I want to create something that really moves and makes you feel.
L: What are you working on currently?
D: I’m working on my technique at the moment, so really I’m moving through paintings and working through visions or ideas. Right now I’m just doing figure studies or face studies. Learning how colour works in a painting harmoniously.
L: What inspires your work?
D: My own experiences really inspire my paintings and drawings. I had an eagle chase me down a mountain once. The experience shocked me, almost felt like a hallucination. I came home, I drew about it. I swam in this river in the deep murky forest with a group of eels. I loved how both repulsed and in awe I was when observing the eels. I drew about. For me, its like a collection of experiences where you’re playing out your narrative. Although sometimes I am not inspired. I am bored, angry and stuck and this is also a special time. A very important one. You find treasures and you realize a lot when you force yourself to just paint for hours. It’s no longer about inspiration. The act of painting just becomes something you do all the time.
L: What other artist do you admire?
D: I deeply admire with great respect Odd Nerdrum. He is truly the reason why I started painting. I was shown his painting a few years ago. I felt at home in the world he created in his paintings. They moved me so much, brought me to a strange combination of feelings I could not put into words. His work encompasses great mastery of technique as well as this familiar world.
L: What is your experience of art school?
D: Before art school I didn’t know how to paint. However I would say, so much of art is practicing and in a lot of ways self teaching. So art school has given me some tools, but it was up to me to practice them and extend them further.
L: In a country obsessed with sport, do you think that we truly value art and culture here in Australia?
D: Not really. We don’t value culture, because if we did, we would be turning to the first peoples of Australia. Deeply listening, learning and understanding their culture and stories.
L: How would you like to see funding to the arts change?
D: Well of course I would like to see more money go into the arts because it’s so vital to me, it tends to get degraded and undermined. It saddens me more money goes into degrees such as law, economics or commerce which are very business and money making careers. I’m not sure how I would like it to change, other then more respect and essentially money should go into the arts.
L: Where would you like to take your art?
D: I would like to go travel and learn more thoroughly traditional painting like the way of the old masters. I want to experience other cultures and paint. I would love to live out in the forest again, but I know I have a lot of traveling and learning to do before I do. I am looking forward to traveling and learning. I feel a lot lies ahead.