YAVA’s latest exhibition ‘From the Earth’

Clare James with her two-and-a-half metre kaleidoscope. Picture: DONGYUN KWON

By Dongyun Kwon

YAVA Gallery and Arts Hub Healesville’s latest exhibition ‘From the Earth’ includes the thoughts of local artists on the earth.

One of the artists for the exhibition Clare James said she thinks the earth being is the most precious thing that exists in the universe for animals, humans and all living things.

“A lot of my art connects deeply to nature and everything is derived from the earth,” she said.

“I am intrigued, fascinated and inspired by wild places and animals and I have always been someone who looks closely at the natural world.

“So it felt like for me From the Earth, looking under a log, being a gardener or being a citizen scientist.”

James works equally in painting and sculpture but all of her works in this exhibition are sculpture pieces.

James said two of her sculptures in the exhibition are playful and naive.

“They’re made to look like anyone could have made them, there’s almost like a steampunk look to them,” she said.

“You can see the wire, you can see the fake fur or the insects, you can see that there’s wire and tape and I wanted to have that sense of wonder of making something bigger than it really is or make it almost like a childlike wonder of how cool a slater or stick insect is.”

The idea for her kaleidoscope sculpture came from her sense of wonder for the natural world and things that might not look immediately like what they are like.

“Many children have a little kaleidoscope when they’re little and I just thought kaleidoscopes are amazing, they’re almost magical, and I thought I want to make a two-and-a-half metre kaleidoscope to bring that sense of wonder,” James said.

“When people put their heads in and turn the handle of my giant kaleidoscope, nearly everyone is really excited by it, there’s a real sense of wonder.”

The journey of art for James has never been stopped since she was very little.

James was always drawing, digging up clay and making ceramic things.

James said art was her language.

“It was much easier for me to express something in a drawing than it was as a written language or even as a verbal language because I was good at art and I also loved it,” she said.

“I went straight from high school to Victorian College of the Arts and did an undergraduate in drawing fine arts and I became a high school art teacher because I didn’t know how to be an artist and make any money.

“When I was 27, I had babies and by the time my babies started school, I was about 35 and then I got stuck into my studio and I’ve been working every day in my studio for the last like nine years.”

James had a solo exhibition at YAVA Gallery and Arts Hub Healesville in 2021 during one of the long Covid lockdown periods in Melbourne.

“My show got locked down the day it opened. We went into a three-month lockdown,” James said.

“Finally after we came out of lockdown, they let me keep the exhibition up for another two or three weeks, which was really nice, but I didn’t get an opening or anything. It was all my work and it was so disappointing.

“So It’s really an honour to be invited as a guest artist for this exhibition.”

From the Earth is on until 25 February from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm at YAVA Gallery and Arts Hub Healesville.