As a grade 1 student, Jo Dyer was asked to draw what she wanted to be when she grew up; she drew herself as an artist. “I’ve been interested in art since I was a child. I’ve dabbled in a lot of different creative pursuits. I explored writing and psychology at uni before deciding to change majors to creative arts and commit to pursuing an art practice. That was 12 years ago!”
Originally from Newcastle, Jo is now based in Melbourne. “I had a studio space in Newcastle, but my partner and I relocated to Melbourne at the beginning of the year, so at the moment I’m making art in the lounge room as well as outside for the really messy stuff! I’ve been experimenting with different methods of mark making in my paintings lately, inspired by working with clay, and I’m using a Dremel to carve into the wood, so working outside is great for that.”
Jo often draws on the natural world as inspiration for her artwork. “I’m really drawn to textures and details found in the natural world, particularly plants. I think this is because I spent a lot of time in the garden as a child, observing plants and insects. I think having cultivated that innate curiosity for intricate details found in nature has had a strong influence on the kind of art I am inspired to make.”
“My work themes around being connected to the natural world and the personal significance of my connection to plants. Gardening became a very important past-time for me a few years ago when my father died. It was very therapeutic for me. He loved the Australian bush and once told me that his most important factor in choosing a home had been whether it had a big gum tree in the yard! He grew up in Melbourne, so now that I live here, I feel particularly connected to him through the gum trees here. There are different types here to the ones in Newcastle. I love their prominent flowers as well as the pastel colours and textures of their bark.
I try to balance marks that are expressive and spontaneous, because I love their energy, with elements that are more considered, such as figurative sketches, because I love their intricacy. I also try to contrast different textures. I think it’s interesting that in the natural world some surfaces are roughened over time whereas others are worn smooth. I think I’m trying to create a composition that evokes my own response to the natural world - I find it peaceful to step back and observe but also intriguing to look at closely. It’s a good challenge!”
When it comes to her creative process, Jo spends a lot of time thinking about her work, something that she describes as ‘a bit compulsive.’ “When I am outside walking about, I always have an eye out for interesting details and will take photos on my phone or if I have more time I will sketch.”
Jo will often consider the materials and methods she is going to use to create certain textures, rather than planning a whole composition. “Planning out my work visually doesn’t really work for me because my process is quite experimental and more about responding to the media rather than trying to control it. I do like working with certain parameters though, such as size or colour palette. Recently I have developed an interest in earth friendly paints and have started mixing my own using mineral pigments.
I think I will always be drawn to experimentation and developing new methods to add to my existing knowledge. Working in this way feels most authentic to me and is very absorbing - like a process of discovery. It’s an uncertain process though and often I end up making a mess, which can be more disheartening than I’d like to admit! I think it’s a good analogy for life though - our sense of control is a bit of an illusion, so persisting through the mess and being kind to myself about it is good practice.”
Check out Forman’s range of beautiful Jo Dyer works here!