In the studio with Julee Latimer

What is your favourite medium and why?

House paint: My work needs vast quantities of paint that is both hard wearing and flexible. I also love the fluidity, availability and the limitless range of colour.

What themes do you explore in your work?

I am fascinated with the relationship between paint and canvas and the idea of paint breaking free or not being dependant.

What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?

When the paint is dry my work is just beginning.

If you have to choose one artist whose work inspires you, who would it be?

This is an utter impossibility. I research artists extensively and continually regularly finding new ones of interest. However, I do tend to return to specific artists on a regular basis. Over the last few years these have included Kiyomi Iwata, Robert Davidovitz, Omar Chacon, Margie Livingston, Leslie Wayne, Olga DeAmaral to name just a few. They all use materials in unusual ways and that is what interests me.

Tell us about your studio. Location, clean, cluttered, big, small, etc?

I have two very different studios. My main one is in the beachside suburb of Altona in Melbourne. It is a hive of activity and as such is usually messy with every surface covered in work. I have a mass clean up every few months and have photographed it in this state. It is joined by another small room which I use for storage, this leads out to a covered area where I do the really messy stuff and where I keep all my paint. I work here in the week.
The second studio is a small, cute room that looks like a tiny coastal cottage. It is in my garden in Venus Bay and I get to it through a mass of wildflowers on a meandering path of astrological symbols. All I can hear are cows mooing, birds singing and the ocean roaring. I do my research here as well as planning new works. I also create mosaic and metal artworks here. I keep it fairly tidy because of its little size. I work here most weekends.

Do you have any pre-work ritual that puts you in the right mindset to create art?

I either practise yoga or go for a long walk on the beach. I then make green tea in a flowered teapot and always drink it from a dainty cup and saucer as I work.

Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?

Neither. If I am in the beginning stages of a work I tend to work in silence, later I have an audio book playing. I find that music really interferes with my thought processes but listening to a book is completely different. It has to be the right book though and I am obsessive, I listen to the same ones over and over and over. They are either Jane Austen or something else set before 1930. My fave at the moment is Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth. I get to the end and start again immediately.

Art School or Self Taught?

I have a BFA (Sculpture and Painting) from Curtin Uni, Perth and a diploma in Colour Psychology. I also have an almost finished degree in Interior Design from London Guildhall Uni, I left the course in the final year after realizing I prefer detail rather than the big picture.

Where are you from?

I was born in England. I moved to Canada when I was 23 and then spent the following 17 years moving internationally many times. I spent 11 of those years in Sweden although not all at once and the rest in the USA, Germany, Indonesia and Australia. I moved to Australia for the third time in 2005. I feel that my life has been a patchwork of cultures and this plays out in my desire to fragment my work. I seem incapable of seeing a work as finished until it has been deconstructed a number of times.

Have you always been a painter?

I began as a painter but gravitated toward Mosaic Art which I practised for many years. During that time, I wrote the book ‘Sculptural Secrets for Mosaic’ as well as writing for other mosaic authors and publications. I exhibited widely with this medium as well as teaching it in adult college and from my studio. I returned to painting during my degree which I graduated from in 2019.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

This is a really tough question as my favourite thing to do in my spare time is go in the studio.

What is your favourite colour?

Bright, vivid orange that veers toward yellow rather than red. Tangerine I guess. When I was 4 or 5 my parents asked me to choose my bedroom colour. I still remember the orange wallpaper and orange painted doors on the purple wardrobes. Bliss.
Hot pink comes a very, very close second but best of all is the clash of bright orange and hot pink together.

What do you collect?

Dried paint, I cannot bear to throw any away. I throw it into buckets knowing that one day I will do something amazing with it.
I am currently collecting wine bottle tops and making agapanthus style flowers from them for my garden, drives me nuts that these tops cannot be recycled. I get them from the neighbours.
Hex stones which are beach stones with a natural hole in them. They are believed to ward off evil spirits according to witches.

Interests other than art?

Astrology is my biggest hobby which I have had since my teens. I am always interested in subjects that are esoteric or unusual in some way – Paganism, crop circles, white witchcraft, natural health, dream analogy, colour psychology, thought processes, legend and myth, etc.,

Are there specific messages within your work?

I am inspired completely by the material itself so the messages are subtle ones regarding the use of paint in a painting. I like to question what we can expect from a painting and the assumptions we make regarding fine art.

What excites and inspires you as an artist?

The interesting use of material grabs me every time.
“Oh, and I almost forgot, you must close your eyes otherwise you won’t see anything” (Alice in Wonderland).

What drives your creative process?

I find it fascinating that we can never know if the paint is doing something completely different on the back because the paint is usually applied wet to the canvas where it remains forever. What a waste. Looking at the back of the paint is always a thrill. Every one of my works is a combination of the always seen topside and the always hidden underside of the painting. I think of this as hiding secrets in plain sight.
At this stage I feel that the painting is at the very beginning. I use the dried material, exploiting its flexibility to cut, tear, fragment and weave. I love that I leave the freedom of the patterns to the paint, allowing it to paint itself, not touching it with brushes or tools. But then, when it is dry the work becomes very hands on and extremely labour intensive. It usually takes a minimum of 5 – 8 paintings to create one work.

What do you enjoy most about painting?

The process. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of what can be expected from the paint. I enjoy creating fine art using craft and collage techniques and in doing so, challenging what can be considered a painting.

How do you know when an artwork is completed?

It tells me. I feel a physical pull in my chest which sounds weird I know and I almost took this sentence out but it is true. It is like a pulse of excitement. If the work doesn’t give me that, something is wrong.

What advice do you have for artists who are starting out?

Create art that makes your heart sing, pursue it relentlessly, and practice it daily. Art is not a job, it is a vocation, a way of life. And that is a massive commitment so make sure you are in it for the long haul. Finally, never, ever stop experimenting and never be afraid to begin again.

Do you have any planned upcoming exhibitions?

I am currently applying for a number of Art Prizes and group exhibitions. At this stage, only one is set: PAUSE Button at the Auction House, Kyneton in June.

Head over to Julee's portfolio page to browse and buy art by Julee Latimer.