Interview With Gabby Malpas

Sydney based artist Gabby Malpas sat down with Art Pharmacy to talk heritage, process, and how art can be found in every day life.

Before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am from Auckland, New Zealand. With a Chinese heritage, I was adopted and raised in a large Anglo family. From here I lived into the UK for fourteen years, and since, have called Sydney home since 2003. With such a mixed heritage and upbringing it is easy to see the Chinese and European influences in my work.

Could you tell us a bit about your creative background? How long have you been creating art?
I majored in ceramics at the School of Fine Art, Dunedin, NZ and graduated in 1986. At the time I was essentially using clay as a canvas in the Mediterranean tradition of Majolica: bowls, platters and vessels were painted with colourful florals and motifs, which were in contrast with the earthy, natural tones of most ceramics at the time.

Since leaving art school I have used mainly inks, watercolours and paper to create my works, as paper is the most transportable. In the 25 years I have been a practising artist, I have developed an affinity with watercolour. I find the range of colour and tonal shades you can achieve with very few materials is enormous. The beautiful watery effects of the dried paint also appeal as they remind me a lot of the sometimes unpredictability of liquid glazes.

Where do you conjure up your inspiration from?
My current works are images of things I have bought, eaten and picked in Sydney. I describe them as joyful and chaotic assemblage of blooms and fruit displayed with a collection of ceramics from anywhere and everywhere. I am aiming to put a modern twist on the extravagant Dutch still life genre. I also feel the prevalence of ceramic items in my work is a nod to my original training as a potter.

I would like people to view my work with a sense of joy and happiness. My current works have no particular meaning or message however, the usual artistic process of research, experimentation, life drawing and technique refinement is undertaken for each piece. I do not believe that art must ‘say’ something to be of value.

Can you share one thing with us that most people wouldn’t know about you?
Well, from ages sixteen to twenty-one I insisted on using ‘Steff’ as my name on many of my art school artworks. My ceramics are also signed ‘Steff’. The reason for this started because I grew up in New Zealand. The name Gabrielle is a beautiful French name and is pronounced ‘Gaye-bree-elle’. Now try strangling that with a broad Kiwi accent! And coupled with the insisted use of the masculine pronunciation of Gabriel as ‘Guy-bree-ull’, from relatives, friends and teachers! I think you get the picture.

Are you a full time artist or do you also have a day job?
I am a project manager/account manager for online projects for clients in the UK and Australia. These days I work freelance, which allows me time to work on my art projects. I’d love to eventually give up the day job.

Finally, you were to collaborate with other artists on an artwork, what would your dream project be?
I would love to work on an oriental-inspired interior, collaborating on textile design, ceramic and furniture design and the interior colour/design.