Careers In Art: Pamela Irving

Term: 3 Year: 2004


Pamela is perhaps best known for her irreverent and quirky work such as the public commission Larry La Trobe the bronze dog in the City Square. Pamela Irving is an artist using bronze, ceramic, mosaic and more recently printmaking. Pamela has been a full time artist for 22 years in which time she has participated in over a hundred group exhibitions and held many solo exhibitions in Australia and overseas. Her works are included in Municipal collections, University and School collections as well as Regional Galleries, Artbank and The Museum Victoria as well as significant corporate and private collections.

Q: At what age did you decide to make a career from visual arts?
A: When I was studying at Melbourne State College after completing HSC in 1978. I found the lecturers’ own art works so inspiring, but teaching was something to fall back on.

Q: Do you come from a creative family?
A: Yes, my brother teaches art in Hamilton and both my parents are artistic. My father’s background is in advertising and he loves making furniture. My mother is also very creative. They always encouraged John and me to make things.

Q: Did you ever teach? If so where and for how many years?
A: I graduated in 1982 and started my Master’s in 1983. I taught tertiary students for 12 years, 6-9 hours a week in sessional work at RMIT, Monash and Melbourne State College.

Q: What is your favourite medium to work with?
A: Mosaics, combined with hand made clay work.

Q: Do you enjoy working with students in your capacity as artist in residence?
A: Yes, particularly the younger students; they make you change the way you approach things.

Q: What effect has the computer age had on your work?
A: The Internet is so important to me as I work by myself and I can contact other artists around the world. E Bay has made a huge difference as I can buy materials for my work instead of going around Opportunity Shops looking for things I can use in my work. I use the Internet for research and finding out about new materials.

Q: What are some of the negative aspects of your job?
A: Being by myself. You need to be a very motivated person to work by yourself. Financially not very lucrative; for the first 10 years I lived with constant uncertainty of not knowing where or what the next job would be. From 1992, after the commission of Larry in the city square, I have had ongoing work to keep me busy.

Q: What is something you would love to do that you haven’t already done?
A: Design a kids’ playground. It would have wacky big sculptures for the children to play around.

Q: How would you describe your first solo exhibition?
A:  Fantastic! It was a sell-out show in 1981, which I shared with my brother John. I was a 3rd Year student at Melbourne State College.

Q: Where do you get most of your inspiration?
A: Lots of sources: I subscribe to magazines such as Raw Vision and Art Brut; the Internet; travelling (I love Pacific Island art work). I also love revisiting Picasso and other artists I studied.

Q: What fellow artist has most influenced you?
A: Nek Chand, an Indian guy in his late 70s, who has created a 25 acre sculpture park in Chandigarh near Delhi. I went to visit him in 1999 and saw this adult playground.

Q: What’s your favourite piece of work to date?
A: A ceramic piece I based on Arthur Boyd’s Three Shearers playing for a bride. I wrote to him and asked for his permission to appropriate the work. He sent me an ‘aerogram’ giving me that permission. I still have the ‘aerogram’ and treasure it as the only original Arthur Boyd I am likely to own.

Q: What is your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
A: My Levi’s, I live in my Levi’s.

Q: Who would you most like to sit next to on a flight to Europe?
A: John Maizels, the editor of Raw Vision; he travels the world visiting untrained artists, and artists who are true ‘outsiders’.

Q: If you were speaking to a secondary school student who was showing interest in following in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
A: You need to be happy to work by yourself.  Cope with the isolation of being by yourself.
–  You need basic Business skills to deal with the likes of the GST which art school doesn’t teach you. Art school is unrelated to the real world.
–  Make stuff you are really happy with and not be market driven as the market will catch up with you.
–  Be open to diversifying. I diversified into Prints for commercial reasons but also to relieve my back of the heavy-duty work involved in my art works.

Pamela is currently making a series of doll like mosaic figures for her next solo exhibition "Treading the Boards" beginning at the Shepparton Art Gallery on 10th September 2004— 10th October 2004, and 6th November 2004—30th January 2005 at Geelong Art Gallery.
The International Mosaic Conference will be held at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, beginning on October 27th 2004.
Pamela Irving will be conducting a hands-on workshop for Zart Art in Term 4, Wednesday October 20th 2004 9.20am -3pm, which will be advertised in the Term 4 Zart Extra and on the website