Q & A with Artist Michelle Hamer

Term: 3 Year: 2019

Michelle Hamer maps contemporary social beliefs, ideals, fears and aspirations through text and urban environments. Familiar and often ironic, the works capture in-between moments that characterise everyday life. Her hand-stitched and drawn works occupy a space between 2D and 3D and are based on both ‘found’ text and her own photographs.

Can you identify any major influences in your development as a creative person?

Michelle: My early major influence was my mother who was always making, sewing… She taught me to stitch, use a sewing machine, follow patterns and adjust them. Later, whilst studying Architecture at RMIT, I had many tutors who pushed and encouraged me to design what I was thinking. The culture of critique taught me to think deeply and analyse ideas, this has been fundamental to the way I think and create as an artist.

What was your experience of art at school?

Michelle: I was encouraged in primary school and had some wonderful teachers and experiences…by secondary school however it became more fraught. I was failed in Year 8 Art for offering my own perspective in a response to Munch’s ‘The Scream’, and in Year 11 my mother and I were called into the Head Master’s office with the Head of the Art Department to tell me I didn’t have the talent necessary to pursue anything creative and that I should reconsider doing Year 12 Art. My physics teacher encouraged me to do art anyway, so I did life drawing at TAFE after school during Year 11 & 12.

What is your process for making work?

Michelle: My work always begins with observation, I notice language all around me and I often photograph it or write it down. I’m constantly thinking about this language, what it means in its own context and what it says about humanity and social/political issues. From there I begin to form a narrative and decide which images/notes will be works I want/need to make. I create in a painterly rather than linear way. I work around the image, developing it often stitch-by-stitch, pixel-by-pixel.

Michelle Hamer was a finalist in the 2019 Ravenswood Women’s Art Prize. She is currently working on her new show, which will be exhibited at Fremantle Arts Centre in July 2020. Michelle lives and works in Melbourne. michellehamer.com

Nic Plowman (Zart Education)
in Conversation with Michelle Hamer