Justine Varga Empty Studio #5 2009 type C photograph Courtesy the artist and Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide © the artist
Interview Justine Varga

Justine Varga
Focus on Primavera 2012 Artist - posted by Kelly Stone MCA

Justine Varga is one of seven artists in this year’s edition of Primavera, an annual exhibition for Australian artists aged 35 years and under, initiated in 1992 by Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM and their family in memory of their daughter and sister, Belinda, a talented jeweller who died at the age of 29. Here Justine tells us more about her works in this year’s show curated by the MCA’s Anna Davis.

What is your background?

I have a Bachelor of Fine Art with Honours majoring in photography, from the National Art School, Sydney

How much time do you spend producing your photographs?

It is a full time endeavour. It can take up to a year to shoot a series of photographs and then many hours spent in the darkroom. This year I spent six months purely on printing various works. But in saying this it could take any amount of time, it just depends.

Do you deliberately reproduce your images in relatively small dimensions?

The size of my works is very considered and is tied into the printing process for me. I often try the works at many different sizes, some being quite large but I tend to gravitate back to something more intimate or human in scale. I want people to be drawn in to view the works and hopefully see something they did not notice at first instance.

Do you find fullness in emptiness?

I had someone comment recently that when you first look at my photographs there seems to be not much there but the more you look the more there is. This is an idea of emptiness that I am interested in and it is one that I am constantly returning to in works.

Having watched Lightform 7, the viewer may be curious to know what your preferred light in a day cycle is and why?

I can’t say that I have a preference for a certain time of day, it really depends on the space that I am observing and I guess the architecture of the space, the positioning of the things that reside within it and the outside‘s effect on these structures. A work like Lightform 7 is determined as much by the course of the sun and the atmosphere that day as the physicality of the space, and what that allows.

Do you have a preferred season?

Not really it just depends on the quality of light and what I am working on.

Can you cite examples of inspiration for your work?

I have always felt an affinity with the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto, I enjoy and take inspiration from the way in which he approaches the question of photography within his work. His work is in tune with the nature of the medium and with each body of work he comes at it from a different angle, constantly offering up new ways to look at the photograph. And really this is what I am interested in with regard to photography. I would also have to say Malevich’s Black Square is a work that I return to, I remember the first time I saw that work I was blown away by it and by the date, 1915, it is an incredibly revelatory work for me. I also enjoy the work of Ilya Kabacov, another Russian, who is not minimal in many respects but is about emptiness/fullness, his piece of writing On Emptiness is something I often refer to. And the work of Miles Davis, what an incredible artist, he just kept pushing and pushing. I wish that I could have been there when he played to Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l'échafaud. The films of Michael Haneke, Tarkovsky, their writing, the work of Anri Sala and his writing too. And then the mundane, the everyday, I am curious about and inspired by many things. Sometimes things will come to me that I did not realise were of any particular interest or importance but they are part of my experience and often filter to the surface when I am working.

Can you explain your Moving Out series?

Empty Studio was the first series that I created in my studio and Moving Out was the last. Over a two-week period as I was literally packing up my home and studio I shot that series of photographs, with all the chaos that surrounded me during that time. I would step into the studio and meditate on the space and the photographic medium to produce the works. For me it was a way of saying goodbye to a space that I worked in for five years and in a way I felt that I owed it that much. The series can be read in many ways but in this respect it is a documentation, not just of the tangible quality of the space but of the intangible, what it was like to be in there. Empty Studio took me a year to shoot from 2008 to 2009 and even though Moving Out took only two weeks in 2012 it really took all those years in between to create that series of works, it took that long to see the space in that way.

For your Still Life series you chose gelatin silver photographs. Why?

I was attempting to create something that stood outside of time and there is something timeless about a black and white photograph… and I am drawn to the materiality of the process.

Did you add the kangaroo and the tiger in Empty Studio #9 and Empty Studio #6 respectively on purpose?

My works are constructed and those figures were most definitely in those photographs and in those positions on purpose.

Do you read poetry?

Poetry has the ability to get to the core of things and at the same time is difficult to pin even when it is stripped down, for me it is felt. Like most art forms it becomes very much about your own experience your relationship to the work, it is personal whether you read it or create it. And when I think about this, this is largely why I want to be an artist and why I want to engage with art, to read poetry.

How involved were you in the installation process of your works in the gallery?

I would say it was a team effort.


To find out more about her work, you can visit Justine Varga's website.

To find out more about her exhibition at Stills Gallery that runs until 10 November, go to the STILLS GALLERY website.

To find out more about this year’s Primavera exhibition, visit the MCA website.

This interview was first posted on the 22nd October 2012 on www.mca.com.au, see the original article here.