Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Interview: Victoria Alexander

Victoria Alexander is the author of three books: The Bathers Pavilion Cookbook, One and Colour: A Journey - her third book, which has just been released. Colour explores the implications and cultural meanings of colour. It has chapters on individual colours, their history and their influence. The feelings that certain colours evoke, such as feeling comforted, aroused or seduced, are at the core of the book. We asked Victoria some questions about her work and new book.

Q. One: Living as One and Loving it, which was published in 2010 is a book about finding oneself and loving what you find.  What was the journey from writing One to writing Colour: A Journey?

A. The idea for Colour emerged very soon after I finished One. It seemed a natural follow on, an expansion from One if you like - life’s as bright and simple or as dull and difficult as you make it. With colour as my constant companion it was a really stimulating two years researching and exploring my passion. It feels like I’ve used my life experiences for a worthwhile purpose in writing both books, but most especially with Colour as I was informed by having written and photographed One and heart warming feedback from readers. Both are a culmination of having done a design course, working on magazines, with film, creating The Russell and Bathers, my fine arts degree and travel, they’re all contributing factors.

Q. Whilst both One and Colour celebrate life, they have a calming and almost therapeutic quality to them, which is shown in both the visuals and the writing.  Was this intentional?
A. Yes. Very much so. Both books have also been called emotive which doesn’t surprise me as they come from my heart. After I fall in love with my concept, what I want to say, and get it straight in my head I write and photograph instinctually, not always in sequence but adding thoughts or images here and there. Building the book up intuitively. My voice begins to emerge little by little, to become clearer, until I have the sum of the whole. Sometimes a thought will start from an image, other times I will search my image files for the right one to match the thought behind the words.

Q. Colour: A Journey is a beautifully photographed book celebrating diversity and of course, colour.  Did you take the photographs yourself?  And were they taken just for this project or were some already part of your collection?

A. Both One and Colour are my photography. Colour includes 300 or so shots taken in ten countries. They were taken specifically to use in a book. I have a photo library of thousands of shots – when I travel I click every time I see something that intrigues me knowing it will one day be useful. They all inform. I build the images up until an idea I want to follow emerges.  I made a trip to India just after we had the first concept layouts for Colour down on paper in order to capture things like the pink hands during the Holi festival and other instinctive shots that I felt the book needed for balance and as a reminder of different cultures and traditions.

Q. You are an avid traveler.  Do you think travel broadens the mind?

A. Travel rejuvenates you, widens your horizons. You meet people you would not otherwise.  It serves as a reminder of the similarity in all our lives, our basic needs and helps alleviate prejudice. Travel opens the mind sensually, spiritually and practically. It’s broadening because it involves taking and managing risks, planning, financial concerns, observation and patience in a way that's dissimilar to anything else. I’m fortunate as I feel at home anywhere but know that’s not always easy for everyone.

Q. Having read One many times, I believe you don’t give much regard to regrets, however, is there a place or something you would have loved to photograph for this book to tell a certain story, but found that you couldn’t?

A. You are so right. I believe regrets are a waste of emotional space better filled with positive thoughts. We all make mistakes, do things that if we knew what we now know we would not do – they’re wonderful lessons. Had there been the space to include some of Mexico’s authentic hacienda style and cheery embroidery, Cuba’s chic shabbiness, Japanese assured restraint, Vietnamese minority tribal dress, Italian light and vistas and some Irish green that would have been heavenly. But it’s always good to leave a little something for next time. My mind and camera have already started clicking over on an idea for another book.

Q. Colour still has symbolic resonance in many cultures.  How do you view the Australian relationship with colour and our awareness of it’s impact on our lives and therefore how we employ it in everyday dress and life?

A. The colours used in traditional and traditionally inspired Aboriginal art have a significant cultural meaning unique to Australia and its great to see these appreciated.  I wish black had not become such a uniform, its almost tribal and is so often worn without any highlight. I know its practical and flattering but there are just so many other options.  Thankfully the trend for minimal white houses with a sameness about them seems to be reversing and we are seeing an appreciation again of lived in homes, not houses to look at. This means layering. I’m hopeful we are on a curve towards individuality with an appreciation for texture, colour and materials. With our vibrant light and lifestyle we should embrace a sense of self, our uniqueness, in both our dress and our homes.

Do you have a favourite colour?

All colours have a purpose and a place. I love all colours. I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad colour – it’s the way they are combined that matters.  They way you use them. There are browns that resonate with nature and sing in their natural environment that you wouldn’t look at them twice for clothes. Some colours that look great on one person make another look sallow. It’s impossible for me to choose just one. For interiors I love ‘that certain green’ as I call it in Colour, especially when it’s combined with another favourite - crimson red. Indigo, all tones of warm grey, wombat and natural linen for clothes. Lead white for a highlight in paintings. Wisteria in the garden. The softest, subtle pink as a highlight anywhere.  Turquoise and aqua for livening things up.  I definitely don’t have a favourite.

Tell us about your workspace.

Clearing my desk is always the thing I am going to do next. It seems to remain as next because there's always something more interesting to do. I've designed and am about to have storage built, which is part of the reason there is currently so much layering going on, so things will change soon. Although I've seen the wood on the top of my desk more than once it's part of my creative process to have piles of things - I can put my hand on anything and know where everything is. Everywhere else in the house is much more orderly. Meetings taking place at the kitchen table.

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