Wendy Dixon-Whiley believes art can and should be found everywhere. Having studied a Master of Visual Art at UniSA, she has developed a bold and somewhat mischievous style which thrives within the streets of Adelaide and beyond.
Tell us about how you discovered your love for art.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I’ve loved art for as long as I can remember. However for a few years my creative side became somewhat sidelined because of the usual life pressures of working and so forth. I realised that the source of a lot of my general angst was because I wasn’t using my creative abilities so I set out to make the visual arts central to my focus again. Going back to study a Master of Visual Art was the best decision I ever made; I was able to build my practice up again quickly and I’m excited about what’s next for me creatively.
How would you describe the characteristics of your work?
My style sits somewhere on a spectrum between contemporary and street art, depending on what I am working on. There’s a distinct ‘cartoonish’ aesthetic to a lot of my work with a lot of bold lines and bright, primary colours. The style has evolved a lot in the past few years into a combination of a kind of personal cosmology and pictorial script.
The signature ‘beast’ creatures which you draw appear playful yet, at the same time, menacing. In your eyes, are they heroes or villains?
Both. Sometimes I feel like they have elements of my own personality in them and other times I have specific people in mind as they take form. We all have light and dark sides to our personalities and there’s no such thing as a person who is completely ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is a concept somewhat related to the themes of some of my work. In a way, I feel like these creatures embody that idea which is why they seem friendly yet menacing.
What are your best tips for getting creative?
I’m fairly introverted so I absolutely must have quiet time to be with my thoughts. I’ve gone to the extent of removing myself to the middle of nowhere with no phone reception, technology or electricity as I find the less distractions I have the better. Keeping detailed journals is also a great help. I go to the lengths of indexing mine so that if I ever need to find out where I noted down some vague reference to a work by – for example – Philip Guston, I know exactly which journal and which page to look on. Those journals are a goldmine and can spark new ideas that I might not have considered back when I first made a note or observation. I also find that I have some of my best breakthroughs when I am not at all concerned about the outcome, so I keep some cheap materials on hand (paints, papers, canvases etc.) which I don’t mind destroying in the experimentation process.
What are some of the most interesting and unusual projects you’ve worked on?
Painting a mural in the Melbourne Street Laundromat during the 2015 Adelaide Fringe Festival was an interesting experience. However, the most unusual project is just about to start – shortly I’ll be beginning an Arts SA-funded project in a secret location in the Adelaide Hills named ‘Paste the Hills’. I’ve committed to completely covering one of the many under-freeway tunnels with my artwork and will be inviting members of the public to get involved by scanning a QR code which they will register to receive. This code will reveal the location and instructions. More can be found out about this at wdixonwhiley.com for those who are curious. These will definitely be the most unusual surfaces and locations I have ever painted on!
Do you have any strange obsessions?
A lot of my creative research is based around the study of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. I admit to being a little bit obsessed with this poem. I even have a tattoo of Dante’s map of Hell on my forearm. Some people would probably think it’s a little odd to be fixated on such a dark and, at times, depressing story but I think it’s magical – even when its descriptions are graphic and disturbing and I’ve re-read it countless times. My other obsession isn’t so strange; I’m a bit of a connoisseur of craft beer and love seeking out new types to try.
Where would you like to be in five years?
In a perfect world I’d love to begin a PhD, at some point in the next few years – in all honesty, I’d start tomorrow if I could! I adore research and the City West campus is a bit of a ‘happy place’ for me. Practice-based research takes my work in such interesting and unexpected directions and going to the ‘next level’ via a higher degree would be unbelievably exciting. Who knows what might happen? And in reference to the aforementioned obsession with Inferno, I’d love to travel to Florence in Italy to immerse myself in the hometown of Dante and see what else I can find out about my favourite poet.