UniSA graduate Sam Gold is a talented artist who works part-time as an arts therapist at a local primary school. While very passionate about childhood development and trauma therapy, she is also trained as a furniture maker and a ceramicist and hopes to run her own practice. Verse designer Oliver White spoke with her about what motivates her work and her plans for the future.
When was the moment you realised you wanted to be an artist?
I was in year nine in high school and came from a complicated family home. The high school kicked me out of maths, science and English classes because my grades didn’t make the cut and they got me to do all the set design, drama and arts classes. One year I moved in with my dad, my parents were divorced and he lived three bus trips away from my high school.
It was the first night I was staying at his place and I remember distinctly waiting for my dad to pick me up from school and he never showed. By 9 p.m. he finally showed and it didn’t even bother me. I sat at the school tucked in near the light and just drew my surroundings. Drawing was a survival technique for me as a confused teenager growing up in things I couldn’t fully comprehend. I was always very drawn to the relief it gave me. I’m not sure if I ever thought I had skills, I wasn’t bothered by that. It made me feel good and that’s what gave me the direction and slowly the drive to pursue an arts practice
I am super intrigued by the body of work created in your third year. Could you tell us about the process and influences for those projects?
The influences began with theories of the abject and transpersonal art therapy. I focused primarily on rebirth/catharsis as a form of self-renewal/regulation and the idea of a ritual that was meditative in a rhythmic and repetitious way to purge out the layers of the day. The body of work is both geological strata and figurative; not just one but both. It is here that there are strong themes of non-binary gender theories, but they weren’t the main focus.
The strongest part technically was the indexical trace of gesture, embodying my experience through mark making. The technique that I developed was a compressed coil. I am much more confident on the ceramic wheel, producing utility wares, so last year I challenged myself to become stronger at hand-building. The process was tough to work out and it took me the greater part of the year to really understand how to develop the forms and develop them into a ceramic installation. I work on four or five at a time, changing the firing temperatures in each session to achieve a variation in tone.
We discussed a little bit about your background in art therapy for work. Do you believe this affects the way you produce art in regards to the therapeutic benefits and motivations?
Absolutely, I am a huge advocate for the intersectionality between the Arts and Health. I appreciate the neuroscientific evidence-based responses that art therapy brings, for example, by using your hands you can calm your nervous system when you’re having a bad day. Being a very tactile and physical communicator it’s pretty innate for me.
I feel that through my training as an arts therapist I am constantly aware that it infuses into my own practice, as a processing tool for emotional regulation and as a life skill. I can’t help but see metaphor or perspective through processing life through making and it honestly helps. I’m much more evolved and grounded as a person through seeing the world through this lens.
What has influenced you the most in life growing up?
Mum was into dried flower arranging before her car accident; I’m sure that was an influence. To be honest things were super adverse and unexpected as a kid growing up and we never listened to music or owned art books. Dad was a workaholic, the brilliant minded engineering type; he made a lot of his own computers. That’s probably a work ethic influence that I have adapted too actually! I have a very unconventional family. I’m constantly striving to build and be a better role model to the many children that are in my family, so that the kids in my family can have the perspective and experience to know that they can strive to do and be anything that they desire.
I just love looking at all the experimentation of materiality and technique through your Instagram. Have you got a favourite material that has stood out over the years?
I really love carving into spalted maple a timber species, when I can get my hand on it. I haven’t carved into timber for such a time. I did really enjoyed working in raku clay bodies- that’s a really relevant material for me right now. It’s just so nice to build with!
What advice would you give to first-year Sam Gold today?
I would tell myself to attend every class, to not overwork in a part time job and to completely commit to touching all and every material. I like the Louise Hasselton slogan that most third years get to hear, ‘Show up early and go home late.’ It was my mantra for 2018 and beyond. Take risks and don’t think too literally!
While we’re on that topic, what are your goals for 2019?
For 2019 I would like to produce work for a solo show, take up a mentorship with Kirsten Coelho and honour my time as the recent recipient of two Helpmann academy grants; one a residency for six months at the George Street Studios. I’m currently producing new work for a group show at GAGPROJECTS in February. The second is a group grant to travel to the Tasmanian Ceramic Triennial in Hobart in May. I’m going to apply for residencies for the second half of the year and I will advocate and put myself out there as much as possible!
Words by Oliver White.