Aussie Indie Artists: Belinda Wiltshire on her painting and pottery

Four paintings by Belinda Wiltshire.

Aussie Indie Artists is a series of interviews with lesser known Aussie creators across all forms and fields. The goal is to share exciting new works, find new angles towards the art, and peek behind the scenes.

The colour and light in Belinda Wiltshire’s oil paintings turn the mundane into the magical. The soft glow from venetian blinds scatter into pinks and blues on a woman’s arm; a street light illuminates a cosmos of brilliant pinks. Neither a realist, not an expressionist painter, Belinda captures something between memories and dreams. 

She has been a finalist for a long list of prizes– the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, the Black Swan Prize For Portraiture (Lester Prize), the Benalla Nude Prize, the Kennedy Prize– and has had her work exhibited across Melbourne.

I talked to Belinda about her portraiture, ceramics, and inspirations.

Your oil paintings are sometimes abstract, sometimes highly-detailed and carefully rendered, but they all seem to capture something in-between. Is it a mixture of reality and dreams? Or is it something else entirely?

Haaha, part of me know’s it’s because I get bored easily and like to jump around between genres, techniques, and scale; but you’re right there, they are a bit difficult to pin down and definitely speak of the in-between more than anything else. Whether it’s an abstract colourfield, a figure, or a still life, the in-between and the slightly unexpected moments are always my focus.

And is there something about it that makes it so enticing?

It’s something I search for in each piece; I want my viewers to have the space to explore their own ideas about what’s going on, and by providing only the most important elements of what you want to communicate you are tapping into a kind of universal language. Over-information, or a dictation over what is meant to be observed and absorbed by a viewer, is the death of any artwork. 

Do you imagine each painting beforehand, or do they emerge through the work?

It really depends, sometimes I’ll have an idea for a singular piece but for the most part it’s more of an overarching theme or concept that I’ll then whittle down and build back up into a body of works. I never-ever-ever just start by painting, but on the other hand, I never sketch it out first. Hmmm, this is a surprisingly difficult question. I think most of the work goes on in my head and when I’m ready I’ll write a tonne of lists and ideas down, and then back into my head for a bit longer, and then I’ll start to compile inspiration images (colours, lighting, moods etc), hopefully by this stage I’ll have a clear idea of what I want the artwork to capture and I can start creating my reference images and go from there. I guess it’s a process of continually imagining and re-imagining and working and working and the physical painting is the very tip of the iceberg. I have learned that there needs to be scope for change at any point in the process, and with the way I paint (in layers of translucent glazes) there is little room for change at that end, so the more planning I do the higher my chances of getting the result I set out to achieve are.

A ceramic piece by Belinda Wiltshire

And I can imagine that it’s the same for your ceramics work, do you find there is much overlap between the mediums?

Absolutely. I had no idea that they would overlap so much, I mean, they’re so different and I work on them in different spaces both mentally and physically, but my process for getting to where I want to go is identical. It took me way too long to realise this and I wasted a lot of energy trying to separate my ceramic-work from my painting-work. It’s only in the past two years that I have really started to feel at ease with putting them in the same pot as my art-works. Also, there’s the working with my hands thing, I guess quite literally translates back and forth between the two. I’m sure there’s little things I do in my pottery studio that have arisen from habits as a painter and vice versa.

Who, or what, has been inspiring your work recently?

I have my ongoing inspirational artists that I revisit, Louise Bourgeois is probably my number one. I love to discover new artists so I try to keep my eyes and mind open always, you never know who or what is going to inspire you, or for what reason. Some artists whose work  I love pouring over at the moment are contemporary painters Colleen Barry and Robin F Williams, and modernist sculptors Hans Coper and Barbara Hepworth. 

Do you have a favourite piece of your own at the moment?

I find it takes a good five to ten years before you can truly see one of your own artworks as a viewer and shed any hang ups about technique or circumstance. Having said that, there’s one work that I painted back in 2017 that I have recently exhibited, and when I was getting it ready and re-framed, I was surprised by how much I liked it. [Image below]

Leaning Slightly. Oil On Board. 60x50cm.​2017.

(Leaning Slightly, 2017)

And what about a memorable moment in your studio?

This is going to sound a little mundane and saccharine I’m afraid, but the most memorable moments are the quiet and reflective moments either before or after working. The cups of coffee, the sunlight, the music, the smells. Such a stereotype, I know 😉

Thank you very much for the peek into your work, and into your processes. I hope you’ll have an exhibition in Perth, so I can enjoy your work up close!

I’ve only been to Perth once, and had a great time! My paintings have been three times, would you believe it! All three were finalists in the Black Swan Prize, now known as the Lester Prize. I hope to come back someday of course, I’ll let you know when I do!

You can see more of Belinda’s art at her site. And to follow Belinda’s work, check out her Instagram page