As some readers will know, I am a total sucker for old Holdens, so when I saw a Kingswood turned into an artwork out the back of Stockroom Kyneton on my shoot there (I am into Premiers by the way, being a classy lady and all!) I began the search for the artist. This was not difficult as in a stroke of good fortune, the artist was the partner of the person I was already photographing. Oh, small towns, how I love thee.
Jason Waterhouse is an artist engaging his audience with the hook of the familiar and recogniseable before manipulating it with an unexpected diversion in materials or form. Because of this, the work feels easy to approach as a viewer, has humour and gives a very satisfying ‘a-ha’ moment. But that’s not all that’s going on. His work also explores masculinity with primal materials like bone and modern emblems of manliness, such as an old Holden or a backyard shed; vestiges of traditionally male oases become twisted into impractical sculptural forms, taking away their former use and rendering them unable to perform their traditional roles.
Despite citing the quiet country life as a key factor in moving from Melbourne to the central highlands, Waterhouse has found himself busier than ever (this sounds slightly familiar to me). This year will see him working on a a public art commission for Hepburn Shire, which will be a half scale miner’s cottage made entirely from wrought iron. He’s a finalist for both Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi and the Lorne Sculpture Biennial this year and has work in the McLelland Sculpture Survey until July 19th. To continue with the high output theme, Waterhouse and his partner, Magali Gentric will also open a new shop in Kyneton this year called NoTown. It will be a Gentlemen’s outfitters, focussing on traditional craftmanship and quality materials for men’s attire, accessories, grooming products, gifts and will include events. After seeing what this dynamo couple have done at Stockroom, I can trust that all the bloke birthdays and father’s days are now covered for eternity. Phew.
What were you doing before you made the move to the Central Highlands and what drew you there?
The property that Magali, our three kids and myself live on is 10 acres in the bush on the Loddon River, near a little town called Glenlyon. I purchased the property from my father in 2001 and I’m very fortunate as where we live is my true home. We made the move to Glenlyon 8 years ago from the city, I was living in a factory in Yarraville. As well as my practice, I was working as a teacher in visual art at Swinburne Uni and curating some shows as well. The idea was to move bush and find more time, but that did not happen! We have been slowly building and renovating our house and still have a long way to go. Raising 3 kids takes a chunk of time too, as does sustaining an art practice – and if this wasn’t enough, we started an artist and makers space in Hepburn springs called Wolf at the Door. A year later we opened Stockroom in a huge old Butter Factory in Kyneton. We did not manage to find more time, but the view while we’re busy is ace!
Has your art practice been influenced by place?
My art practice is very much influenced by place. I draw from both site and every day objects. At times I work directly with site with works such as Ground where I made a site intervention at the Surf Club carpark in Lorne. I also work directly with objects, modifying and manipulating them. When working with an existing object, you have the added advantage of a language already embodied in it. By shifting its format, viewers can project their own experience and place it into the piece because of their own associations with the item.
I also see my work shift depending on where I’m at and where I am spending my time. If I am making ‘headspace’ time on the property, my interest shifts to organic stuff, like the bone series. At this time I was doing a lot of walking with our son, Milo. He loves freaking his sisters out with bones, so we were spending a bit of time walking around and collecting them and that’s how the Bone Series emerged.
For the last year I have spent a large amount of time in the workshop on a project I started with a mate called Junked, where we restore stuff. Now that I have stepped out of that one, I have started a new body of work called ‘Tools of the Trade’. In this series I am modifying old tools and messing with their function.
Do you find any drawbacks to working far from an urban centre?
No, I don’t. I find that opportunities are just as available in rural Victoria as they are in the city. Often, you do have to create the opportunities yourself, but ideas can get off the ground here that may not be able to in the city, on a limited budget. There’s affordability of space, a stronger sense community and a bigger drive to make things happen in the country.
On the down side, it is hard to get first-time visitors from the city up here – but once they have come and realize towns like Kyneton are only an hour away by car or train (equivalent to a drive from Richmond to North Melbourne!), they see how vibrant it is and become regulars.
You’re also involved in other projects, like Stockroom – how does this fit into the arts scene in the Central Highlands?
Stockroom is a project my partner and I started 5 years ago. It is an artist and makers space in the old Kyneton District Butter Factory, which has about 1000 square meters of floorspace. As well as my workshop, we have a café and retail space which supports over 100 contemporary artists, designers and makers who specialise in limited production bespoke and handmade. Stockroom supports makers of jewellery, fashion, home wares, furniture and everything in-between.
We have also just re-launched 2 contemporary art spaces, which run on a bi-monthly exhibition program. We show emerging, mid career and established artists working in any medium in the contemporary realm.
I see Stockroom as vital to the art scene in the central highlands. We are the largest privately funded retail space of its kind, primarily showcasing Australian artists and makers. We are passionate about the skilled contemporary craftsmen in this country and the lack of spaces in rural Victoria outside of your expected country craft space.
Our galleries show artists at the forefront of contemporary art practice and our spaces are often occupied with experimental and installation based shows. We make it very clear to the artists that their exhibition does not need to be commercially driven and allow this to happen by offering the space for free.
That being said we also stock a large amount of contemporary art for sale. We are at the end of the day a commercial space, so buy people. Support local talent!