Good Chat: Canvas Collective
Photo Credit: JM Tubera / Portraits on film
Creativity and collaboration are two things we truly value at Hung Supply. So, when creative community platform Canvas Collective flew through our radar, we instantly became intrigued. Devised out of Naarm/Melbourne, Canvas Collective offers both creators and audiences a platform to connect through events, exhibitions and publications.
Through their efforts, Canvas Collective co-founders Felicity Evans and Jack Murphy have managed to build and grow an inclusive art inspired community, and they're just getting started. With the announcement of their forthcoming publication and exhibition, The Canvas Book, Issue #02, we thought it would be the perfect time to sit down with Felicity and Jack – both multi-disciplinary artists themselves – to discuss how they're giving emerging artists and creators complete creative license to share their work through collaboration.
Hey team, thanks for taking the time to connect! Firstly, how did you both meet?
After meeting in Melbourne briefly through a mutual friend, we both by chance moved to London some years later. We would meet up regularly to shoot film across the city, and we quickly became good mates. We were sitting down at a cafe in Shoreditch after dropping off a couple of rolls when the idea for an art book that spanned across multiple mediums was born. It wasn’t until we found ourselves back in Melbourne mid-pandemic 2021 that we found the right time to give the idea space.
What inspired you both to launch the Canvas Collective platform?
After we both came back from London, we continued to meet up, make art and dream out ideas for what Canvas Collective could be, and how it could take shape. When Jack had finished working on and self-publishing his first photobook ‘Frog Boy’ (2021), we both decided that it would be a great idea to work together to create a killer launch event for the book. We found a space at The Fitzroy Art Collective where we could bump in for a day. With a stage and wall space, it seemed like a great idea to extend that space to share with other artists of all mediums.
So, that was the initial event? How did it kick off?
The night was a huge success. The walls were filled with artworks from over 30 emerging artists within Naarm’s creative community. Live acts graced the stage with their talent and so many people turned out to celebrate and support their friends.
After the event we came together, we realised that we had organically come across the foundation for what could be the Canvas Collective, and the mission and vision has developed from there. We have run several multidisciplinary events since, launched the Canvas Book Issue #1 and we are now onto the launch of Issue #2 at the Old Bar Gallery this coming Tuesday - in true Canvas style with live acts, a visual exhibition and good times.
Photo Credit: Jack Murphy / Breeze
You're both artists yourselves. What creative mediums do you practice?
Felicity: Like many people within the creative arts, I have dabbled in a lot of mediums! Most recently I have explored the medium of film photography, however, lately, I am feeling a gravitational pull back to painterly and sculptural forms. I studied creative writing as an undergraduate, and Arts and Cultural Management as a Master's student. So I am fairly confident as to the world I want to be in!
Ask me this question on any day and it will change- I am constantly drawn to so many different directions. I think people shouldn’t be discouraged if they are like this too, you don’t have to lock yourself in if you don’t want to, and you should always have the confidence to explore new ways of making art. It's in the experimentation that I find the most joy.
Jack: I’ve been making, painting and performing for as long as I can remember. My background is in performance, mainly physical or devised theatre-making, though since returning from the UK I’ve shifted back to visual mediums.
My dominant practice is in analogue photography, though occasionally I’ll spend an afternoon painting or illustrating. I’ve been processing my own film for the last three years and now commercially for a film lab (FilmNeverDie). I’m currently developing my craft in darkroom printing. I’m fascinated by photographic processes where chemistry and light can be used to make images without the use of a camera. I’m currently working on my second photobook, exploring the relationship between decay & decorum. I love aspects of surrealism & hope to make this series as weird as possible. Set to be released 2023.
Tell me more about how the Canvas Collective platform works?
The Canvas platform works to redistribute power to the creatives by offering a space where work can be shared with audiences in an accessible way. We do not have a permanent space and our workflow is generally project-based, which allows us to be reflexive and protect the interests of the artists. Every project has an open submission element. Artists of all mediums have equal opportunity to share their work. We are so hyped every time we see what creatives are coming up with and sharing with the community.
Photo Credit: Nikhil Ranepura / Redhead
How does it differ from the standard art gallery model?
Emerging artists often are expected to fork out large amounts of money in order to have their work seen in a space. This is the reality of being an artist (especially an emerging artist). More often, galleries/venues operating on this model aren’t always active in trying to promote/sell the work of the artists they represent. These spaces take exhibition/running fees with which they can pay themselves and the rent, and if some work sells, bonus to them. In these cases, profits for artists can be a roll of a dice, especially after adding up the costs of creating the art. This is a part of what we are fighting against.
Canvas exhibitions and publications bridge different types of artistic mediums, why is multidisciplinary art so important to you both and the platform?
The artworld can be segregated by mediums. Often you can find a photography exhibition, a visual art exhibition, or go see a band at a live music event. However, all these worlds remain separate. The multidisciplinary nature of our work creates community and network building & opportunities for collaboration across mediums while providing a space to be completely immersed in all facets of art.
We believe that sharing ideas across mediums can strengthen artistic practice, as different disciplines can offer new ways of thinking about artmaking and potentially alternative methodologies for creative approaches or ways of engaging with your own craft. Additionally, there is power in numbers. A group of artists that span across mediums will have a louder voice than a single artist from one medium. We would hope that our multidisciplinary community can work to support one another and advocate for art.
Who can get involved with Canvas Collective? Do you have to be a certain type of artist?
Canvas offers space for all forms of art from all types of artists. Whether a creative starting out, or deeply embedded in the art world, Canvas leaves its doors wide open and welcomes a diversity of creative voices. As such, we continue to offer a variety of platforms/spaces that can facilitate many artistic forms. We hope to continue to maintain an inclusive space for audiences and artists of all mediums with a focus on the values of equality, diversity, community, industry collaboration and the fostering of new ideas.
Describe your relationship with the Naarm art community? Why is community so important to Canvas Collective?
Jack: Community underlines everything that Canvas does. In a world where power and wealth are held by a select few, we think it’s vital to uplift the voice of the people and offer space and autonomy to creatives working on the ground. Basing our practice on working for the community, we hope to offer a decentralised model for professional and artistic development.
As an artist, you’re expected to step into all the roles of a fully-fledged business on your own: networking, presence on social media, bookkeeping & finance management, all while making your art. It’s a big ask. We think that instead of expecting these things from artists, we need to provide a support network that can assist creatives on this journey. By connecting artists from various stages of their careers, inspiration and guidance can be shared between like-minded people and hopefully also make the admin side of art less lonely.
Felicity: Without community, Canvas wouldn’t exist. We have been so grateful to have had such an encouraging response from our community and to be able to continue working and growing in this space. Everything that we’ve done has only been made possible by artists and audiences and their willingness to get involved. Whether that be by showing up to our events or exhibiting art with us, community is at the heart of Canvas and we humbly thank all our supporters who keep us alive.
Photo Credit: Emily Seif / Curious
Who or what has influenced you both the most as a person or a collective?
Felicity: I think that Canvas Collective in its substance has been most inspired by the enthusiasm of the creatives we work with. Jack and I have put a lot of our own time into helping Canvas grow behind the scenes, and it’s always the atmosphere brought by all the people who show up that makes it worth it for me.
As a person, I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of those closest to me. When things seem unachievable, especially over the last couple of years, it's so important to have someone in your corner letting you know that you are capable of what you want to achieve (shout out to mum lol).
Jack: For me, much of what I do in community arts is influenced by my background in theatre-making, specifically devised theatre. Practitioners like Moisés Kaufman who implement a horizontal approach to collaboration, where each role or element in the project (e.g. in a theatre production: lighting, the script, sound design) is given equal weight and value. I aspire to this way of working as I believe it provides a foundation for equal creative opportunity where true collaboration can flourish.
This is why I think that bridging the disciplines is so important because now that I’m working in a context outside of theatre, I’m constantly thinking of ways to apply these methodologies to other practices. I’m excited about the possibility of where this horizontal approach can go when implemented across disciplines.
Photo Credit: Morgan Rudolph / From The Scrap Heap
You are just about to launch The Canvas Book, Issue #02. Can you please tell us a little more about this project?
Building on our previous publication, The Canvas Book now features the works of 50 artists and spans 200 pages. It continues with our goal of showcasing Naarm’s creative community using the medium of print. We will have a limited run of 100 copies available to the public. The profits after costs will be shared between all artists in the book, so every copy sold will go towards supporting the contributors!
And in true Canvas fashion, you're launching with an exhibition and throwing a party to coincide with the project?
Yes, next Tuesday the 31st of May. The Old Bar & Old Bar Gallery are housing this project and for the opening night and we are blessed to be working with Business Partner, Möze & Grazer. Three phenomenal local musicians will be performing live music throughout the night.
Additionally, we're providing the opportunity for 15 artists with work in the book to display their work physically in the space. In the same spirit of the book, there is no theme for exhibiting artists and complete creative license is given for them to roam. The exhibition will run from the 31st of May to 6th of June in the Old Bar Gallery.
Photo Credit: Nikhil Ranepura
How hard was it to pull together 50 artists from multiple disciplines for this project?
We are very fortunate in the short time that we’ve been operating to have built connections and a community that are so willing to get involved, and to also spread the word when we announce a new project. Every show that we do gets bigger and better and has brought new opportunities to collaborate with different artists.
Who is featured?
Morgan Rudolph, Chloe Octigan, Gabriella Bartolo, Asaya Everson, Devika Suri, Megan Cousins, Celina Klohk, Nikhil Ranepura, Scott Kaufman, Alice Duncan, Jaime Montenegro, Aileen Ng, Hannah Griffiths, Sarah Zimmermann, Sarah-Anne Rendina, Kayla May Petty-Kook, Leon Meredith, Madeleine Chiodo, Simon Kim, Jasmine Wang, Everyday Lines, Teneille Rosalie, Timothy Treasure, Bridget McArthur, Pratik Mukane, Aston Yao, India Bartley, Erhan Tirli, Josh Rountos, JM Tubera, Felicity Evans, Phoebe Thompson, Jacob Mullins, Meezaan Dickinson, Natalie Tynan, Kelly Lim, Lucy Ray, Phil Watt, Ivan Jeldres, Maki LeVine, Stefeny Cheng, Ryan Pola, Lewis Warner, Emily Seif, Madeleine Palmer, Brad Price, Daniel Caridi, Xue Qi Chua, Jack Murphy, and Luqman Latif.
Photo Credit: JM Tubera / Machar
How does one attend the launch / group show? Can anyone come hang?
Yes, we are inviting one & all (18+) to come down & following these steps:
1. Grab a drink
2. Pick up a copy of the Canvas Book
3. Have a boogie to the live tunes
4. Be immersed in all the art (and buy some... maybe support an artist or two?!).
Steps 3 and 4 can be continuous throughout the evening and step 1 is to be repeated responsibly. Tickets are limited to venue capacity and are selling super fast. They’re available HERE.
Where can we get our mitts on a copy of The Canvas Book, Issue #02?
The Canvas Book, Issue #2 is available for pre-order on our website HERE. It will also be available at the launch event at The Old Bar Gallery. Following the launch, if we’re not sold out, we’re hoping to be stocked at a few local businesses but more details on this TBC.
Six Instagram handles or websites we should check out and why?
Offt.. This is a super difficult question to narrow down to just six as there are so many incredible names that come to mind. However, the following are doing some really sick things in the art and community space.
@jmtubera - One of the most talented and hardworking photographers that we’ve had the pleasure of working with. JM’s work speaks for itself with seamless use of light, colour and composition to tell the stories of the people he photographs through film.
@lowkeyzine - A publication promoting film photography through the print medium. Having just released Issue #3, Lowkey brings together the wide scope of film shooters in a free and accessible magazine.
@verve.zine - This independent publication lives in the digital space and seeks to support and promote the work of emerging creatives in Naarm. This is done through articles and interviews with artists that are typically underrepresented in the mainstream media.
@salaamradioshow - Based in Naarm and hosted / founded by the incredible @marroushti on the 3CR station, Salaam Radio transcends borders and broadcasts new music from Swana / “Greater Middle East” to unite artists and audiences. Salaam Radio does a sick job of uplifting the voices of artists through sharing music and interviews, all while advocating for and supporting the community.
@honeybonesgallery - A First Nations owned gallery operating on the northside of Naarm run for artists and by artists. Honey Bones runs a weekly art club every Saturday and has some stella artists residing within its inner studios. One of which is @everyday_lines_ (Lauren Ericksen) whose work is in the Canvas Book. Lauren's practice is a combination of a wide scope of visual art, inclusive of tattoos.
@wayovertherecollective - A local artist collective based in South East Naarm which prioritises Bla(c)k, Brown and Indigenous folk. These legends are doing amazing things in the community art space. They promote inclusivity through their programs and deliver opportunities like artist residencies, art clubs and killer exhibitions.
@clothingthegaps - A dynamic fashion label that celebrates Aboriginal people and culture. This crew produce clothes that hold meaning and aim to unite people through fashion. Through everything they do, they actively support, advocate and give back to Aboriginal people.
Also p.s. honourable mention to: @mozemusic_, @grazer.band, @shotbyseif, @matthewjjthorne, @erhn.trl and @dainsg (all amazing musicians/artists doing amazing things, go check em’ out).
Photo Credit: Felicity Evans
Which 3 people alive or dead would you love to feature in the next exhibition / publication and why?
Another golden question that has us spoilt for choice trying to narrow it down. Though we’d love to call upon some souls from beyond the grave, we’re using this as an invitation to the following artists to get involved in upcoming projects…
Safa El Samad / @safaelsamad - There are many reasons why we want to work with the multidisciplinary artist and fashion designer, Safa. She founded the embroidery brand ‘Soof’ which attempts to revitalise old clothes and mitigate textile waste ending up in landfill by borrowing from the Japanese idea of Kintsugi (the art of mending broken pottery w/ lacquer mixed with powdered gold/silver). We think that Safa’s work is incredible, and we’d love the opportunity to collaborate!
Jaycob Campbell / @gonketa_ - Gonketa is a deaf visual artist whose work often explores the movement and shapes formed by hands. He uses bold colours and exaggerated expressions, fundamental in sign language. He is an inspirational figure for the Auslan (Australia Sign-Language) community as well as kicking goals in the Naarm art community. We’re big fans.
Kaiya / @thesupremekaiya - Kaiya has been making waves as a prominent musician in the Naarm music scene. She has been on our radar for a hot minute. With three killer tracks on Spotify, her smooth and soulful tunes are impossible not to groove to and we think she’d be perfect to set the atmosphere at a Canvas event.
What's next for Canvas Collective?
We’ve got big dreams for Canvas and we’re excited to see where it goes and how it evolves. For the moment, we hope to continue building on what we’ve already accomplished by bringing more multidisciplinary events that celebrate art to Naarm and providing as many accessible opportunities to artists as we possibly can.
Our goal is to keep supporting Naarm’s creative community and finding ways to connect artists with audiences and artists with artists, in a wide range of contexts. We have a few big projects in the works that we’re keeping under wraps, but keep an eye on our socials to keep up to date. We’re always open to collaborations so if you have an idea or a project that you want to add a little Canvas to, don’t hesitate to reach out!