This week in Melbourne, a beautiful show emerged in a gallery called Enough. This show, titled Think Pink, featured pink works by female identifying artists in Australia. The opening was this past weekend and the show closes the 27, so be sure to stop in before it's over! I chatted with Sophia Cai and Caitlin Shearer, the friends, Dearest Projects founders, and co-curators of Think Pink, about the show, what inspires them, and how the color Pink can be a powerful thing. Together, their creative collaboration expresses itself in Dearest Projects, a passion project that puts together their skills in a manifestation of ideas and a sense of friendship. Think Pink was just one of the events they've hosted in the Melbourne creative community, and the support here really shows.
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: So tell me a little bit about yourself, each individually. Sophia, you’re a curator and Caitlin, you’re a clothing and fibers artist with a background in illustration. Can you talk about your past and what led you to these, for lack of a better term, professions?
Caitlin Shearer: I have always been encouraged to create and make things with my hands by my mother. As a child I would look at her art history books which sat on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf - these images of Dali, Angus McBean and Warhol stand out as memories on printed paper and influenced me without me even realizing it.
I relocated to Melbourne on my own, only 6 months ago; specifically to situate myself in the space of where I feel the strongest creative community I’ve encountered exists. The support and encouragement from my fellow creatives here is unsurpassed and pretty mind blowing. I’ve never felt so respected or acknowledged for my work before this, and by playing an active role and facilitating things like this exhibition, I’ve been pushing my own boundaries - both socially and creatively. I’ve always worked creative jobs just because it’s what I love to do and it's where I feel completely at home - fulfilling my highest potential. It’s my happy space. I also like to dance, watch true crime docos, talk to my cat, and search for second hand clothing.
Sophia Cai: I have loved art my entire life, but I decided early on not to pursue a career as a fine artist. I remember being the only kid in my art class who enjoyed the art theory component more than the practical component, so I figured I should go study art history! I was lucky enough to have travelled to Europe with my family when I was young, so I think seeing museums from an early age really inspired me to study art.
I completed my Masters in Art History in the UK and moved to Melbourne at the end of 2014. Although I have worked and volunteered at many museums and galleries, I have been focusing more on freelance projects and opportunities recently. I currently have a day job working at a public library that I love (my other passion has always been reading and books), and then I work on projects during my other time. I first met Caitlin as an Internet pal through her blog and we started chatting via email after that and met properly for the first time only a few years ago. In my spare time, I like to knit and hang out with my dog! I suppose knitting remains my creative outlet now.
PT: So the two of you co-curated Think Pink. From my understanding, it’s a show representing female Australian artists who work with the color pink directly or indirectly based on subject matter. What led you to want to curate this show? How did you put it together? What were some of the criteria?
S: Think Pink came together quite quickly and organically. While we were discussing ideas for an all-female show centered on female experience, Caitlin had an amazing brain wave and it all went from there. On a personal note, pink is one of my favourite colours and it was a no brainer for me!
In terms of artists, we basically worked together to pull together a list of artists we would like to work with. We only include artists that we both admire. The curatorial brief for Think Pink was very open-ended, basically we asked the artists to respond in whatever way they wished to the colour pink, whether it’s something they had considered before or not.
C: It was indeed a brainwave! Instead of curating a heavily loaded and analytical feminist show, we wanted to create a realm where these female artists could explore the colour in an intuitive manner. For some of the artists, pink does have a very specific gendered connotation, but for some it is the colour of passion, of flowers, of tongue and gums…. To let the ladies play with these ideas was the main aim, and of course we assumed it would look pretty lush at the end - one rosy hued room.
PT: Why was having it be an all female artist show with pink based work important to you?
C: My dearest creative friends are women and I wanted to celebrate these friendships and solidify the community I feel I am a part of. In some ways it was subconscious, I tend to just go with what feels right.
S: Being a female art curator, I am very aware of the ongoing gender biases in the art world, which you can see in some of our major state institutions. (See #NGVCockfest). I suppose in some ways, this show is our modest contribution to that dialogue, and a means to support female artists across all disciplines and practices. Pink is a colour loaded with connotations, both negative and positive, and many of these connotations relate to gender and femininity. We wanted to question that, and perhaps, reclaim that colour as something powerful.
PT: Why Enough Space? I always wonder why a specific venue is chosen for particular shows. Sometimes there’s a great meaning and sometimes there’s not!
S: Enough Space is a new art space run by two ladies and peers, and one of our criteria for the show was to work with a female-friendly and supportive space. Furthermore, Enough already had a great relationship with us and some of the artists in our show, as they had previously exhibited their works (including Caitlin’s!). Furthermore, Jacqui and Laura were very supportive from the start, they just ‘got’ our idea and what we wanted to do and let us have creative freedom to run with it.
C: Exactly, all of the above!
The space is literally just ‘enough’ space - we wanted a tight consistent hang and so the room itself acted in a way that we appreciated.
S: It was the perfect venue for the show, really.
PT: What has the reception of Think Pink been like? Positively received?
C: Absolutely! So many of the artists involved and friends who came to the opening have expressed feelings of such joy and love for the whole vibe that was so totally apparent on the night.
S: The reception so far has been very positive, both from the artists and the visitors. Visually the exhibition is very coherent, so it’s been nice to watch people walk past the gallery on the street and then stick their head in.
PT: Can you tell me a little bit behind the inspiration to encourage everyone to wear pink to the show opening?
C: I didn't think as many people would show up dressed in pink, to be honest, but was blown away by the effort. I think people miss being able to have a bit of fun when it comes to events in the art world - this was like unabashedly dressing up for a birthday party.
S: Think Pink is a very playful show, and asking everyone to wear pink was a playful gesture! I was very impressed by some of the outfits on opening night, and it made for such an amazing group photo.
PT: What has been the greatest outcome from Think Pink? The greatest challenge?
C: The greatest outcome was having a large crowd of pinkly dressed men and women at the opening who got what we were doing and wanted to help us celebrate it.
The greatest challenge has been staying on top of all the organizational emails while Sophia and I both work full time.
S: Definitely juggling day jobs and creative passion projects has been the biggest challenge. As they say about curation, it’s 90% emails, so I sometimes feel like all I do is write emails!
PT: What does pink mean to you? How does Pink influence your work and your life? How did it influence the show beyond the obvious?
C: Pink is my favourite colour. My eyes and my heart both love it and I cannot explain why it’s not the same level of dedication for yellow or orange. It sings to me. But Pink is a colour that I despised as a teen but love as an adult - it’s roses and babies and elbows and piglets and peaches. It’s a visceral colour, I feel.
S: For me, pink is a colour of joy. Sometimes just wearing pink can lighten up my whole day. I’m someone who loves all shades of pink, from baby pink to bright pink.
PT: If you had advice for young creatives starting out, what would it be?
C: Be interested in what’s going on around you - you can’t exist happily within a bubble.
Passion means the most, as does developing a personal visual dictionary of your own, with which to express your ideas.
S: I agree with Caitlin - being creative or working creatively is often quite a solitary project, which is why I think it’s really great to keep your eyes open to what is happening around you. Be humble but proud of your work.
PT: What’s next for you two?
C: I’ll be making a zine with Helio Press, doing more painting over the Christmas break and designing my next range of textiles. That’s all I know for now.
S: We both had a very busy year, with our own work and also together as Dearest Projects. I’m currently working on my last exhibition of the year with artist Cat Rabbit at a gallery in a old dolls house (yes, really!), and also a couple of exhibitions I have lined up for 2017.
The interview was conducted via Email and has been condensed and edited.