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Joanna Kambourian at work in the studio. Photo by NATSK.
Joanna Kambourian at work in the studio. Photo by NATSK.

In focus, Joanna Kambourian

Joanna Kambourian is a contemporary artist, printmaker and graphic designer based in Lismore. She's also the founder of Ms Brown's Lounge, Ms Browns Press, Manager at Lismore Art Space, and part of a new artist collective called 8.

You're a fairly recent graduate of Southern Cross University's Visual Arts Program, what goals did you set yourself for your first five to ten years in practice?

I began my career years ago at Enmore Design Centre and had been working in Sydney as a Graphic Designer.

In 2003 I moved to the Northern Rivers to study at SCU and I completed my undergraduate studies in 2006, majoring in printmaking, and spent some time working towards setting up my design studio 'Ms Browns Lounge' through the NEIS program.

In 2009 I graduated with first class honours with the goal of finding a physical space to set up my design and print studio and work full time establishing myself as a contemporary artist and freelance designer.

At the time it was (and still is) my goal to develop my own arts practice alongside Ms Browns Lounge with the long term vision of setting up a print studio with a focus on design, letterpress, book binding and traditional print processes.

Your plans were helped along when you were awarded a $10,000 ArtStart Grant, through the Australia Council's Emerging Artist program. What objectives did you include in your grant proposal, and how did you set about realising your vision?

Yes, I was really fortunate to receive my grant when I did, and in 2010, I was able to put the essential part of my plan into action!

My proposal was focused on the necessity of having a studio in order to further my practice and support myself as an artist. I also spoke about the potential for a studio space to assist in supporting my arts practice through creative industries endeavours such as my design services, workshops, and collaboration/project opportunities. 

Once I had been successful with the grant and began looking for a space, I came across the purpose built, Lismore Art Space (LAS). Renovated and set up by local photographer, Ted Harvey, LAS is a large art space with five separate studios, garden and communal areas in which to work. With such a great space available it wasn't hard to find other artists to fill the other studios and my plans changed quickly from finding and working in a studio on my own to managing Lismore Art Space!

Lismore Art Space is currently home to your graphic design and print studio, Ms Browns Lounge, and also provides a workspace for three other local artists. What else happens there?

LAS plays host to a variety of art and community related goings-on, including workshops, put on by myself as well other residents of the studio, and we also have groups and teachers hire the space for their own arts workshops.

We have had some fantastic events in the space, notably the Masters Performance event by artist Kellie O'Dempsey and the Splendid Arts Dinner last year. 

Currently there are a few artists in residence; Darren Bryant, Lisa Wise, Mel Robin, Fiona Fell and we also have a photography business working out of the space: Big Scrub Media. 

In partnership with printmaker Darren Bryant, LAS will soon be home to Ms Browns Press as we continue to set up and expand our print studio and presses into an open studio to offer print facilities as well as master printing services, book binding, letterpress and more.

You are also part of a new artist collective called 8, with membership including Lismore Art Space residents and other local artists from the Lismore area. What is the idea behind the collective, and how do other interested artists get involved?

The idea came about simply through some conversations with other artists who shared the desire to work collaboratively on conceptual projects. The eight artist collective is a collaborative group formed out of the simple mutual desire to work together on projects that we are unable to realise as individuals.

Current artists working within the group are Julie Barratt, Darren Bryant, Raimond De Weerdt, Karla Dickens, Joanna Kambourian, Brendan McCumstie, Michael Moynihan, Wendy Powitt, Scott Trevelyan and Lisa Wise.

The QR Project, currently on exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery (until May 6), is the first collaborative project to be undertaken by 8 collective members. Showing in conjunction with the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize, the QR Project asks visitors to utilise Smart Phone technology to access a series of self-portraits and other conceptual works dealing with the idea of the portrait, using unique 'QR' barcodes. How was this idea developed, and how can the broader audience also view the show online?

This exhibition was borne out of the ideas and musings of eight member Brendan McCumstie who brought it into a number of discussions, and from this the QR Project grew.

Eight artists from the group developed a suite of three works to be viewed online in some form. The works include interactive images, film, animation, a digital work, the image of a real object, a portrait and a fragment of text relating to identity.

Visitors engage and interact with these works through twenty-six exquisitely printed and embossed QR codes. 

In this collaborative project we are proposing that it is only through our own engagement with one another that we can make sense of the information we are presented with, and addressing the idea that is a necessity of engagement to communicate and relate to more than just the visage of person.

The project has been designed to entice a younger audience into visiting art galleries. It can travel and is ongoing, allowing for the possibility of more participants, more codes and more exhibition opportunities. 

If you can't visit the gallery or don't have a Smart Phone just visit and you can view the works online by clicking on the codes.

In between all of these new initiatives, you also have your own art practice. What inspires your personal work, and when, where and how do you share it with the world?

Yes! As my father used to say," What's the point in being bored!"

I do have my own art practice, and it is the central driving force behind it all.  I enjoy connecting with like minded creative people, am an avid social networker, and really have a passion for my profession. I find that being active and engaged with what I love constantly affords me more opportunities to share in so many ways!

My own work is at times very personal in nature and reflects my own research and interest in my particular cultural, social position and identity. Pattern, repetition and decoration feature heavily.

 I have a strong exhibition practice and have been involved in some significant survey shows, group shows, projects, folios and collections including the 2High emerging arts festival in Brisbane and recently Pastemodernism3 at Outpost in Sydney.

My practice encompasses both traditional and digital printmaking and also installation and new media. I am just embarking on a new body of work which intends to push the boundaries of a traditional printmaking practice by working with commercial print processes and of course (naturally!) incorporating installation as well as design concepts and elements. Like me my work is often hybrid in nature and doesn't follow all the rules...!

To find out more about Joanna check out Ms Browns Lounge and 8 Collective, or connect with her on the Northern Rivers' own creative industries network portal, Northern Rivers Creative.