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Ilona Nelson is a Melbourne based visual artist who has always had a love for art. She has exhibited reguarly since completing her degree and juggles her own personal work with numerous collaborative projects.
Ilona is currently working on a project titled “This Wild Song”, which seeks to support and promote woman artists and equality within the arts. Her conceptual photographic portraits of Australian women artists are accompanied by an interview and featured on the website. As well as being a incredibly valuable resource for future, the portraits that Ilona has already displayed are simply beautiful.
Education and background:
I grew up in country Victoria and completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts, major in photography, in 1998.
Where are you based?
I live and work in west Melbourne but return to the country every couple of months to hug some trees and shoot some new work.
How long have you been a visual artist for?
I’ve always been obsessed with art and distinctly remember asking my parents if I could do a photography course when I was 10! I’ve been a practicing artist and exhibiting regularly since I completed my degree.
What camera/equipment do you use?
I use a variety of cameras, I have a slight addiction, but mostly I use Canon SLRs (digital and film). My heart lies with film and love playing with Polaroid, Holga and Diana, my Nikon FE and Canon AE-1.
Describe your photographic style and how it has evolved over the years.
I began shooting self-portraits in high school when my best friend got sick of posing for me! So I’ve been photographing myself for over 20 years but the work has evolved when I’ve been honest with myself and embraced the performance element to my work, that it’s okay to work on instinct, and became confident with my practice.
I’m now enjoying doing a lot of collaborative work, which is completely out of my comfort zone as my practice has always been quite introspective. I’m pushing myself to do more of what makes me feel ill.
And it’s only just dawned on me that all my work is about seeking honesty, hopefully I can successfully capture a moment of this honesty. This has been quite the epiphany!
What are your main creative influences?
I see my work as a journal or timeline so the ideas come from my experiences and interactions. I love running around in the bush, finding the light, exploring new environments and photographing my response to the landscape I’m in.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date?
Receiving my first review in The Age this year was pretty amazing even though it was only a line or two!
For my practice I think having confidence in myself and being honest about what kind of work I want to make. And I’m somehow bumbling through motherhood, working as a freelancer and kind of maintaining my personal practice which is completely chaotic but I love it.
Tell us a little about your latest collaborative project “this wild song”:
This Wild Song is a series of conceptual photographic portraits of Australian women artists with a unique voice. The theme of the portraits is for the artist to become a part of their work but also reflect who they are.
The portraits and an accompanying interview are featured on the website which I aim to build into an encyclopaedia of artists and hopefully become a valuable resource. I have 62 artists confirmed for the series so far but I see this as a life long project.
The concept of the project was born when reflecting on the careers of women artists and how they are under-represented in the arts. For example, statistics from the CoUNTess blog show that the average percentage of finalists in the Archibald over the last 9 years have been: male 72% vs female 28%.
I have created this project to support and promote women artists, to celebrate the wealth of talent we have in Australia, but also to work towards and promote equality in the arts.
I’ll be showing some portraits from This Wild Song in a group show at the Town Hall Gallery (Hawthorn) in November and after that I want to focus on making work. I’ve got a few projects on the go like TWS, I’m shooting some new self portraits but with another sitter about connection, another series about grief, I’ll be teaching photography at The Art Room, I run another project for women artists called onefourfour, and I’m writing an e-book called The White Cube for emerging artists on how to host a successful exhibition so I can help artists learn from my mistakes!
www.thiswildsong.com.au | facebook.com/thiswildsong | instagram: @thiswildsong
www.ilonanelson.com | facebook.com/ilonanelsonartist | instagram: @myfavouriteshoesarenone
www.onefourfour.org | facebook.com/onefourfourproject
www.the-art-room.com.au | facebook.com/theartroommelbourne | instagram: @the_art_room_