In conversation with Christine Wrest-Smith

In Artist August 1, 2016

Birds and nests are a central theme in your work. Could you tell us a bit about what draws you to these subjects?

I think you are subconsciously drawn to your strongest themes and over time and lots of work and thinking about your choices, the reasons reveal themselves to you.

I spent a lot of my childhood in the bush, building cubbies and shelters, looking for signs of birds and animals and their habitats. Bird’s nests were always rare and special. Birds and nests are both strong and fragile at the same time. The variety of material used in construction relative to location is intriguing; some have string, paper, fur, hair- some are held together with spider web. They are a testament to collecting, creativity and pragmatism even before you consider all the elements of symbolism.

You work across a range of media; painting, drawing, printmaking and more recently, sculpture. Do you have a favourite medium or technique, and why?

I think of myself as a painter and draughts person; however I tend to have several works in progress at any given time, often in a variety of media so that I’m always busy and working on something. Paintings might need to dry or waxes harden before the next stage. If there is a problem I’m having a tussle with I might put the piece aside for a few days. Some days I just want to change media to see how the subject reads. The subjects themselves will determine their best media, for example the burnt trees, I’ve drawn and painted them which can work fine, but for me to convey successfully what I see or feel about them, I feel they need to be three dimensional. The nests work well in drawings and paintings because I can express the form and evoke a sensitivity of the subject via the mark making.

You are currently working on a series of portraits in oil paint. Who are the subjects you are choosing to paint?

The current portrait works are a series of my colleagues from Australian Galleries. I am portraying artists in the context of their own work, using their motifs to position them, in some way, into their own narrative. I discuss my ideas for the work with each sitter to form a collaborative outcome that we are both happy with. I want the work to be viewed as a respectful tribute to each artist.

What is the most recent lesson you have learned from your artistic process?

Over the last few years I have learnt not to ponder over art competitions. You send your entry in and then forget about them. That way, if you get in, it’s a nice surprise, if you don’t; you haven’t invested time thinking about it too much so any disappointment is minimised….ideally!?!

Other than making art, what do you enjoy doing most?

I am a very solitary person and have quite diverse interests. I enjoy being outdoors, working on a project which might be restoring furniture or perhaps a road trip to see a new place and work in a completely new environment. I have number of animals and my day starts with food and water for them, it takes a while and it’s a lovely way to begin the day.

What is the best advice you have received about living a creative life?

In a biography of Norman Lindsay I read when I started painting, the artist was quoted as saying “just do the work and the work will look after you” I thought that was a very sound bit of advice, its always in my head and it makes me work when I feel like slacking off or procrastinating.

What are you most looking forward to about the year ahead?

Pleasant unexpected surprises… be they in the form of meeting good people, recognition of my work in a way that I never saw coming, even things like selling a painting unexpectedly…those sorts of things lift your spirit – oftentimes when you when you need it most, things that make you feel like the universe is looking after you when you might feel like the world is against you.

To view Christine Wrest Smith’s current online exhibition, please follow this link: