Belinda Howden in Spydeberg Norway
I’ve never met Belinda Howden, though I hope to rectify that at next Friday’s Creative Talks when we pull up a chair to listen to an artist who is a favourite to us both. In the meantime I am more than happy to live vicariously through her travels from Venice to Norway, Iceland and beyond. Her artworks are diverse but quietening, measured and clever.
I studied Fine Arts at the University of Newcastle and Sydney College of the Arts. During this time I worked at Newcastle Art Gallery and the Lock-Up Cultural Centre. In mid-2011 I packed my life up to travel, completed two artist residencies, worked for the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and most recently worked for a really interesting space in Oslo, Unge Kunstneres Samfund.
What has been your most memorable project?
As indulgent as it is, probably the exhibition I curated in 2010 – No Artist Is An Island. It featured the work of Lucas Grogan and Liam Benson, two young Australian artists whose work I love. It’s memorable because every time I think about it I get hungry to do more.
Belinda Howden, The Castway (No Artist Is An Island), 2010
What would be your dream project?
Tough question. As a flight of fancy, a project that sees me explore remote regions of the world or curious phenomenon would be pretty exciting. Lately though I have been dreaming about writing a book. I know exactly how it looks, the size, the thickness, the colour of the cover, the title’s font, now if I just knew its contents…
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Teaching myself to swim at the ripe old age of 23.
What is your most treasured possession?
The ‘Golden Boy’; this is him here.
Belinda Howden, Spydeberg Bikies, 2012
Belinda Howden, Spydeberg Norway, 2012
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Typical and work are not really two words that exist for me right now. I’m living in the wheat fields of Spydeberg, 40 minutes by train from Oslo, so life is a little untypical at the moment. Work days involve a 3km walk through farmland to the nearest train station, arriving at UKS, writing and emailing, cooking lunch for everyone in UKS’s beautiful communal kitchen, more writing and gallery sitting, struggling to understand Norwenglish phone calls, catching the train back again, walking another 3kms home through rolling green hillsides, and failing to fall asleep before the midnight sun does. Days not at work involve a lot of photo taking, a lot of brown cheese eating and at least some form of hard labour such as whipper-snippering waist high grass.
Where do you derive creative inspiration?
Everywhere. As clichéd as it sounds I think my greatest inspiration is ideas. I don’t really care what medium or form they take on, inspiration can come from pop-music to Chomsky lectures. I can talk, listen, read about, look at, discuss, debate, consider, cogitate on, and argue over big, little, new and old ideas until I am, or they are, blue in the face.
Belinda Howden, Narsarsuaq Greenland, 2012
Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Lucas Grogan, Liam Benson, Gerry Bobsien, Lisa Slade, Stuart Richardson. People I don’t know who inspire me: Jonathon Safran Foer, Nicolas Bourriaud, Kanye West, M.I.A, Björk, Woodkid, John Mawurndjul, Yinka Shonibare, Anton Ginzburg, Christian Thompson, Ian Mclean.
L: Belinda Howden, ÚR FÁITH HÁS GÖT TÖ BE GRÆTÉR THÁN ÚR FÆR, Hafnarstraeti, 2011
R: Belinda Howden GÖÓÐ LÚCK BÁBE, Hospitaldalen, 2011
Apart from your work, what other interests, passions, hobbies do you have?
Ocean swimming, without a doubt. I refuse to swim in chlorinated pools. It is like steeping yourself in a chemical soup. Also cycling, I am completely obsessed with cycling but not in that Lycra kind of way. Every city I have lived in whilst away I have managed to buy, hire or borrow a bike even if staying there for just a week. The only exception to that rule is Venice mainly because the streets are made of water (note: not the swimmable kind either). If I had stayed there any longer than a month I would have created a makeshift bicycle-boat-thing out of sheer desperation.
How long have you been a Novocastrian?
2005-2011. I must admit I absolutely hated Newcastle when I first arrived but I think this makes me Novocastrian by default. From hate to love or the love to hate story is one synonymous with Newcastle.
Newcastle in a word?
Belinda Howden, What Is This? Fish? Videy, 13 Sep 2011
Belinda Howden, The Speed of Forgetting, Old News Exhibition, 17 Oct 2011
What do you love and hate about living in Newcastle?
See, synonymous! Love: the people. There is ease to living in Newcastle and the people fiercely protect it. You can do what you want, create anything, initiate anything and Newcastle and Novocastrians will support it. But therein lies its downside. For me Newcastle couldn’t sustain growth beyond a certain point; is a place to be fostered. It initiates a lot but can’t follow through and that can become dangerously frustrating. Hate: it is in a constant state of becoming.
How is Newcastle different to anywhere else?
Everything is within 20 minutes reach.
Where are your favourite places in Newcastle / Hunter to:
My mates kitchen.
Estabar for coffee. I’m looking forward to trying Terrace Bar for a night out when I return.
The Farmers Markets and Natural Tucker.
Fernleigh Track with a stopover in Redhead.
The long stretch of blue that is Merewether/Dixon/Bar Beach.
What is Newcastle / Hunter’s best-kept secret?
Timing your launch into the ocean when jumping off the back of Merewether Baths.
Belinda Howden, She Loves Lovers, Australian Pavilion, 13 Oct 11