Empty pools, lazy days and oysters with Annalisa Ferraris
Artist Annalisa Ferraris, who sits surrounded by splatters, spills and drips of paint, tells us what makes her feel alive, where she finds inspiration, and how she manages to paint masterpieces despite her busy social life.

What makes you feel the most wild and alive?

Either getting up to some kind of mischief, managing to catch a good wave in a wild surf when you didn’t expect to, and anytime you pull off something where the odds are stacked against you.

How, where and when did your love for painting and art first begin?

In the very beginning (think pre-school/kindergarten times) I remember it being the only subject I liked. When you start recognising that you’re finishing tasks faster than the other children, you quickly realise you are stronger in that particular area than others. For an inherently competitive person, that felt great.

In kindergarten, I would write and illustrate “books” and sell them to my classmates for $3. It was quite a lucrative business and the demand was high, so I kept producing.

From that point on I realised that drawing and creativity are what get me excited. I struggled to complete tasks that I’m not passionate and excited about, such as maths. As a kid, I quickly learnt which subjects produced those feelings of excitement and I excelled at them.

Did you play with other mediums before you settled on acrylic and oils?

Yes, definitely! I think it’s important to. That’s what university and art school are about about — allowing you to explore as many avenues as you can before you settle. I majored in photography and ceramics at university and didn’t start painting until a couple of years after graduating from The National Art school. I still think now, even after all these years, my photography has had a significant influence on my painting practice.

Describe your current style

Hard-edge minimalist painter.

What are your favourite colours on rotation at the moment?

At the moment I’m really loving sap green. Actually, any of the greens. I used to detest green so that’s interesting. Watching myself and other artists cycle through colour phases is so fascinating. I wonder if there’s a subconscious emotional component that drives it or if it’s just something exciting and new for our eyes.

Where do you find inspiration for work?

I find inspiration in buildings and cities, architects, songs, other artists, books, magazines and lots of photography … literally everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Because my work consists of hard lines and slabs of colour pushed up against one another, I love the angular shadows the city casts as well as any Art Deco buildings, furniture and forms.

What does your studio look like? What do you love the most about it?

I’ve just moved to a new studio on Oxford Street in Sydney and it’s a huge white room with four large windows that look out onto leafy Burton Street, even managing to sneak a view of Sydney Harbour. It’s perfect. The studio, in stark contrast to my house, is always a chaotic mess. There’s one big comfy antique armchair that was once my nonna’s. It sits surrounded by splatters, spills and drips of paint, piles of books, brushes strewn around the room and masking tape dangling and dancing off the walls. There’s absolutely no order to anything and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The thing I love the most about my studio is the feeling of infinite potential when you cross the threshold, a certain recognition of participation in one’s dream. It’s a precious feeling. And in its resilience, it will continue to return even if the last time you entered didn’t end in success.

How do you find harmony between your work and personal life?

I’ve got quite a busy personal life, which I love and thrive off, and while work is always busy too, it’s a different kind of busy as the studio is a solitary, quiet and contemplative space.

The harmony lies in the dichotomy of a productive, quiet studio space and a bustling personal life. I think it’s due to the fact that I love people and the lack of human interaction in my job has made me overcompensate in my social life. I don’t have office banter, so I find it elsewhere.


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Talk to us about ambition. Do you dream big? How do you find the drive and tenacity to keep on pushing?

It’s really hard and there have been times I’ve found the art world so difficult that I applied for random office/bank jobs online.

Jobs that I’m not only completely ill-equipped for, but would never be considered for. I’d apply anyway, just in case I miraculously got hired and had to quickly start a “normal” office job. And, as a result of my new office career, I wouldn’t be able to get into the studio that I had become so afraid of. Thankfully for both my art career and the banks and offices, I never got hired.

Despite those trying times I do dream big because, like most things in life I think, why not? We really aren’t here for long so you may as well dream as big as you can, even if you don’t get there. I’d rather fail at something I love than fail at something I don’t. Sure, it hurts when you fail, but it’s going to hurt a hell of a lot more when you compromise and fail. That’s where I find the tenacity to keep going — it’s in the love.

Despite the fact that it can sometimes feel impossible to keep pushing, especially when the tenacity tank is running on reserve fuel and I’d find myself on Seek applying for jobs at ANZ, I will keep trying. Then I’d reach the crest of that hill, that precipice, and feel things are finally moving forward. This, I soon learned, was the gateway drug to becoming more determined and reaffirming the madness of it all.

Who would be your dream collaboration?

My dream collaboration would be with one of the big fashion houses such as Chanel, Gucci or Louis Vuitton. The fashion industry and the art world have always been inextricably linked and I love when they come together.

What does success look like for you?

Enjoying what you do and feeling both driven and fulfilled all the while, bringing some kind of positivity, inspiration, hope or the magic of imagination into the world.

What do you do to blow off steam?

Exercising is a big part of my morning and that generally keeps me focused and calm. Otherwise, a swim or surf, going out to dinner with friends and drinking wine. If I’m particularly stressed, I’ll go for a drive; the unforgiving consistency of the road paired with loud music or a consuming podcast is always a cathartic experience.

What are you …

Listening to: The new Tame Impala album, Khruangbin, and that 2006 Arctic Monkeys album of bangers.

Reading: How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right by Pandora Sykes, Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo, and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.

Learning: Many things. How to be patient and how lucky I am that the calories in wine actually do count!

Watching: All the Christmas movies, Q&A, Sex and the City and The Undoing.

Dreaming: Globally, I’m dreaming of a more environmentally conscious world and a post-COVID-19 awakening to climate change. Personally, I’m dreaming of time with the family, a summer spent by the sea with friends and a successful solo show in February.

If you were to reimagine the world, how would it look?

For a start, everyone would believe in climate change, there would be more funding in the arts, no parking fines, more mental health awareness and equality for everyone. Also, police would be more compassionate and approach all situations with humility, wisdom and sensitivity.

What’s next for you?

Preparing for my upcoming solo exhibition opening Friday February 12th at James Makin Gallery in Melbourne, an exciting new project in the works, and my wedding. It’s going to be a big year!


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