Di West
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"Beside Myself" - Solo Exhibition 2005 - Feature article - On The Move Aug 2005

. . . tell of life’s little moments

When Di West visited the Queensland Art Gallery as a child, she announced: “When I grow up, I’m going to live there!” Even then, with no inkling of her artistic destiny, Di somehow knew creative expression would be her haven.
This month, painter, sculptor and assemblage artist Di West will mount a solo exhibition celebrating a personal milestone in her creative journey. It has been a journey of discovery, a path to understanding artistic impulses rooted in an unusual childhood and fired by a vivid imagination.
Di grew up in hotels. It was an isolated existence lived largely indoors. So she escaped to her own world of imaginings. “My parents owned the Plough Inn, and our boarders were all merchant seamen who would return with fantastic stories. I was always imagining myself somewhere else.”
When old enough to venture out, Di’s favourite haunt was the old Queensland Museum and Art Gallery, then in the landmark exhibition building beside Brisbane’s RNA grounds. “I loved the order and neatness of the displays, and the sense of space with paintings hung on vast white walls.”
Neatness is an obsession Di recognises in herself and frequently fights in her quest for creative freedom. “I was given a dolls house when I was six, and I set it up with all the furniture. Then I thought it was so perfect, I could never play with it again,” she reveals.
Not surprisingly, Di West made her career as an interior designer, a skill she still exercises occasionally for her husband’s residential development business. But her creative spirit was really released 15 years ago when she began studying at the Brisbane Institute of Art.
Exploring multiple subjects, Di eventually completed a Certificate in Fine Arts. In pursuit of knowledge, understanding and experience, she went on to a Diploma in Fine Arts and, last year, completed her Masters Degree at QUT.
She found it a revelation. “Studying art history helps you understand why you make the art you do. I learned why I like to line things up in rows, why I’m attracted to certain colours. When you get in tune with yourself, it is quite magical, you can accept it and run with it.”
Di’s accomplishments include several successful exhibitions, and her sculptures are exhibited in major galleries – CWM Galleries in Brisbane city, Bruce Watling Gallery, Newstead, and Corporate Art on the Gold Coast. But, until now, her work has to some extent been guided by the necessary structure of her studies.
So her forthcoming exhibition, entitled “Beside Myself”, signifies liberation – “a celebration of myself being completely free.” All Di’s works are metaphorical. For her, simple sayings, words from a script, even song lyrics, conjure up an immediate visual image. “My artworks are frozen moments, captured and expressed in my own visual language.”
Di reveres, among others, the work of two great Australian artists, abstract expressionist Charles Blackman, and master colourist Sam Fullbrook. Her other passion, for collecting quirky handmade depression-era toys, is another obvious influence.
Her contemporary lyrical style depicts whimsical, imagined things. This exhibition will feature works in all three mediums. The large paintings capture figures floating in white space like cut-out-dolls, powerful in form and colour. These, sculptures, in reformed marble and bronze, and assemblages of everyday items are thought-provoking interpretations of familiar sayings.
A little bird makes a frequent appearance, itself a metaphor for artistic freedom, of having no boundaries. Every piece tells a story … often intriguing, perhaps melancholy, mostly joyous and filled with humour.
“Beside Myself” is a captivating collection by a talented Brisbane artist gaining an ever-wider following. Curated by renowned Queensland sculptor and painter, Glen Henderson, it will be officially opened at the Doggett Street Studio in Newstead on August 26, and run for three weeks.
........Catie Langdon Aug 2005