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This month at MECCA, we’re celebrating individuality and beauty. Naturally, since we’re all about makeup, the way we’ve done that is through foundation. We offer a multitude of shades, well over 3,000 in fact, so that every single customer should feel confident in finding their perfect match. As part of the campaign, we commissioned five talented female artists to create artworks for our windows at Myer in Melbourne and Sydney for the month of September. We spoke to each of the artists about their creative process.
Paint, photography and identity politics collide in the work of Atong Atem. The Australian artist, who was born in Ethiopia to South Sudanese parents, creates exuberant self-portraits and studio portraits that are a corrective to bleak ethnographic studies. “Most of my inspiration comes from the media I grew up on, specifically sci-fi and fantasy in terms of creating what I see as elaborate fantasies in my work,” she says. “I'm also very much inspired by African studio photography and my own relationship to ethnographic film and photography.” Atem’s artwork, a self-portrait decorated with foundation-like droplets, commands attention. “I approached it the way I usually approach my self-portraiture, which is to dive into the creating and adjust and play as I go,” she said. “I knew I wanted to play with adornment and symmetry and I applied that to the creation of this particular work, figuring out the details, almost like painting, as I went along,” she adds.
Indigo O’Rourke’s meticulously rendered pen drawings investigate the art of the everyday, and explore social, political and cultural issues. At first glance, her work recalls doodles, but a closer examination reveals her mastery in depicting faces, emotions and experiences. For O’Rourke, it’s the accessibility of the biro that attracts her. “I could find one anywhere and so if I felt the urge to draw at any time I could,” she says. “I remember doodling with a biro from mum’s handbag at a restaurant when I was a kid. I fine-tuned the biro at art school because I had no money and they were so cheap.”
On the remarkable piece she created for the Myer windows, for which she drew inspiration from the faces of various MECCA team members, O’Rourke said portraying diversity was a big focus. “The concept narrowed down to coincide with the release of the multiple shades of foundation,” she said. “I absolutely love that there is a shade for every human, and so then my project started to go into the direction of inclusion. I wanted to draw people with different skin tones, of all ages, and include non-binary and men that wear makeup too,” she adds.
Artist Janelle Low explores the displacement that children from multicultural backgrounds experience when growing up in Australia. Low, who has a Chinese heritage, questions notions of identity and acceptance. “Being ‘normal’ in the nineties in Western Australia was being white and having Vegemite sandwiches in your lunchbox,” she says. “Deviation from this was ‘weird’, ‘gross’ and unequivocally 'other'. Being the first in my family born outside of Asia, I grew up in a strange in-between state of not feeling properly Asian or properly Australian.”
For her piece, Low turned to porcelain and photography. “I was thinking about the simultaneously delicate but incredibly strong and durable qualities of porcelain and tying that into my thoughts around women’s strength,” she says. “It’s a strength that should not be underestimated, no matter its perceived outward appearance.” Low is especially inspired by the community of extraordinary women around her. “Other women of colour also navigating the arts and creative industries support and inspire me every single day,” she says.
Sam Burke’s playful, kinetic videos, in which she poses her own body on a plinth, subvert outdated notions about art, sculpture and the female form. Burke’s work is informed by music, dance and visual art. “Art in all its forms inspires me,” says Bourke, who’s also a highly regarded yogi. “The work for MECCA is a video piece looking at the body as sculpture through the female lens. I’ve also highlighted facial expression, bringing into frame the collaboration with MECCA’s large foundation offering,” she adds.
“I have an interest in the body and its use as a sculptural form within the art context,” says Burke. “This piece was great fun to make and I think that translates in the playfulness of the three video works. It's been wonderful to work with MECCA on this campaign!”
Liz Sonntag, aka Tinky, creates miniature dioramas installed on Melbourne’s laneways for the amusement of passers-by. Her hidden gems, though diminutive, expand the definition of street art. “The first one I ever put together made me laugh a lot, so I kept doing them for my own entertainment,” she says. “Then I noticed other people were laughing at them too, photographing them, and putting them on social media. It inspired me to keep making them. There’s nothing better than adding a little joy into someone’s life, even if briefly.”
For her Myer window, Sonntag created three quirky scenarios inspired by MECCA customers. “There’s a morning at the beach, an afternoon at the gallery, and a night at a party,” she says. “There’s a beauty product that can be used for any of these experiences.” Naturally, Sonntag added absurd touches and witty captions. Her beach scene is captioned thus: “Always one to seas the day, Marguerite loved getting acupuncture as she sunbathed.” “I love collaborating with other creative minds and with people that celebrate visual art,” she says. “MECCA’s strong vision to empower and champion women and girls should be admired and celebrated.”
Interviews by Emily DeaconAugust 2018
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