Updated: May 13, 2020
In March of 2020 I had the opportunity to take off down to Melbourne and contribute to the annually anticipated Esoteric Festival. During this festival I had the privilege of painting a mural alongside my next featured artist Miss Darq!
Since our shared experience, I have been avidly following her social media channels and been impressed with her production of new works and dedication to her craft. After reaching out to her, we are back with yet another artist interview and one that uncovers deeper aspects of Ashleigh and her artistic practice. Her honesty and straight shooting approach to my questions only lends itself to enhancing your reading experience.
Before we jump into our chat together, have a read of her artist bio to gain some insight into her background as an artist.
Miss Darq is the artist name of Ashleigh Darq; a short, blonde, emotionally explosive misfit, born and raised on a farm in a rural part of the Mornington Peninsula, Australia.
In 2008, she studied Printing & Graphic Arts at RMIT TAFE which led to a job in graphic design with a landscape company. This only seemed to reinforce her suspicion that she was not comfortable in an office environment.
She completed a two year Diploma of Visual Arts with Chisholm TAFE 2011.
Since then she has executed five shows; solo, joint, as well as curating one group show, and been a part of numerous group exhibitions.
Miss Darq is obsessed by the fragility of life, by her creeping anxieties and sense of identity. She consistently comes back to this struggle with identity, inherited by blood, as well as the individual journey to becoming whole. That is, a lifelong pursuit to integrating the shadow, and airing out her more troubling thoughts in a positive way. Her ultimate goal is to forge really meaningful connections through powerful and honest imagery.
This intro is only scratching the surface of Miss Darq and her practice.
Let's dig a little deeper shall we.
What life circumstances lead you to become an artist?
Miss Darq: "I've been pondering over this a lot recently, as I have been diving deeper into introspection, observing and dissecting what makes me who I am, what defines me, what drives me... I grew up on a small farm, with 3 younger brothers, but spent most of my time alone drawing, writing stories, or making my barbie dolls have sex with each other.
The earliest memory of drawing I have is depicting lewd pictures of my parents on pizza boxes, and being confronted about it by my dad. It's kind of a wonder why I don't make erotic art really, I clearly had an affinity for it from a really young age, although I assume it explains why I prefer my figures to be nude to this day.
Making art was what I was good at, so it just always hung around, but, it took me a really long time to take it seriously.
I got pretty experimental with altered states of being, which certainly helped to push my artistic content into the psychedelic realms, but my earliest drawings were already pretty psychedelic and dreamlike. I was 18 when I first shattered all my preconceived notions of the ego, of what God was, WHO I am, WHY I am.
There was no single thing that happened that made me become an artist, but I do remember when I decided to take it seriously for the first time... it was the end of 2015, sitting in my bedroom in NYC... I had just finished a painting I did dedicated to Amy Winehouse - an exploration of the elements that contributed to her death (toxic love, alcohol, fame, money) done in a kind of awkward pop-art style.. and it just kind of hit me like a tonne of bricks. Why have I been ignoring my life's calling for so long? Everything changed, I've made art almost every day since, and started to invest most of my money into art supplies and courses to learn. I became obsessed by what I needed to become: an artist. I'm possessed by it."
Ayjay: "This is the stuff I like to learn about, the events and memories that precede the moment an artist decides to"take themselves seriously". By doing this, by investing real energy in our artistic practice, we can begin to work with the magic of true decisions. Letting fear of failure fall away and investing our hearts and minds in our work, we begin to not only see new doorways, but we walk through them. I am constantly raising the bar of my artistic standards, and leap forth into new growth. I see your momentum and it's inspiring"
What does your artwork represent?
Miss Darq: "I paint my fears. I recently decided I needed to paint the most honest thing about me, and I am a pretty fearful person. I spent a lot of time as a child really afraid of things, some of a very adult nature that I don't think I should've learned about so early, but also very innocent things. I suffered silently from anxiety, as I did not know what was happening to me, but I didn't live in the kind of family that talked about emotions, so I mostly kept it to myself.
I think this may be what drove me to find solace in art.
I am addicted to painting my feelings now, There are lots of very honest clues about my life and thoughts in my paintings. At the moment, I am particularly taken with painting my fears about motherhood - the pregnant or new mothers with tree roots. What most people see as a connection to nature, to mother earth, is my secret (or not so secret.....) terror about becoming a mother, losing myself, and losing my mobility. I know it's kind of crazy, but it's been a consistent fear throughout my life. I'm dedicated to doing my shadow work, learning to become whole, learning about myself. I don't see this as sad or depressing, I see it as cathartic and healing.
I hope doing this work will help me to exorcise this trepidation about an inevitable part of life. I think when we are exploring our fears, we find a chance to grow.
Ayjay: "I have always expressed work that depicts uplifting themes . I have never really come across another artist that just lays their fears out so open and honest. This completely changes the dynamic of how I view your work and gives me a deeper perspective into the messages behind your brush strokes."
How do you stay on your artist game and overcome creative blocks?
Miss Darq: "To be honest, I'm the worst person to ask about this, I rarely get creative blocks. At least the kind I hear most about. I just go and do the thing. Even if I don't feel like it, even if everything I make sucks... actually, for me, that is my definition of creative block: making crappy work. Sometimes it's all in my head, and when I look at it later I realise it's not as bad as I thought. But I never really have a moment where I cannot make something, or where I can't think of something to do. If I am experiencing a lot of anxiety caused by something happening in my life, then I do have trouble making work... the only thing I can do is keep trying, and just kind of ride that out, it's very rare though. My advice is to keep looking at work that inspires you, buy art books, buy prints, watch arthouse films. Read. And when all else fails - just paint or draw from life!
Ayjay: "In posing this question I was thinking about what my answer would be and like yourself I would have to agree that creative blocks are not something I struggle with. If anything I have so much art coursing through my veins that I feel I can't get it out fast enough. Working with a range of mediums such as spray paint, digital art and virtual reality also gives me the chance to change things up and gain a fresh perspective. I would also have to agree that if I have external challenges in life my artistic practice does not stop but it certainly takes a blow"
Do you have artists that inspire the work that you create?
Miss Darq: "So many artists, I am obsessed with finding new inspiration. I trawl instagram looking for inspiring art. My earliest inspirations were Peter Chung's Aeon Flux series, HR Giger, Invader Zim/ Jhonen Vaquez and lots and lots of anime. Music has and is a massive inspiration for me too, I am particularly inspired by lyrics... words that sound great or have great meanings. As for more recent artists I've been looking at - Beksinski, Vanessa Lemen, Lukifer Aurelius, Tomasz Alen Kopera, and an eye-opening experience I had as a model for Berlin based photographer Krousky.
Ayjay: "You have opened up a can of worms now! H.R Giger's work is next level, some deep hyperspace alien art vibes there. It's interesting to see how our inspirations can influence the work we create as artists, it's almost like an unofficial collaboration with them. Their work can have such a big impact on how we compose and execute our artworks"
How does your art-making process function?
Miss Darq: "I've learned so much from amazing teachers in the last couple years, massive shout out to Russian NYC based queen Olga Klimova; gypsy living encyclopedic-brained maverick, UK artist Daniel Mirante, and Oz based American psychedelic fantastic-realist Adam Scott Miller. I mainly love to play around, I begin some works very planned out, and others totally unplanned. I think being too rigid inhibits me, but sometimes not planning enough means I run into more problems later... but I like surprise. Laying down an imprimatura and then splashing around paint "decalcomania" style as the first step has been the most fruitful technique I have ever learned. The splatters, like a rorschach test, kind of "tell me" what is going to happen in the piece. Plus it's super fun. I often begin a painting in acrylic, and then finish in oil, but it depends.
Ayjay: "I like the idea of letting the paint tell you what direction to move toward, in this way we almost become witness to the creation of our own artworks"
What is the meaning behind your artwork - 'At The Soundless Dawn'?
Miss Darq: "That piece came out so quickly it was incredible, I did it in like 2 days. More of a fun piece, it's about new beginnings. It might also be about death and rebirth, death is a regular theme for me too. Partly because it scares me, but also because it motivates me. Death isn't all about endings, it's also about new chapters, and celebrating life. It's the twin brother of life, it's what makes anything worth doing.
"One needs death to be able to harvest the fruit. Without death, life would be meaningless, since the long-lasting rises again and denies its own meaning. To be, and to enjoy your being, you need death, and limitation enables you to fulfill your being." ~Carl Jung.
Jung believed that life and death were inextricably linked, that we spend the first half of our lives learning to live, and the second half learning to die. The figure in "At The Soundless Dawn" is returning to the void as day breaks, and the world keeps on spinning.
Ayjay: "I had a chance to view this piece first hand at Esoteric, out of all your displayed work this artwork caught my eye. Life and death are so far divided yet so similar. When I think back to the beginning of my journey as an artist I remember concluding that artworks didn't need a description and that the work could speak for itself. Overtime I realised that our descriptions amplify our message and present a deeper meaning to our art and message."
How do you see art changing in the future and how will you adapt?
Miss Darq:"I think there will always be a place for traditional art making. People like tangible
things. That said, so much is affected by the digital age - the shape of artworks to fit better on instagram for example...I think that's a real thing. Humans are amazingly adaptive, like water. Artists will continue to find new ways to adapt to the new climate... tiktok has proven this, I watch my friends find new and exciting ways to capture and keep your attention within 5 seconds of a video, finding hashtags that work in combination with each other to beat algorithms.
It's sink or swim in the digital age and I personally feel grateful to have a platform at all. Then again there are artists who do things like what you're doing - making blogs and shouting each other out, or like what my friend Shane Izykowski is doing with the "Covid Creative Convention" helping artists by making an online convention - it's amazing, "A rising tide lifts all boats". I don't know where I'd be without the artist community around me. We are so lucky that the digital age brought us these tools, that we can find each other, and find new parents for our work. It's amazing.
Ayjay: "Your absolutely right, traditional art brings with it the origin of art itself. This is not something people are going to forget or abandon anytime soon. We are so lucky to live in an era that is so rich with opportunity. These digital platforms you mentioned give any artist the chance to share their work with the world and by doing so have a real prospect at a lasting career as an artist."
Anything else you would like to add?
Miss Darq: To all the budding artists out there, the best piece of advice I can give you is to FIND YOUR TRIBE! Surround yourself with people who are trying to achieve the same thing as you, who are equally or more dedicated than you. It's the best thing you can do for yourself and for each other. We need community - especially artists who live like they're always in quarantine. Your peers are your lifeforce, they will have your back when times are tough, they can offer their critical eye, they will like and comment your posts. Take the time to invest in others' practice as well, it is an exchange of energy, and build each other up.
Ayjay: "A quote I have always loved is "Your vibe attracts your tribe" - put out what you are looking for in return. We are the average of the 5 people we hang around the most, let these people ring true to our intentions and carry us in times of need. Well you can rest assured you have another tribe member here and a supporter of you and your art form! All the best to you and your artistic endeavours."
Connect with Miss Darq.
Below are a series of links that will take you to Ashleigh’s social media channels and online art store to further support her and the artworks she creates. Also be sure to check out Missdarq.com/subscribe to get on the mailing list (the most direct way these days, due to algorithm madness!)
Instagram // @ashdarqart
Facebook // Ash Darq Art
Website // Ashdarq.com
YouTube // Ashleigh Darq
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