A five-times Archibald Prize finalist, Carla Fletcher’s practice is founded on the painstaking realism of pencil illustrations and paintings. Despite her precision, her works are anything but clinical. Her deep intuition is clear in her ability to bring to life the essence of her subject – human or animal. Her love of the natural world has long been a hallmark of her work and she has used her artwork and her platform to support conservation efforts – from orangutans in Borneo to our native wildlife impacted by the recent bushfires. We caught up with Carla on her return from a very moving trip to bushfire-affected regions.
NT: Carla, you have also just come back from visiting bushfire affected areas. Can you share what you saw and experienced?
CF: I visited my friends Australian Fashion Designers Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson in NSW. Both of their homes were saved by incredible heroic efforts of local firefighters but their bushland was severely burnt out. Jenny lives in beautiful Blackheath in the Blue Mountains and Linda has over 100 acres of bushland in Clandulla about an hour and a half from Jenny.It was about a month after the fires and the beginnings of regeneration were starting to come through the charred black landscape. Such magic seeing life grow back especially after losing so much wildlife. Mother nature is absolutely incredible.
NT: You have been donating 20% from your limited edition native animal prints directly to Australian Wildlife Rescue Relief but what other ways might others help the devastated human and animal communities?
CF: As I am deeply connected to Australian wildlife my donations are going to wires.org.au (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) and recovery support nationally. You can also help by donating directly to one of the reputable organisations that support local firefighters, wildlife rescue or the people being affected. Another amazing way to help will be by visiting the areas affected to help boost tourism. A road trip or weekend away … It will be very important for the communities to be supported so they can survive and rebuild.
NT: You have a deep and enduring love of Australian wildlife and, as a highly detailed artist, you have studied these beautiful animals more closely than most people. Tell us about the connection you have with nature and what we must learn from them.
CF: I recently lived on a bush property about an hour from Melbourne for a few years where I would see more kangaroos than humans most days! There was a koala (I named ‘Maharashi’) who lived in the gumtrees not far from the house which was so very special. Being immersed in nature taught me about the seasons and how precious our wildlife is. [Animals] are pure in spirit and survive in the natural environment without politics or religion. An incredible reminder of what is possible on earth … if we protect it.
NT: You are well known for your high realism, and have gone to great lengths for your art. Give us some extreme examples of how you capture that exquisite detail so well.
CF: I studied Fine Art Drawing at RMIT in Melbourne and in final year I also studied under a top Australian plastic surgeon as he performed face lift surgeries. I sketched human anatomy similar to the old masters who would observe the cadavers in the morgues … It was incredible and intense to see the human face peeled back! In more recent years I have been meditating a lot and using the act of making the detail in my work a meditation. The original Koala drawing, ‘The Alchemist’, is a 2m tall canvas and took hours of work focusing on each pencil mark which I channelled love and light energy into.
NT: You have had multiple Archibald finalist nods including the entries for Del Kathryn Barton and also for Jenny Key and Linda Jackson. Who is on your wishlist to immortalise this year?
CF: I am doing a self portrait this year! They can be tricky (and fairly confronting) but very important works to make. I collected charcoal from both Jenny and Linda’s properties from the bush fires which I will grind down and use to created parts of my portrait. It is important to me to have the ashes of the bushfires in my portrait to represent my travels and fire energy of our Australian landscape. I am definitely wanting to make a statement about our connection to nature in regards to the state of the climate on Earth and also my experience of being a woman not only in the Australian art world but the world at large.