Interview with Dianna Wells, Meat Market

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    3 January 2017


    We spoke to Dianna Wells, a photographic artist based in the Creative Spaces Meat Market studios about her latest project: Boundaries, and the concept of the 'new wild' in future work.

    You recently completed a wonderful collaborative project with writer Sophie Cunningham, can you tell us a bit more about the project and what you discovered?

    The ‘Boundaries’ project was an exploration of the City of Melbourne’s current boundary, produced with the assistance of a City of Melbourne arts grant. The writer Sophie Cunningham researched and wrote an essay reflecting on the geographic, social, indigenous and political history of those boundaries. As the photographer, I worked in tandem with Sophie as I walked, drove, sailed and rode around the boundary. I was interested in capturing intersections and boundary markers within this urban landscape that were unusual and not necessarily obvious in the everyday sense, I also photographed places with historical significance resonating with stories in the essay. The essay and photographs came together into a printed publication. The most exciting part of the project was becoming aware of where water flowed in pre-European Melbourne, indicating the boundaries of where indigenous territories originally lay. Melbourne, pre-white settlement, was a combination of swampland, grasslands and forest. Creeks and rivers within the boundary also determined harder boundaries that grew up in the wake of white settlement.

    Dianna Wells, Moonee Ponds Creek, North Melbourne

    A location of significance was the self-seeded River Red Gums in the Moonee Ponds Creek growing under the Citylink freeway and its off ramp. This photograph was taken in the suburbs of North Melbourne / Kensington looking south from Racecourse Road. This is where the Moonee Ponds Creek becomes the engineered Railway Canal, it was once the site of a large wetland, and when I took this photograph in late September 2016 it had flooded. In my work I look for sites that present a tension between the natural and built form, in this case the monumentality of the freeway with the organic forms of the trees and creek. I’m interested in the way that this natural species has found its way to regenerate in a neglected drainage area under a freeway. Freeways are often aligned with natural boundaries in Melbourne.

    Dianna Wells, The Back Gate, Kensington Stock Route

    Another site that was a discovery for me was an underpass called ‘The Back Gate’ constructed under Epson Road in 1911 as part of the Kensington Stock Route in Kensington. Bluestone lanes were created to herd hundreds and thousands of animals from the Newmarket Saleyards to the Maribyrnong River and across Lynch’s Bridge to Angliss Meatworks in Footscray. Peppercorn trees were planted along the route in the 1920s to provide shade for the animals.

    How long have you been in your studio and what do you love about it?

    I have been in my studio at the Meat Market in North Melbourne for three years. I love the space because it’s light and airy with a great view down to Blackwood Street from the 1st floor. I have interesting neighbours I can chat to who are writers, artists, filmmakers and arts administrators. It’s close to my home in Brunswick so I can ride my bike in every day and it’s close to the village atmosphere of the North Melbourne shopping precinct.

    Dianna Wells, Upfield Railway Line, Park Street, Parkville

    Tell us a bit about your studio space and what a typical day in the studio looks like for you.

    I spend my time thinking and researching ideas for creative projects. These projects are usually bodies of fine art photomedia works. Scanned negatives captured on my Hasselblad camera are edited on a computer in my studio and prepared for printing. I have a large table that I use for spreading work out to look at and a bookcase with art books and reference material. I also use the studio for graphic design projects, producing marketing materials such as publications and websites for clients within the creative industries. Recent projects include Lovelocks for Craft Victoria and promotional material for The Australian Chamber Choir 2017 International Tour.

    Dianna Wells, Westgate Park, Fisherman’s Bend

    How important is collaboration and partnership to you when it comes to creative projects?

    Collaboration was very important for the Boundaries project. The research and written material conducted by Sophie informed the photographic works for the publication that I designed for the project. We walked and traveled together along parts of the boundary, exchanging thoughts and information about sites we had seen independently. Working collaboratively breaks up the isolation of working alone and I found that the project came to fruition quickly. I work collaboratively with other creative professionals on design projects such as commercial photographers, stylists, and writers to assemble products together as a whole. Concepts and briefs are usually created in tandem with the client.

    What are some of the key elements of a ‘creative space’ in your mind?

    A place that is removed from the distractions of daily life, where there is space, light and quiet. 

    Dianna Wells, Pacific National, Dynon Road, Footscray, Maribyrnong River boundary

    What projects do you have on the horizon now that you’ve completed a major piece of work?

    I am working on a series of black and white hand printed photographic works exploring the aesthetic and moral complexities of introduced plants and seeds growing wild in Australian National Parks and bushland environments. There is a debate that interests me in the scientific world arising from my research on this topic. For fifty years conservationists have been battling to keep the ‘aliens’ out, describing introduced species as the second biggest threat to nature after habitat loss. Other ecologists maintain that our involvement in moving species around the world is as long as our own migrations and efforts to keep foreign invaders out of ecosystems might often be counter-productive, weakening nature rather than strengthening it. I’m aiming to engage viewers with this debate and the concept of ‘the new wild’.

    All photos by Dianna Wells.

    From top: 

    Moonee Ponds Creek, North Melbourne

    The Back Gate, Kensington Stock Route

    Upfield Railway Line, Park Street, Parkville

    Westgate Park, Fisherman’s Bend

    Pacific National, Dynon Road, Footscray, Maribyrnong River boundary


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