bad apple is excited to introduce a new series into our rotation! In Interview with the Artist we will chat with queer artists from all across Aotearoa about their work, motivation, personal philosophies and everything in between. We hope to bring each artist a new audience who will engage with their work, and we encourage you all to check out any exhibitions that are in your area!
For our first interview, Mik chats with emerging multidisciplinary artist Wesley Fourie. You can find Wesely on Instagram, instagram.com/wesleyjohnfourie or check out his website wesleyjohnfourie.com.
Would you be able to introduce and tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey, yep! My name is Wesley John Fourie, and I’m a queer Pākehā artist currently based in Whanganui. I work mostly with textiles, but recently I have been attracted to the immediacy of painting. I see my work as a way to bring the discussion of the preservation of our natural environment into a fine art context, but I’m also interested in making work that responds to what is going on immediately around me. I tend to just say I have a “multi-faceted art practice”, rather than rambling on as I have done above.
You are currently exhibiting in Tāmaki Makaurau at Window Gallery, in Napier at Boyd-Dunlop Gallery, in Kirikiriroa at The University of Waikato and in Whakatane at Sheaff Gallery, Te Koputu a te whanga a Toi–how do you find time for everything?
Yes, also in a group show at the Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui till the end of the month. I am a full-time artist, so my time is devoted entirely to making (and the logistics of exhibiting) work. A lot of the shows that are happening at the moment have been in the works for a few years, so I have had time to prepare, as most of my work is quite labour intensive. This also wasn’t my intention to have things lined up to cross over so much. A lot of things have been rescheduled because of COVID, some multiple times, so it’s been a bit of a process trying to get all the work where it needs to be at the right time. But, somehow we’ve got it done.
How does it feel, being able to showcase your work at a variety of galleries? What kind of experience has this been?
Fucking crazy. I don’t hold any qualifications, and I don’t really have any other skills, so I count my blessings daily that it all seems to be working out. It comes after years of devoting myself to my practice and believing in the work I make (even after years of only getting “no” to proposals). I love being an artist, and I don’t think I’m really very good at anything else, so it’s nice that at least for now this is working. I am very much looking forward to having a holiday, though. I can recognize my main interest for art making is in institutions or public spaces, as the relationship with making does change when there’s a price tag attached to it, but that’s a part of the process I’m doing my best to navigate.
Your exhibit at Window Gallery is finishing up this week, how has the response been?
It’s strange to me because I never really think about the fact that people are going to have a response to the work. I hope people have responded positively to it, but I couldn’t really say. The work was important for me to create regardless of its response. It speaks to a memory I have of my ex and I, and is actually responding to a work that I made a few years ago thinking about this memory – Forest Floor (where we lay together in love) – which is dealing with it in a different way. I feel like a lot of the time I make work that is the same or similar to each other, and it’s like a stamp I’m trying to press out of my brain, that was very much the case for the work at Window Gallery.
What motivates you to use textiles in exploring themes of nature, spirituality, and sexuality?
Textiles interest me because of how open a field it is to play in. Within this, there are so many materials (and ways of working those materials), that the scope of it is what I find exciting. I deal with these topics in different ways. I am interested in responding to things that are directly around me within my lived experience, including our natural environment.
Creating work that responds to the earth that our feet stand on is of great importance to me, as to us these huge natural bodies are so fixed and solid. But the reality is they too will change over time, just at a different pace than us. This is more so pronounced as we find ourselves living within the climate crisis, and I hope that as the world around us changes, these objects I create will help viewers reflect on this environment we find changing around us.
What would you describe as your personal philosophy when it comes to your creativity?
I create because it makes me feel better. As I said before, I really don’t think I am good at anything else. My philosophy around making very much is that we act as conduits to a greater creative force. I know within my own self that I’m not a smart person, but I feel like I have smart ideas, and I’ve always attributed this to the creative spirit that I think lives within us. I always loved the root of the word genius; that we as creatives aren’t geniuses, but rather we have a genius (like a guiding spirit). I won’t lie, there is also definitely an ego-based element of legacy attached to my making. I know I will never have children, and these objects that I create are all that I can leave behind as my contribution to this Earth’s history, so that certainly factors in, in some capacity.
Would you like to talk about the interconnectedness of being South African and queer as an artist? How do these two characteristics shape your work?
I have no memories of my time in South Africa, so I have really only ever considered myself as an immigrant in New Zealand. I definitely feel a disconnect, as I love Aotearoa but I can also recognize this is not where my feet touched the earth. I dealt with this idea in an exhibition currently on show at the University of Waikato, with Rozana Lee, where I knit the height of South Africa’s tallest mountain, Mafadi. I became very interested in the idea of migration around/from Southern Africa, which led to me creating a series of work about the annual sardine run around the southern coasts of the continent. This manifested as knitted pieces and embroidered pieces that mimic the look of swarms of fish, as well as a video work of myself standing in the ocean, titled Self portrait as a fish. I think in some way the scale models I make of mountains and rivers of Aotearoa are me trying to pay tribute back to this land which I am so thankful to live on. I hope that this makes sense.
With the arts making a comeback, now that restrictions have eased, do you have any plans for future works? Or, perhaps, collaborations that you would like to embark on?
Yes, me and two of my friends, Taarn Scott and Hana Pera Aoake, have multiple collaborative shows in the coming month. The first of which, The Future Of Dirt, opens at RM on the first of June. Besides this, I have a group show next month and a solo exhibition in late August/September with RDS in Ōtepoti Dunedin.
Who are some artists in Aotearoa at the moment that you are excited about?
I feel incredibly blessed because a lot of the artists I am inspired by are my friends. I love the work of Taarn Scott, Hana Pera Aoake, Alice Alva, Marc Blake, Priscilla Rose Howe, and Rozana Lee. Earlier this year, I had to reset my goals for my art practice, as I had achieved two serious dreams, by both by having a show with Rozana Lee, and also sitting alongside another art icon of mine, Paul Yore (Australian), at Ramp Gallery, in a show curated by Rachel Kiddie McClure. For New Zealanders outside of the country, I absolutely love Kate Newby, and would one day love to own one of her ceramics.
I would like to end this interview by saying thanks for your time and interest, it was a pleasure responding to these questions.
The Dance is on exhibit at Window Gallery in The University of Auckland’s General Library foyer in Tāmaki Makaurau until Thursday 19 May.
A collection of Wesley’s works are available to view and purchase at Boyd-Dunlop Gallery in Napier.
I followed you into the sea is on exhibit at Sheaff Gallery, Te Koputu a te whanga a Toi in Whakatāne until Sunday 24 July.
From Across Bodies of Water and Other Transient Objects, a joint installation with Rozana Lee, is on exhibit at The University of Waikato’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts in Kirikiriroa Hamilton until Friday 27 May.
finders, a group exhibition featuring artists utilising found materials, is on exhibit at Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua in Whanganui until Sunday 29 May.
The Future of Dirt, a group exhibition with Taarn Scott and Hana Pera Aoake, goes on exhibit at RM Gallery in Tāmaki Makaurau on Wednesday 1 June.
Featured images courtesy of Wesley Fourie.