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Australian Arts Review Online 'On the Couch' with Kelsey Ashe

Who is Kelsey Ashe? I’m an interdisciplinary Artist, a mother of two divine children, a free spirit, a dreamer, a do-er. A Tasmanian by birth, a gardener, a free-diver, a thirsty reader. I have a PhD in Philosophy (Art), I’m a Writer and Lecturer in Art and Design at Curtin University and a curator for Dark Swan Exhibitions. I meditate a lot, I fly in my dreams; I tell people their future, I’m an optimist and a total Romantic idealist – at the same time I’m very aware of life’s ability to cause dreadful pain, anguish and heartbreak.

What would you do differently from what you do now? I’d be a Florist or an Archeologist or a Poet or the curator of Modern Art in a European Art Gallery. I’d never second-guess myself as a 20-something year old, nor take on insecurities that get you nowhere. I love fresh flowers and I love Antiquity – I dreamed of unearthing treasures from Classical Antiquity as a child or diving for shipwrecked gold coins. At 17 I published erotic literature in Tasmania – I think I grew up quick – I left home aged 15 and thought I’d be a writer – a long journey later I am a writer, but about Art. I’m finally writing poetry again though…

Who inspires you and why? Women artists who have fearlessly followed their own path. Historically Frida Kahlo, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Joy Hester, Kay Sage – these women lived and breathed their art and although most were not much recognized in their life-times, they carried on anyway. Contemporary Australian Artists Pat Brassington, Heidi Yardley. People that are not scared to shine or to at least shine their truth if it be dark; that let out all that goodness or darkness for the world to see. I like cutting-edge thinkers, who know how to create that space in their lives to be able to see ahead and prepare for it with new ideas and approaches – that takes vision, but also discipline.

What would you do to make a difference in the world? Reduce Waste. I had an Atelier for years that sold my own label ASHE – hand printed textiles, prints, garments etc – but I became dismayed with the endless consumption cycle – still am. We (the world) need to make-do more with what we have, make it ourselves, fix it, repair it, look after it, use less. Ridding ourselves somehow of fast fashion – which is the 2nd biggest polluter after Fossil Fuel Industries. The desire for Eco-friendly clashes wildly with my love for bespoke and beautifully made things – but there are companies now such as local WA Not-for-Profit Fibre Economy (@fibreeconomy) who are making a big difference through upcycling cotton garments, which is wonderful.

Favourite holiday destination and why? Anywhere in Europe, but I love Greece. I named my daughter Delphi after the ancient Oracle town and have long been obsessed with anything Delphi-related. Just an hour’s drive down the Parnassus Mountains from Delphi, through the oldest surviving olive groves in the world and you are on the Aegean Sea, floating above ancient ruins and listening to the cicadas thrum. All that history and mythology are so alive in everyday life and the hospitality of the Greek people is so heartwarming. It’s heaven. Mexico City also blew my mind with how vibrant and alive and gritty it was. Ultimately, for the most relaxing holiday – home to remote and wild West Coast Tasmania; cold water lagoons, motorbike rides with my brothers and fresh crayfish and abalone straight from the ocean.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why? Fremantle is such a wonderful city to live in and I enjoy showing it to visitors. I take people down through the Historic West End, to the Old Round House and then down to Bathers Beach House for fresh fish on the beach and sunset drinks.

What are you currently reading?   I work in big cycles and literature is a critically important part of that. I’m in between writing projects, so am reading fiction at the moment – Australian Gothic Fly Away by Kathleen Jennings and contemporary retelling of Greek Myth Circe by Madeline Miller. I will probably devour them both by weeks end! I’ve just been co-editor for the UK (Edinburgh) based Feminist Surrealist Arts Journal, The Debutante – so it was all non-fiction academic/art reading; Surrealism and the Sacred: Power, Eros, and the Occult in Modern Art by Celia Rabinovitch was a key reference text, as was Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis by Australian Author Natalya Lusty. I have a copy of The Biggest Estate on Earth; How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage – which will be preparation for my 2021 writing project and am really looking forward to reading this. For the Fremantle Biennale 2021 Crossings – I’ll be writing about West Australian artists and the way that we can encourage engagement with First Nation culture – something we should all be so proud to be immersed in as Australians.

What are you currently listening to? If I am in the studio, I listen solely to classical music – ABC Classic Radio. I listen to a lot of world music  – I collect old $2 vinyl records like Greek Island Party or Samba Sunset Guitar and never get sick of those crackly old school sounds. When I drink whisky I sing – so anything that I can sing to!

Happiness is? Chocolate, Coffee, incense, fresh flowers, sunny days feeling healthy after the beach, in my studio painting, with my kids safe and sound and enjoying their lives and thriving.

What does the future hold for you? Alternating the things I enjoy the most – being an artist and writer, trying to exhibit reasonably regularly. Making more underwater films. Working with great people on exciting projects that make us think differently about culture / life / our collective future. Eventually I would like to be a full-time artist – but within and part of that is critical and creative writing. Lecturing Undergraduates and supervising Honours and Masters Art students is very rewarding. Curating is also great – it is a way to support Australian Artists and I love to bring like-minded people together to create special events.

For the next month, Imaginary Territories is on at PS Art Space in Fremantle (WA) – presented by Dark Swan Exhibitions – which is my not-for-profit entity aimed at platforming inter-disciplinary practices (supported by Department of Culture & the Arts WA). Check out the work of Lucille Martin, Jo Darbyshire, Toni Wilkinson, Rebecca Paterson, Ish Marrington and myself until 14 November.

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