Lyn Balzer & Tony Perkins are Subject Matter’s most dynamic duo. The two artists have been collaborating for over 12 years on a range of interdisciplinary creative projects, ranging from design to fine art to stimulate all of your senses . Taking inspiration from their homeland, Australia, the duo recreate and hybridise the textures, scents and visuals of their natural environment. In recent weeks, their latest exhibition ‘Scented Intoxication’, commissioned by the Australia Design Centre, opened with phenomenal reception.
SM: You are both an extremely creative duo, please share how this creative relationship developed. How and where did it begin? Did it click from the very start?
L+T: We started working together when Lyn was completing her final year of a Visual Communications Arts Degree. Lyn had already established a significant client base as a fashion photographer & graphic designer, so to help with the work load, I began working in the darkroom for her, developing film & printing images of an evening – it just made sense. If we were going to work such long hours, we may as well work together & we always worked well as a “team”. We shared common interests in nature & the arts, so being able to combine these interests and make a living from it was very satisfying.
SM: Do you both consider yourselves to be relatively in sync with one another? Or do your differences strengthen your processes?
L+T: Having the same interests means that we have a passion to share our discoveries – we do a lot of research on design & the arts & are always open to inspiration wherever it may come from. Our differences definitely strengthen the creative process. Although we share similar perspectives, we often approach things from opposite directions – very yin & yang. Our design & creative partnership has always been a balance of dualities.
Lyn + Tony, Strangeness 5
SM: From the interviews I have read, it seems as if you are both in touch with an infinite supply of creativity and inspiration. Please share your creative processes. Aside from your natural surroundings, where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Do you do plenty of research? And where does a project usually begin?
L+T: We are constantly inspired & driven to create for personal satisfaction – a lot of our work is a practice of experimentation & discovery. Curiosity is a very important element in our work. We have always sought out knowledge wherever we could find it – before the ready access to information provided by the digital age, we spent lots of time in libraries, educating ourselves on design & art history. We are passionate collectors of art & design, so through research we began to understand the varied stories & processes involved in creating. We have never limited ourselves to a particular field & are equally interested in modern & traditional arts. Our passion for design & arts has also allowed us to meet with incredible, inspirational people, who have been generous in sharing their work & processes. Meeting the wonderful Vivianna Torun, designer for Georg Jensen & hearing of her creative life with Picasso, was an important element in encouraging our own creative careers. Our projects usually begins with a period of experimentation, growing from an initial concept – with our photographic work, our relationship & collaborative process with our “model” has a significant influence on the outcomes. We usually discuss the concept with our “model” but remain open to elements of chance & discovery during the shoot. We also embrace this process with our object making, allowing ideas to “grow” during the making process.
SM: When combining the landscape to female nudes in your photography, the heads are usually placed in a position to ensure their identities are not recognisable. Has this always been a conscious decision?
L+T: Our models often remain anonymous as we prefer to establish a feeling of ambiguity & “strangeness” – the sense of the uncanny is an important element in our work. We love to create a scene that celebrates the beauty of the natural world but also retains an unsettling element.
SM: The treatment of the female body in your photographs draw me to think of Andre Kertesz and Man Ray. Are there any particular artists you have always admired or have drawn inspiration from?
L+T: We draw inspiration from numerous sources, as varied and obscure as possible. The dystopian worlds created by David Lynch – in both his photographic & cinematic works – have been influential, particularly his over-layering of worlds to create a dream-like state. Other influential artists that challenge the perceptions of the body, include the German surrealist, Hans Bellmer, the disturbingly realist work of Rodin & contemporary artists, such as Berlinde de Bruyckere & Jenny Saville.
SM: You both use a plethora of mediums, what influences your decisions to focus certain projects on photography over sculptural mediums or jewellery?
L+T: We see all of our projects as being intrinsically connected & our work in different mediums are a meshed extension from each other. The jewellery/object making began as an extension of our exploration of textures that we explore in our photography. Our photography often explores the contrast of the smooth, rounded surfaces of the body with the textured, aggressiveness of the Australian landscape. This tension is further explored in our jewellery with the juxtaposition of the organic, textured woven leather elements contrasted with the polished, solidity of stones. Our recent sculptural pieces shares a similar exploration of surfaces – particularly the pieces which re-combine weathered & salvaged leather scraps, in an analysis of boundaries. Even the fragrances that we have created, which scent our latest exhibition, are a re-imagining of the landscapes in which we photograph.
SM: You both come from Byron Bay. I spent quite a bit of time there as a child and from what I can remember it is a truly special place. How did this environment influence you?
L+T: Growing up around Byron Bay has been hugely influential to our work – the area is so incredibly diverse in its beauty. The region is a wonderful collision of landscapes: from rugged, rainforest covered mountains to idyllic white beaches fringed with black volcanic rocks. It is also the less “scenic” environments of the harsh, sun baked, heathlands that we love to explore. The cultural background of the region was equally important, being the birth place of “alternative culture” in Australia, during the ’60s & ’70s. This provided us both with an appreciation for different points of view & ways of living.
SM: If you were to reincarnate, what / who do you reckon you will reincarnate into?
L+T: Not too sure about the whole reincarnation thing, so for us, making the most of every opportunity, everyday is essential
SM: What does a regular day amongst the two of you look like?
L+T: The total unpredictability of our everyday, is something that we value – we never know what may be waiting around the corner & we are always open to new possibilities, so we try not to plan too far in advance. Sharing a morning coffee from our friendly neighbourhood barista accompanied with freshly baked homemade muffins, is the one constant with which we like to start our day. This time gives us a chance to plan & research ideas for upcoming projects.
SM: Which books are you currently reading?
L+T: Unfortunately we no longer have time to enjoy reading as much as we used to, but works by Alain Robbe-Grillet are a constant source of inspiration. His obsession with the “theory of pure surface”, where repetitive descriptions of objects & the fracture of timelines and plots, result in novels that resemble “the literary equivalent of a cubist painting.”