Interview

Lisa Waup

As visitors flock to Narrm for this year’s Melbourne Design Fair, artist Lisa Waup is redefining our connection to family, knowledge, culture and Country.

Lisa Waup at Cathedral Arcade, Nicholas Building, Melbourne
Lisa Waup at Cathedral Arcade, Nicholas Building

Inside the heritage-listed Nicholas Building, Melbourne’s unofficial creative hub on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane, award-winning artist Lisa Waup is sipping a cup of tea. It’s an appropriate spot to chat about her exhibition for this year’s Melbourne Design Fair (16–20 March).

“This new series builds from my research over the last three years,” Lisa says. “It’s a movement towards Country, back to ancestors and our community.”

Born in 1971, Lisa was separated from her First Peoples family at a young age. In her own words, she’s a “mixed bag” with rich cultural connections whose tactile exhibitions jump from fashion capsules and jewellery to sculpture and digital media. Since graduating from RMIT in the mid-nineties and recently finishing a masters degree at the VCA, she's become one of Australia’s pre-eminent multi-disciplinary artists.

This year, Lisa has presented a wide range of her work at Craft Victoria, including weaving, printmaking, found materials, sculpture and textiles. Craft is excited to showcase her new series of work – it's a celebration of Country and family and is one of this year's Design Fair standouts. We couldn't wait to take a peek.

Lisa Waup at work

Where in Victoria do you feel a strong sense of belonging?

I live and create on Bunurong Country, South East Victoria. We have beautiful bushlands near my house, which I find great solace in – my children have fondly named it ‘The Forest’. There’s also a creek that runs through it, which is a peaceful place to gather your thoughts. We’re fortunate to have such a variety of natural surroundings in Victoria.

How does your art reflect your connection to Narrm?

Mostly through the use of natural materials found in Narrm. I'm forever collecting natural materials such as feathers, bull kelp and discarded objects. I feel these objects translate a connection to Country – especially the natural ones.

How do you channel Narrm’s diversity into your work?

A huge strength of Narrm is the diversity of cultures that we have here. We’re a unique melting pot – from First Peoples’ culture and the arts to incredible cuisine that brings visitors from all over the world. I classify myself as a ‘mixed bag’. I’m a mixed-cultural woman, multidisciplinary artist and curator. This background gives me lots of ways to express my connection to family, Country, history and story.

“While my hands are doing the work I am telling the story. I am just a vehicle for the story that needs to be told.”

Weaving materials, cultures, textures and ideas is a frequent theme in your work. What draws you to this technique?

Materiality is a huge part of my art practice, particularly for woven objects. For me, using natural materials brings me closer to Country. The woven objects I create are contemporary yet steeped in story. I love how this medium enables me to express this part of my life. Countless times I’ve finished a piece and wondered how I created it. It’s hard to explain, really. But I often feel I’m being guided in the creation. There’s a story there that needs to be released.

“The woven objects I create are contemporary yet steeped in story – I love how this medium enables me to express this part of my life."

Do you have a favourite medium to work in?

When I think back to what I first created as a child, it always involved paper. Paper will always be my first love, and I’ve gravitated back to it over the years. Whether it’s print-based works (etching, screen printing, monoprints, digital, photography) or drawing, for me, paper is a place to escape into a world of my own creation. For the last year, I’ve totally focused on experimental printmaking techniques. Having said that, I’m always weaving something too!

Melbourne Design Fair (16–20 March) is the brainchild of the NGV Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture, delivered in collaboration with the Melbourne Art Foundation. Craft Victoria will be presenting Lisa's newest work at the fair this year. Visitors can also explore some of her work at Craft gallery in Watson Place, Narrm. Entry is free.

Find Lisa on Instagram @lisa.waup.

This interview first appeared in our autumn 2022 Melbourne and Victoria Official Guide.

Lisa Waup at Cathedral Coffee, Melbourne

Lisa at Cathedral Coffee

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