INTERVIEW: Georgia Hill / Elliott Routledge

While forging their own bold aesthetics in their personal practices, Sydney based artists Georgia Hill and Elliott Numskull Routledge have been combining their unique artistic styles on a series of large scale murals and installations across Australia over the past 18 months.

As a culmination of these past collaborations, Hill and Routledge will hold two individual site specific installations at COMMUNE Waterloo. While the facade exhibits their first large scale artwork together, inside each artist will take over their own space with a display of personal works. Ahead of the opening night, we spoke to Georgia and Elliott about their collaborations, working with COMMUNE and looking beyond.

You first collaborated together on the giant facade at COMMUNE Waterloo, what was your first experience working together like? What other work has this lead to together?

G: Personally I think this was the biggest artwork I had ever done (both alone and as a collaboration), so it was really exciting to work on that scale when you never know exactly what the end result will be. It turned out better than I think both of us even predicted, and made us really excited to see what we could come up with as other opportunities came forward too - this turned into the interior of COMMUNE Waterloo, as well as a huge mural across Building Two at UTS and a whole site in Perth, WA.

E: I’ve been a fan of Georgia’s work for a while, so it was great to have an opportunity like this to work together. The front facade of COMMUNE is a large, two building, flat surface so it was really nice to paint, and is also in a busy location which is great for the artwork to be seen by lots of people. This piece has led into two other large scale pieces, and now this exhibition…

You’ve also both designed tote bags for our markets and events in the past, what do you like about working with COMMUNE? 

G: I love that there is a very clear locally made and grown vibe, where the support for Sydney and it's makers is so positive.

E: The guys at COMMUNE have an awesome DIY, locally focussed attitude towards what they do. The way they include and support local businesses, makers and artists is really unique. 

Since you both began painting murals, have you noticed any shifts in perception of street art in Sydney?

G: I haven't been painting nearly as long as Elliott, so it's pretty humbling for me to paint alongside someone who definitely made things easier as far as getting paint on public walls. I think people are generally becoming even more open to it, so in turn it's making people really engaged with their community, which can't be a bad thing. 

E: I’ve seen changes over the years both backwards and forwards in terms of progression and acceptance of street art, graffiti and murals. I believe people in Sydney would like to see their city flourish with art and creativity, WITHOUT any boundaries. 

How does collaborating with other artists change and improve the way you work?

G: I find it pushes me in a lot of ways - you have to give up a bit of control and let the work turn into it's own thing (which is not always my strongest point), so it's is always amazing to see that result and be pushed to a better standard of work every time. It's also just a good time to paint with friends and see what can happen over a few long days. 

E: I like challenging myself whenever I can, and collaborating with other artists is a good way to do this. Often the result is something completely unique and can sometimes even open up new avenues in your own work.

Your one night exhibition involves 2 site specific installations of your personal works, how did this space lend itself to the individual themes of both of your exhibitions? 

G: My installation is focusing on the concept of physical spaces holding and shaping our experiences and reflections, and how these contexts change as we move around, so with the COMMUNE space having it's own long history it's already a perfect setting. The textures of the old Dirty Studio don't hurt either!

E: The room I’m using for my show at COMMUNE is allowing me enough space to try a few things I’ve always wanted to with my art. It’s rare to have access to such a big environment so i’m pushing myself to make large work that suits the space.

Elliott, you painted the first ever COMMUNE Roller Door in Erskineville, which has since gone on to be painted by another 40 artists. Did you know you were starting a tradition? Why do you think opportunities like this are important for local artists?

E: I had a vague plan in mind for it to become something for other artists, but had no idea it would go on for as long as it has. A spot like that is quite unique, especially for street artists. A lot of the walls around Sydney are good formats for traditional graffiti, whereas this spot is perfect for more street art styles. It’s a great way for artists to get their work out into the eyes of the public, plus connect with COMMUNE which could then lead to other things.

What is in the works for you both after this exhibition? 

G: I'm heading to New Zealand for Sea Walls which is really exciting, onto Adelaide for Wonderwalls Festival, then over to Iceland for my first ever artist residency, so to say I'm excited and terrified is an understatement.

E: I have a couple of outdoor projects coming up around Australia, a bit of travel, then I’ll be getting back into the studio for my next exhibition.

Georgia Hill's 'I THINK ABOUT THIS ALL THE TIME' and Elliott Routledge's 'HAPPINESS IN RELIGION' opens Friday 17th March COMMUNE Waterloo (901 Bourke St, Waterloo), 6pm - 9pm. Continues Saturday 10am-3pm.