Writer Janine Mikosza (VIC) and Stephanie Jones (NSW/ACT) have been friends for over 30 years. They currently occupy Studio 1 & 2 here at FAC and are working independently and collaboratively on a project that delves into memories and attachment to place. We sat down with Janine and Stephanie to chat about their works, their friendship and what’s up next for the both of them.
Can you tell us about your first memories involving art and how you became an artist?
Janine: My background is in visual arts but I’m a writer. I’ve always enjoyed writing but it’s only in the last the last 10 years that I started writing full time. I’ve written a novel and I’m currently working a non-fiction collection of essays on memory, trauma and attachment to place. It’s combines literary criticism with memoir and also conversations with artists and writers. One of the recent essays features Stephanie’s homesickness story and the one I am currently writing is about returning to Western Australia. I was born here but my father was an immigrant from Poland, so I wanted to write about family, place, memory, trauma and attachment to those things from the past.
Stephanie, are you able to share a bit about your history with art and how you became an artist?
Stephanie: I went to art school straight out of high school in the 80s. Janine and I actually met at Curtin, but we weren’t in the same year. I’ve had an arts practice ever since, it’s been on and off again due to the necessity to work and raising a child. Pretty consistently I’ve seen myself as an artist, I’ve had exhibitions all over the place and I’ve always worked in the arts sector in galleries and museums. It’s been my main livelihood and it’s the thing I’m most involved in throughout my adult life. Though there have been huge chunks of time where I haven’t done much, so having a whole month full time in the studio is so exciting. I can just focus on making and doing every day. As Janine said, it’s exciting because Perth is a place where we have a lot of shared history. We were born in the same small private hospital in Cottesloe. We had similar childhoods, we both moved around a lot as kids. Janine a lot more than me, but it meant that we both had this similar history. There was a lot of disruption, having to learn to fit into new communities and schools and really being resilient to change. We’ve known that about each other because we’ve been friends for a long time.
When you met, was it based on an admiration of each other’s work? Or more of a friendship based on personality?
Stephanie: We weren’t really friends at Curtin. I think I was in third year when Janine was in first year. Within a few years of graduating we both moved to Canberra for totally different reasons and that’s where we both became friends. Janine arrived in the same year and I knew her from art school but not well, suddenly we were new people in the same place together and we ended up studying together at ANU.
Janine: I moved to Canberra when I finished my BA to do a Graduate Diploma in Photomedia at Canberra School of Art. Then we ended up doing our Masters of Letters together in Women’s Studies before I went on to do a PhD in Sociology.
Stephanie: We’ve kept up our friendship since then.
Your collaboration comes from a shared interest in domestic space, memory, trauma and attachment to place. What sparked that?
Stephanie: Recently when we were talking about what we were both working on, Janine brought up memory drawings. She was thinking of doing some drawings from memory of her childhood homes and I said I had been doing the same thing. My practice has always been based on domestic space, houses, architecture. In the back of my mind I’ve always tried to map out the various houses I’ve lived in as a child and as an adult. We decided to ask people from the general public to do a drawing; we thought it would be interesting to see how other people respond to that idea. For some people there might be multiple places.
Janine: My writing is always about how the past lives on in the present, so this was just a natural progression. I lived in 16 houses by the time I was 18.
Stephanie: It’s collaboration, basically a conversation between the both of us. I’m reading Janine’s writing and responding to it visually. Some of my work appears in her writing. So we might start feeding more in to each other’s work. I’ve been thinking about the history of this building and ghosts are big part of its folklore. I’ve been thinking about Janine sitting on the other side of the wall. The lines could become very blurred, almost haunting each other’s work.
Janine: It helps that we’ve known for each other for 30 years (laughs).
What’s up next?
Janine: At the end of the month, we’ll meet semi-regularly to look at the work. So, we’ll keep in contact.
Stephanie: This is really just the start. One of the great things about this residency is that we can just spend time on creative development. It’s a really good place to come and get the spark. My day to day life doesn’t really allow me to practice my art so much anymore and even if there are some failed experiments, who knows what it might lead to.
Stephanie and Janine are in residence until mid-Feb 2018.