An Art Residency in the Snow
by Yen Taylor
Rachel Ang is an Australian Melbourne based artist. I’ve interviewed her previously about her work when she was poised to travel across the other side of the world for an artist residency. Now returned, she shares what it was like, how it effected her art work and how it was personally both challenging and rewarding.
Hi Rachel, can you share why you were drawn to this art residency?
My main interests were spending time in nature and with the other amazing creative people around Tolne Gjæstgivergaard, and drawing and writing. The best thing about this time as a resident artist has been the space and time to make work.
Having the time and space to work purely on your art is something a lot of us crave. What was it like when you finally had this?
It was really good for me, and as you say, I had been craving it. Making art is something that I’ve been doing between uni and jobs so it gave me the chance to devote myself and take it seriously. I also had a few stories bumping around in my head that I had been really dying to sit down and draw, so I knew the territory I had to cover. It also came with a bit of pressure too — I think if you’re in the mindset of treating your creative practice as a hobby you can forgive a lot from yourself — if you’re able to really focus on it and make it the centre of your life for a while, then you expect more and are much harder on yourself. Sometimes it became really difficult to focus because I had too much anxiety about not being good enough.
Do you have any advice for artists to take advantage of their time during a residency?
My advice to prospective artists-in-residence, no matter where you choose to do it, is to have clear expectations of yourself and to decide in advance to have a project you want to work on. For me, it was to work on a chapter of my first graphic novel, and to document the everyday life of Tolne Gjæstgivergaard, and some other small projects which were like a conversation between myself and Janne and Gregory. But having said that, you also need to be flexible and be able to discard your expectations and go with the flow and life of the place.
You’ve been back home in Melbourne for a while now, which is so different and so very far away from Tolne Gjæstgivergaard. What is it like to be home again after such a different and changing experience?
I’ve been back in Melbourne since April I think? And back into my old rhythms of university and work. It was really hard returning to Melbourne, actually — the pace of the city here is a lot faster than in Denmark.
One great thing about living on the other side of the world where you don’t know anyone is that it really forces you to take a good hard look at yourself. And maybe that sense of self-awareness and vulnerability is good for a creative person.
I’m pretty much a raw nerve all the time now, like a sponge for weird moments and stories. And I desperately missed the friends I had made on the other side of the world. But I also love Melbourne and upon my return was almost instantly getting e-mails from art directors and other great creatives wanting to work together — the kind of projects I had previously only dreamed about being offered. I felt really welcomed back into the warm bosom of Melbourne illustrators and comic-makers.
How has the residency journey changed you as an artist and person?
I think living and drawing my stories in a foreign environment gave me a lot more confidence in myself and my creative abilities, which in some way has been a catalyst for me in general. Having the time in Tolne really lit a fire inside me.
Many thanks to Janne and Gregory for facilitating my time and work in Tolne.
About the Author | Yen Taylor is an Aussie freelance writer & illustrator living in the UK, with work in publications including Houzz, Medium & more. I cover topics including accessibility, disability, equality & mental health. I have a particular interest in issues faced by those of us who are LGBT+ & the experiences of my East/South-East Asian community in European & Western society. I like to focus on where culture, identity, creativity, activism & the potential for change, intersects with the above topics. I create spot illustrations and photography for my work as needed. | Instagram| Twitter