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Cultural Capital

Sydney Morning Herald April 2013

Darryn King

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The moment of creative inspiration is often characterised as a flash, a spark, a spontaneous flicking of a light switch or - somewhat dangerously - a lightning strike. Yesterday visited Paul McCartney in a dream. William Blake and Giacomo Puccini described themselves as careful transcribers of heavenly dictation.

It may be tempting to dismiss the essential nature of creativity as a mystery, or confuse stirrings from within as instruction from above (not surprising, considering the religious roots of the word ''creation''). But these are notions that distract from the reality of human creativity, an activity that generally requires more than a blinding moment of cosmic wattage, and demands planning, focus and perseverance.

Just as the individual needs to work hard to sustain their creativity, it takes work to transform a city into a creative capital. The City of Sydney council is at the drawing board. With its Creative City cultural policy, it hopes to reinvent Sydney as a major player on the world arts scene. There are plans to link the city's unnavigable cultural landmarks in a walkable trail, energise new cultural precincts on Oxford and William streets and generally make it easier for our artists to live and work.
Author Thomas Keneally

As the council strives to build a creative city, six of Sydney's brightest sparks reveal their tips for finding inspiration.

Sophie Cape, artist

Work outside the studio.
I begin my works outdoors, living with them for weeks, dragging them around the landscape, allowing them to be rained upon, frozen, washed away, picked at and moved by animals; using local materials of trees, snow, bones and soil. The landscape is imbued in the works. In this way I am free from the constraints of the studio. In an uncontrollable environment I am able to be much more physical, robust and performative in the process of creating the work. It's so important to truly see and feel the world around you in order to respond to it, and find your voice within it. When I am in the landscape, the environment dictates the routine. In making my current show I was caught in everything from heatwaves to cyclonic floods and bushfires.

Know your history.
Without artists such as Goya, Twombly, Tapies, Bacon, Kiefer, Nitsch and Parr, I would be utterly lost in the void. You cannot rely on self-expression alone; you need to be able to position yourself in the greater context in order to contribute to the art dialogue. The role of the artist [is] to present an alternative perspective via their unique experience.

Investigate everything.
I take inspiration from all disciplines, from philosophy to poetry to theatre, because I feel it's invaluable to stretch beyond the parameters of your own practice.

Trust your instincts.
Listen to what resonates deep inside of you. This will carry you through the good times and the bad. In the studio I'm generally nocturnal; working through the night in order to avoid distractions.

Take risks. Do something you've always been afraid of.

Treat mistakes as opportunities. Most things can be turned around. Sometimes you have to kill the work to save it. Inspiration can come at any time so keep your stamina up, don't force too hard, and trust yourself.

Sophie Cape: Magistra Natura is at Olsen Irwin Gallery, Woollahra, until April 21

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