Anya Brock is an Australian painter who has quickly gained notoriety for her spirited and bold use of colour and strokes. Effervescent, pragmatic and unreserved, Anya is a woman who contains multitudes. Her energy is contagious and flows through her painted works which are recognisably figurative without entering realism. She identifies strongly with the abstract expressionists of 1950's America. A self-proclaimed hermit, Anya has perfected the balance of planting her feet in reality while keeping her head in the clouds. Anya lives in South Fremantle with her husband and two children and dedicates her life to her family and art. And a short description of her personal style has us wanting to raid her wardrobe. Speaking with Anya reminds us to take risks, be bold, and embrace wonder in our daily lives.
Tell me a little about your upbringing.
I was brought up in a very stable and normal middle-class family in Alfred Cove. My parents owned their own business called Chair Repair which, as you can guess, fixed chairs! So we always went to the workshop after school and made things out of scrap wood and fabric. I think we were encouraged to make things out of what we had instead of buying shiny new things. My sister and I have always been makers with entrepreneurial spirits.
“Without it, I’d be completely lost. It also teaches me discipline but equally allows me to escape the realities of being an adult human being and mother."
"Rationality is thrown out and in its place is problem-solving risk-taking, wonder and bold moves."
How would you best describe what you do professionally?
I’d say I’m a painter, but I’m also a designer and businesswoman. I generally swap between any of these identities depending on what day of the week it is and where the moon is at. I bounce between abstraction and figuration and try to involve a little of each in everything I do.
What drew you to painting?
I actually didn’t love painting in high school. Mainly because we were taught very traditional techniques, and that didn’t interest me. I then studied fashion textiles at TAFE. We had a pretty loose drawing lecturer called John Greuw. He taught us super experimental mark-making, like taking away our paintbrushes and giving us jars and forks to paint with. He also made us make our paintbrushes out of our own hair. I loved this irreverent approach. The idea that perfection is the enemy opened up a light and enjoyable way of creating for me. Knowing that accidents or mistakes are what give an artwork character was incredibly freeing. It meant that I could create (and live) courageously, knowing that everything is just problem-solving. Nothing is futile.
What inspires you professionally?
I think, like most artists, I find “the professional world” a weird place to be. I guess I’ve always felt like “being a professional” is somewhat of an act because, in reality, I’m a child. So I don’t really think about what inspires me in that space. I just try not to be too inappropriate.
Do you think there’s a common thread in Australian design and creativity? Something within the realm of design or dressing that feels innately Australian?
I think there’s a colour palette that is quintessentially Australian and an aesthetic expansivity that can only be a result of our spacious terrain. I think we embrace colour and comfort, which translates into a laid back approachability.
How would you describe your personal style?
Aggressive pattern clashing, considering silhouettes and absolute embracing of colour.
Is there a piece from your wardrobe that you ‘can’t do without’?
I’m fairly transient with clothes. There are a few pieces that I keep coming back to season after season- a heavy, vintage, embroidered jacket with faux fur collar that we affectionately refer to as “the couch” and my collection of flared pants that I make from ridiculous fabrics. My day bag (when not painting) is a printed Ganni tote, and my cross-body green Gucci still seems the most appropriate bag from most evening ensembles these days. So, in short, there’s probably 10-15 pieces I can’t do without, and these will likely be different next season.
What is inspiring your world at this moment?
Colour-wise, I’m obsessing over warm hues; terracotta, rust, nude, apricot. Perhaps it’s a reaction to this endless cold weather or the collective interior aesthetic, which is heading in this direction (and has been for some time- I take a while to cotton on). I’m also exploring super large scale abstracts inspired by Brancusian shapes and a feeling of lazy Mediterranean afternoons as well as large cropped florals- loose and textural. Sonically I’m loving Ngaiire’s new album and, slightly more embarrassingly, the Vivo soundtrack. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius.
“The idea that perfection is the enemy opened up a light and enjoyable way of creating for me. Knowing that accidents or mistakes are what give an artwork character was incredibly freeing. It meant that I could create (and live) courageously, knowing that everything is just problem-solving. Nothing is futile.”
Tell me a little about your relationship with the natural world.
I often forget about nature. I literally have visual diaries from when I was younger saying, “I forgot about nature”. I’m a workaholic who’s addicted to productivity, so I rarely carve out time to just be in nature. Having kids helps with that as you’re often doing something out in the elements. We just bought a farm down south, so there’s much more time walking through paddocks, finding animal bones.
Tell me about your day-to-day. Where do you live?
We live in South Fremantle, which we love. We also have two small children, so our day usually starts anywhere between 5-6 am, which is either a brutal beginning or a luxurious sleep-in depending on where it falls on that scale. I work four days a week, and my husband and I share the school drop off and pickups, so I usually get around 6 hours of work in on most days. These vary between adult-like-admin such as quoting on jobs, putting together proposals, general website upkeep, editing images and my painting days, where I disappear into my own world and try not to partake in too much rational behaviour. I find, more than ever, it’s important to really separate these mindsets as they’re two completely different humans that are non-transferable. After school, I have to play anywhere between 2 and 12 games of UNO with Harry and usually a dance or tea party with Luella. Then I drink two glasses of Chardonnay while I watch my husband cook dinner and discuss whether it’s food reactions or the current moon that is making our kids crazy. I bathe the kids, Ross cleans the kitchen, kids are in bed by 7 pm, and we retire to tv and chocolate on the couch. Bedtime is around 9 pm. Rosco and I share all the parenting and house roles fairly evenly, which I love.
Describe your workspace – where is it located, and what do you need around you to feel creatively motivated?
I’m at the Pakenham St Artist Studios in Fremantle, which is not unlike a large prison cell with high windows and the occasional pigeon. I’ve been there for ten years now, so I know how to ride out the icy winters and oven-like summers. My studio is generally a total mess which sometimes helps and sometimes hinders my process. I need something inspiring in my ears to start painting- an album I’m obsessed with or a movie that moves me. Then I’ll usually move onto something slightly trashier for the afternoon. It’s like an afternoon treat to myself when I’m less energetic and just want to be entertained.
BY SALLY PATON