Photography by George Foster
For a full feature on Selina Bell and her works, visit http://www.colosoul.com.au/arts/teensoul-artist-of-the-week-selina-bell/
When did you realise that art was something you wanted to pursue?
I guess I’ve always been super creative and loved art since I was young. We weren’t really allowed to watch much T.V., or use computers until I was about 10, so I was always off in my own little world— plus, my Dad never really had a restriction on what kind of mess was made in our play room. Art and being creative became this beautiful, special space for me, where I could make anything happen, and that became super important to me when I was going through dark periods in my life. I soon learnt that I just couldn’t commit to anything I wasn’t passionate about, I realised that being artistic was the only thing in the world that didn’t, and never had, stressed me out. I knew that if I didn’t put my art and writing at the forefront of my life, I was going to do an incredible injustice to not only my own happiness, but also any voice I could create through my art. That was pretty much it. Now I’m just constantly thinking about the next creative thing I can do, new ways I can explore with materials and media and communicate my thoughts and I love it.
Do you have a specific creative space that you go to, to do your art?
I wish I could say yes. I’d like to have a nice space, but I don’t think my mind works that way; I’m honestly the most disorganised and messy person I know. I feel so sorry for all of my friends for having to deal with it. I just leave all my art stuff scattered around, so whenever I have any free space, that has to do.
What do you do when you’re lacking inspiration?
This used to totally stump me. I started just working on my techniques. There are always lots of styles, techniques or mediums I want to experiment with so I’ll try those. Also, super importantly, I’m never hard on myself, because when you hate your work it doesn’t help with inspiration at all! There are no mistakes in art or bad work— sometimes it’s just not what you expected. You’ve got to relax and keep working with it, a lot of inspiration grows from that. Art galleries or art pages on Instagram are also helpful, or reading through the extensive list of emotional notes on my phone or old books/journals.
How does your art grow from your personal experiences?
In so many ways!
Art created this super personal and lifesaving space for me, I’d carry notepads with me whenever I went out and when I was on the verge of a panic or anxiety attack I’d just grab it out and write down my thoughts or doodle whatever was around me. So, I was producing stuff from when I was most vulnerable. That’s something I’ve continued to do. A lot of my art is about my emotions regarding the loss of family, hurt and betrayal, and mistreatment, anxiety and depression— anything strong and confusing. I think those are all things people can really relate to.
As an opinionated person, I really see art as an opportunity to have a voice. As a half Chinese female, even though I didn’t know about sexism or racism, I was hyper aware at a young of the difference in treatment of males and females, and jokes I received because of my heritage— even though I am/was totally westernised. As a literature lover, I know that inequality has been written about for centuries; from class, money and exploitation, to race and gender. I’m still constantly learning and caring about new things that need to be spoken about.
What advice would you give to a young artist like yourself who might be feeling afraid or vulnerable about putting their work out there?
Firstly, I think that’s a really normal feeling, it took me years to start showing my art to people and I still get nervous and scared. The importance of surrounding yourself with supportive people cannot be underestimated. The difference this made for me was absolutely phenomenal.
Also, it’s really important to remember that anything creative is always up to interpretation—that’s the real beauty of it. If you don’t put your stuff out there, you’re never going to find out about the different ways in which people perceive it. I had to realise that there wasn’t really a good way or a bad way to do art, just different. This is one of the best things about art.
Have confidence in your ability, your voice is always going to be different to someone else’s and that already makes it, and anything you create with it, special.
Left to right: ‘Alien Manic Void’ and ‘The Flower Dilemma’ by Selina Bell.
To keep up with Selina and her creative pursuits, follow @selina__bell on Instagram.