Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ally Zlatar and I am a contemporary artist and curator pursuing my Doctorate of Creative Arts with the University of Southern Queensland.
Why do you do what you do?
I think for me, art is how I can make a difference in the world. Art making is my way to explore how the human condition is more complex than it is currently understood and be able to open up dialogue through creative expression.
How do you work?
My practice is although multi-disciplinary is primarily painting, and collage based through these mediums I am able to instigate and provoke notions of the individual experience through specifically focusing on philosophical discourse, body image, embodiment, animals & ethics.
What’s your background?
I was born in Mississauga, Canada, and I hold a BFA in Visual Art & Art History from Queen’s University & an MLitt Curatorial Practice from the Glasgow School of Art. Currently, undergoing my Doctorate of Creative Arts with the University of Southern Queensland.
How do you think the current (coronavirus epidemic) situation could affect artists and their local communities?
With the current state of the virus, new regulations introduced in the UK under public health legislation to detain and direct individuals in quarantined areas at risk or suspected of having the virus. With that being said, there have been many restrictions in Scotland thus far and has limited international artist exchange which has prohibited travel and many exhibitions, gatherings and activities have all been canceled for preventive measures. CoronaVirus definitely has hindered the global artistic dialogue at the moment and hopefully we can resume our daily lives soon.
Do you think the government should ensure culture does not disappear during these difficult times?
I think culture is very important, in times like these we should have hope and have some sort of outlet to express how we are feeling during the difficult current situation. The government of course is under a lot of pressure at the moment and hopefully they can address the heart of the issue first and foremost, and as the public we should do our part to also raise morale and maintain preventive measures.
Is the current situation impacting your art practice?
Yes, I was scheduled to speak at a conference and present at a live art event but, both were cancelled due to the risk and fear of the virus. It is devastating, how serious an illness can be and how detrimental it can be to the arts.
What role does the artist have in society?
An artist has many roles, a politician, an educator, a comedian, an innovator or whatever role they so choose. It is truly up to each person to choose how their artist practice impacts society, for myself as an artist I believe I am an activist. I believe there is tremendous power within the un-well body and I think as an artist examining these subjects through the contemporary art lens provides a unique perspective into the discussion of living with mental illness.
How has your practice changed over time?
As I have grown older, I think I am better able to utilize mediums to communicate my artistic visions more effectively. In my early works I struggled a lot with size and scale and thought that something had to be the size of a mural to make a statement. Now I worry less on the size and rather truly focusing on the content itself. Sometimes the more intimate the work the more meaningful it can be.
What themes do you pursue?
My main themes that I explore are through examination of the individual experience through specifically focusing on philosophical discourse, body image, visual identities associated with mental health, eating disorders , body image and body embodiment, animals and ethics.
Should art be funded?
Everything needs funding, from our education systems to our public health care, but as an artist I especially see the need in our field. So many creative and talented individuals will be deterred from entering the arts industry as there is very little funding. Not many people outside of the arts realize the sheer time, effort, labour and costs that go into art production and I think it should be accommodated properly.
What research do you do?
At the moment my research is focused on visual identities concerning eating disorders and the lived experience of mental illness. The Starving Artist is a practice-led study which explores how eating disorders can be portrayed and understood within the contemporary climate through an auto-ethnographic lens. It is an attempt to reconceptualize the current popular notions and frameworks by suggesting eating disorders can be a praxis of individual identity. It is not merely about the surface level experience but, being an embodied individual means that we cannot escape ourselves when we have juxtaposing, and deeply-rooted beliefs that underpin the manifestation of eating disorders. These findings readdress the current knowledge of eating disorders by reconsidering what it means to embody a mental illness.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is very outlandish but, I have always wanted to make a performance piece of myself undergoing a live surgical cosmetic procedure. What I want to explore in this project would be the identity and the impact of cosmetic surgery and how does the self change after undergoing physical change. An aspect would have a live audience to witness the procedure, and watch as the modifications are being done. It would allow them a glimpse into my psyche and watch me fulfill alterations to my body that I have been struggling with for years. Of Course logistically it would be very difficult to fulfill. Nonetheless, the research examines the ethical dilemma of what does it mean to be ill and embodied by an illness.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
For myself, I love making art, but I also am an academic at heart. My artist practice has been the inspiration for much of my research and I would ideally like to continue academic research within the arts and possibly publish more books and articles surrounding my area of expertise. Additionally, my background in museum curation has been very important to me. I have worked in the Contemporary Art department at numerous galleries such as The Hunterian, Agnes Etherington Art Centre and Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow which I love and hope to continue to curate along with creative art making and research.
Any final thoughts?
If you want to see more of my work check out: ALLY ZLATAR