What excites me most about Doran’s work is her use of colour. We are both a huge fan of ‘loud and garish’ colour combinations, and her palette highlights the ideas prevalent in her work of fantasy and exaggeration.
Her narrative in her work is vital, and keeps Doran engaged in her practice through her bodies of work. Her work has questioned how we express ourselves, what we devote ourselves to and how we feel we connect in this life.
In our interview on She Curates, we discuss influences of Matisse, Chantal Joffe, Picasso and more, her studio and studio life, artist necessities, focuses and themes as well as crocheting and puns.
Tell me your artist story Amanda…
My uncle is a painter so I’ve grown up around him drawing and painting. Some of the best memories I have is just watching him manipulate paint to make these very strange abstract paintings that were so otherworldly to me at the time. So for me luckily it was a very normal thing to create. My uncle always told me I was going to go to art college so I guess it’s something he's seen in me since I was very young. I’m an only child so I’ve always loved using my imagination and inventing characters to play with, creative expression is something that always came natural to me. And I guess I’ve always wanted to be an artist because I’ve never really been that interested in anything else, just creating!
Who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them? How do these come out in your work?
My uncle Paul Doran is my main influence because he introduced me to art and particularly lured me into falling in love with paint! But painters such as Matisse, Picasso, Dana Schutz, Chantal Joffe all fed my passion for figurative painting. I think when you get really, really excited by other artists' work that influence comes out naturally one way or another in your work because whatever that thing is that inspired you it drives you to explore and discover more within your work. For me its always the most insanely awkward, ugly and weird depictions of the figure that make me think "wow, thats so cool, I wanna do that!"
What is, if you have one, your preferred location to create?
My studio or at home. I love my studio because it’s like my favourite playroom with all the things I find so much fun to play with all around me but I just love the comfort of drawing or collaging sitting on my sofa in front of the telly. There’s a great sense of comfort there, the carefree doodling that can lead to some great ideas because of that sense of creating in a safe place is just bliss for me.
What is your studio like? What are your artist necessities? What could you not live without?
In my studio everything has a place. I have a desk area where the work starts. Reading, collaging images and bits of fabrics, drawing etc. Here is where I figure things out and a body of work starts to come together. Then I have an area where I do large oil paintings which is basically some open floor space because I love to paint sitting on the floor and a little desk area for acrylic painting. I’ve set up these different areas in my studio for my different moods or whatever materials I feel like using that day.
My necessities are my phone (for resource images) sketchbooks, coloured paper, black pen, an array of colourful markers/pens or colouring pencils, some acrylic paint, a few brushes, some fabric and glitter..... and sequins! Then I'm set!
I could not live without my notebook and a big pencil case full of various colourful pens, markers and pencils!!
What questions drive your practice? What are the focuses and themes of your work?
Narratives within the work have become very important to me over the years. Not necessarily as a message I’m trying to convey with the work but to keep me engaged with it and get the best out of me for that particular body of work. What drives me is painting the actual figure, the way my brush describes it. I have a certain aesthetic I’m attracted to in figurative art and at times I’m trying to match that, play with that or push that aesthetic. I’ve always been fascinated by sub cultures, alternative cultures, and any kind of eccentric or out there types of people. I love examining how we express ourselves, what we devote ourselves to and how we feel we connect in this life. Any sort of hobby and life style that make the majority of people go ‘what?’ I am in awe of and I love to celebrate that discovery within my artwork.
I tend to focus these explorations a lot through the female figure or with a general feminine identity, so a lot of my work is somewhat autobiographical.
Last year I decided to do something very different and turned the focus towards myself, my family and friends and decided to document the people (and animals) that are around me the most. I wanted to see how I could translate this love for depicting such exciting, colourful and vivacious characters to characters that are more "everyday" and relatable. It was a fun challenge to pick out the eccentricities, playfulness and tenderness of my nearest and dearest.
I think my work is a lot about fantasy and exaggeration so to pull all that back in was interesting.
Since I was very young I knew there was more to life than what meets the eye or what we encounter everyday so I guess I'm a bit of an anthropologist and love to discover the next exciting group of eccentrics or the latest kooky tribe! But it all boils down to identity really and maybe implanting myself temporarily in these various identities to discover what life is like from different perspectives.
Can you tell us a bit about your process for your paintings, and how each of your artwork comes to be?
I always start off with my sketchbook. I'll jot down a lot of words, lists of things I may want to include and start sketching some ideas. They may not be relevant to what's to come but it'll get my brain working. I really enjoy researching for visual inspiration - that can be looking through some old art books, maybe reference books or image searches online. If I kind of know what direction the work will go in I might research an artist I feel relates to the direction I'm aiming for. I like to work all this out with drawings. I surround myself with the resource materials at my desk and start to figure out where it's going. Then I like to maybe do some collages or work on fabrics. Then I usually make some small quick acrylic paintings and then I tend to gradually get larger and work more with oil paint. I realised last year that the process goes the same way each time, its like I'm working up the nerve to go for it with the oil paintings.
Is colour important to you? You use such vibrant colours.
Colour has always been one of the first things that attracts me to an artwork. It just excites me! The more loud and garish the colour combination the better! But again going back to the body of work I made last year I decided to do the opposite and use a lot more "realistic" colours. I think the use of vibrant colours helps highlight the idea of fantasy and exaggeration.
What memorable responses have you had to your work? And which artwork would you like people to remember you for?
At a really big group show I was in, I was standing close to my painting and just observing the crowd then noticed two women who were wandering around spectating. When they got to my painting one woman pointed to the one next to it and said it was "beautiful" then pointed to mine and said "I hate that!" Without thinking I piped up and said while giggling "that's my painting." She was dumbstruck! With a big smile on my face I told her I didn't mind (which I really didn't, I actually enjoyed that it evoked that reaction from someone) and asked her why she didn't like it. I smiled even more and felt such a surge of reassurance because the reason why she didn't like it was exactly what I wanted to do with the painting so I knew I was successful in what my intention was. And that was like a pat on the back "yes Amanda, you are a good artist!!!"
I have to say it's a cliche but one of the more popular paintings of mine that's in the Saatchi collection "The Semen." I am very proud to be a part of that collection and that painting gave me such a fantastic start to my career and I will always remember when I made it, it was a breakthrough painting for me. I hated it 80% of the time I was making it and even when I look at it now I still think "yeah that is a good painting."
What are some values and beliefs you live your life by?
Love and kindness. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Find your passion in life, everyone deserves to be happy. And always be creative! It's the key to happiness!
If you could own one piece of artwork in the world, as if money or likelihood was no issue, what would it be and why?
Van Gogh's Sunflowers. My uncle did a copy of this painting and my father bought it from him. It hung in our stairway and since I can remember I loved looking up at it every time I walked up the stairs. So bright, cheery and comforting. I guess that sight subliminally taught me all about the finesse of painting and planted the seed for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm working on a design for a huge outdoor mural I'm doing here in my hometown.
In the studio since winter I've been grappling with making work about myself, cheeky autobiographical work looking at my childhood. Its something I might abandon but I have been working a lot with fabric, painting on it and embroidering. I'll see what happens!
And what would be your dream project?
Writing and illustrating some books. For sure, I really want to expand on that narrative I have going on in my head when I'm making work.
Looking ahead, what do you think could be your biggest challenge?
I don't see anything as a major challenge, everything always works out. I trust in what I do, its my passion and drive in life so I think the biggest challenge is one I often come up against and thats motivation. If theres not a definite project or deadline to work on I think its hard to keep up a regular practice, or a regular relevant practice. I like to stray off course at times and do other things, usually craft, like crocheting. I'm hooked on that! LOL! :)
Favourite historical female artist?
Louise Bourgeois and Frida Kahlo because they were badasses (in different ways.)
Favourite current practicing female artist?
Genieve Figgis, Allison Schulnik, Kathy Tynan, Tracey Slater, Bel Fullana, Yvette Mayorga, Natalia Eyres, Selby Hi, M Tooley Parker
Who should She Curates interview next?
Natalia Eyres, Emma Roche, Gemma Browne, Shelia Rennick
Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Be creative! It'll bring so much joy into your life.