Interview with Isabel Peppard
Isabel Peppard has been an artistic force of nature since the moment she came into the world. A creator, visionary, provocateur and storyteller. In childhood she absorbed the legends, demons and spirits of Japanese folklore. As a teenager she fronted a successful punk rock band. As a young adult she earned her place in the special effects industry and her influence grew from there. She combined her talents in sculpture, painting, film making, animation to break new ground in the Australian arts and media industry. After working as a silicone technician alongside some of the worlds most celebrated creatives, including animator and director Adam Elliot and hyper-real conceptual artist Patricia Piccinini, Isabel’s unique vision and exceptional skill has seen her become a sought after artist her own right. Now, in addition to her collaborative projects, Isabel spends her time creating haunting and devastatingly realistic sculptural works and directing films and documentaries. Isabel is an award-winning animator and artist who explores the deepest parts of human nature and shines a bright, compassionate and insightful light on the parts of ourselves that society encourages us to hide. Isabel is currently showing at Beinart Gallery as part of Memento Mori, Memento Amare. The exhibition closes November 12.
“…from an early age I was inspired by Japanese Fairy Tales, ghosts and demons. I remember being initially terrified by the monstrous temple guardians or ‘Nio’ that stood at the temple gates in our hometown of Kamakura. This fear started to become fascination and at some point I stopped being afraid and started emulating them…I’m pretty sure that this is where my love of and kinship with horror and dark surrealism began.”
Corinne Beinart: You are a film-maker and animator as well as an artist. Did all of these aspects of your creative practice emerge simultaneously? Or did one follow from another?
Isabel Peppard: I actually started out as a special effects artist but as I learnt different disciplines associated with the craft such as sculpting, mould making and air brushing, I felt compelled to apply them to my own creative practice rather than using them to work as a technician on films. I was initially using my new found skills to sculpt and build costumes/performances but after working in a few established stop motion animation studios I was inspired to tell my own stories in the form of short animations. Animation was the perfect combination of storytelling and visual art where I could build my own worlds and populate them with weird and wonderful characters.
CB: How do you see your sculptural work as being different from your other creative projects? Is it more personal?
IP: My sculptural work is similar to my filmmaking work in that it is all driven by imagery. Often when I have a theme or idea in the back of my head, the images just start to appear and I interpret them in their roughest form as sketches and then refine them in the sculpts/models. This applies to imagery in my films or scriptwriting as well. I also use narrative in both my sculpted work and the work I do in film and often the sculptures are images that evoke or communicate a narrative. All the creative work I do is extremely personal although film tends to be more collaborative and so everyone else on the crew brings something of their own to the process. I guess in that way my sculpture is more personal in that it is completely controlled by me independently of other input but when I am inside the process of filmmaking it feels just as personal and I go through a similar turbulent emotional journey to get to the finished work.
CB: How did you get started in the arts? Where does your creative story begin?
IP: I have weirdly had quite a few different creative lives. When I was a kid I thought I was a poet (ha ha) and then I spent years as a singer in a punk band before getting in to visual arts, performance and finally animation and film. As a young woman I lived in Japan with my parents who were studying Zen Buddhism at the time and from an early age I was inspired by Japanese Fairy Tales, ghosts and demons. I remember being initially terrified by the monstrous temple guardians or ‘Nio’ that stood at the temple gates in our hometown of Kamakura. This fear started to become fascination and at some point I stopped being afraid and started emulating them. I would pose like they did and pretend to be one of them. I was only about 4 or 5 years old at the time but I’m pretty sure that this is where my love of and kinship with horror and dark surrealism began.
CB: Where to from here? What other projects do you have on the go?
IP: At the moment my main project is a feature documentary called ‘Morgana’ (co-directed by Josie Hess). The film is a dark, creative character portrait of a 50 yr old housewife from rural Australia who re-invents herself as a feminist porn star and filmmaker. As always I will be integrating elements of sculpture/miniatures and visual art into the storytelling to give the audience a poetic experience of our lead protagonists internal journey. Apart from that I have a bunch of projects in development stage including a kids horror animated series, a feature live action horror fantasy and a short horror/exploitation film.
CB: What advice would you give to young artists just starting in their careers or creative practice?
IP: I would say to enjoy the process as much as possible and find your reward within the process of making and completing work. Don’t be afraid to fail and if you do fail have the courage to get up and give it another shot. Find your people and build a network of folks that you have a genuine creative and personal connection with; your network will grow as you do and hopefully you can all help each other. Persist.
Isabel is currently exhibiting a series of new sculptural works at Beinart Gallery as part of the show Memento Mori, Memento Amare. This exhibit also features new paintings by Beau White and etchings by Jonathan Guthmann. The exhibition closes November 12.