honey long on recapturing body image against australian landscapes
Following her performance during i-D's party at the incredible Stoneleigh No. 50 house, we speak to the Sydney artist about humans, environments and how it all fits together.
Honey Long performing at i-D's party with Stoneleigh. Photography Rocket K Weijers.
The human subjects in Sydney-based artist Honey Long's work melt into vast landscapes, punctuated by bursts of colour and texture, which lend the inanimate an element of bizarre ungainliness and give intriguing personality to natural scenes and objects. Along with photographer and friend Prue Stent, Long creates work which plants conversations about femininity, vulnerability and sustainability firmly but gently in the foreground of viewer's minds, in the middle of their feeds and on the tips of their tongues.
Performing at i-D's 'Wonder of Nature' party at Stoneleigh No. 50, Honey incorporated her work into the backdrop of the abandoned house where nature had run rife. With each room meticulously encapsulating the notes of Stoneleigh's different wines, Honey's performance was a fitting addition to the Stoneleigh project. We caught up with the artist to discuss her personal connection to natural landscapes and to get the juice on her live project.
What have you been working on lately?
I've been growing these kind of humanoid plant-forms using panty-hoes and grass and soil- they're kind of like giant versions of the Mr. Potato heads you did when you were a kid. But yeah, creating abstract human forms with the grass which blur the lines between object and subject, or the distinction we make between humans and nature.
How did you come to be making art?
I guess it's something I've always been drawn to do. Prue Stent and I were best friends through high-school and we'd always make things together and later that turned into her being really into photography and me being more on the side of making things. So we just started taking photos together and our ideas sprung from that kind of experimentation.
Did you come from a family that encouraged that sort of thing?
Yeah definitely, my Mum's an architect and my Dad's a whole bunch of different things, but art was definitely something that impacted a lot, it was good.
Looking at your work, it seems to be heavily informed by landscapes and natural forms, what is it about nature that makes it such good subject matter?
I guess I've always felt pretty conflicted about living in a modern city and being human [laughs], but wanting to have a greater connection to nature-always being so inspired by it. I guess there's just a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to how we view nature in our culture - it's marginalised. I also explore ideas of femininity in my work, so I guess I merge the two, both as marginalised areas, to bring out their power. Or just to celebrate them really. Not equating 'femininity' with the natural though, and all the binaries that come along with that, more just exploring the relationship between the two.
How do you see the human subjects which feature in your work fitting into this whole equation?
I guess I'm inspired by my own experience so using my body, or involving myself in a scene, I find it a lot easier to communicate whatever idea I want to get across or image I want to create. I think the body is just such an interesting subject - involving the body in a natural landscape, you're able to bring out more meaning and convey a more immersive experience.
Sure! I guess it acts like a point of reference for people looking at it as well, obviously being able to equate the similarity between their own bodies and the image they're viewing.
Yeah and I'm really interested in the way that bodies are depicted in our culture and I think with the female body especially, in popular culture, it's always about it being really firm and shiny and rigid, or smooth and polished and perfect. Prue and I always get really drawn to veins and fluids and sags in skin and all those feminine qualities that are considered grotesque or less desirable.
Are there any particular landscapes which have become a recurring point of reference for you?
Plants have a lot to do with where I draw inspiration from. As soon as a plant has a human quality or an animal quality to it, I find that really interesting because it's blurring the boundaries between object and subject, that sort of thing, and I guess that's why I get drawn to constructing costumes or disguises out of the living environment. But also I think, the sea and water in general is quite important in terms of framing things-it gives you that sense of an expansive landscape.
What about your own connection to the natural world? On a personal level, not necessarily a creative one.
I guess I feel really conflicted, especially with the world going through an environmental crisis, feeling the weight and responsibility of that and wanting to do something but feeling completely overwhelmed. Especially if you're stuck in a routine, your daily habits conflict with your personal values. I think it's really hard to function if you're constantly thinking about the impact that you're making. That said, I guess I would like to feel a greater connection with the natural environment. When I was little I used to spend all my time in the garden and that was really nice, I guess it's something I crave in my adult life.
The strong natural influence in your work must help you reestablish that connection.
Yeah definitely, I think that's what drives me to make the work for sure.
The work you and Prue Stent put out together is so beautiful, you seem to understand each other really well.
Yeah, we've been friends since year 8. When we work on our own we have very different aesthetic approaches, but it just seems to work because we're drawn to the same things and fascinated by the same things. She's really great at making images with a lot of impact and putting the finishig touches on everything, whereas I'm much better at spontaneously generating work but not necessarily finishing it. So when we come together it's always a good result.
Your performance at i-D's party at the nature house looked amazing. How was performing in that space?
The house was so magic. Literally like the Willy Wonka of the natural world had made it. There are beds made of flowers, moss covered couches and a bathtub full of this delicious lemony potion! I think my favourite though was the downstairs cellar that had been taken over by all these different kinds of colourful fungi, growing out of the cupboards and across the tables, it was amazing. My performance was a surreal display that twisted ideas of beauty and nature to the absurd by inhabiting a half human, half plant form. Haha, that's the best I can do without you seeing it.
To experience the Stoneleigh no.50 wine house yourself, sign up here.
Text Ellen Rule
Photography Honey Long, Prue Stent & Rocket K Weijers