inside photographer sylve colless' dark and beautiful psyche

With her appearance at Semi-Permanent festival imminent, we speak to the artist about her intriguing philosophy and psychiatry influenced photography.

25 May 2015, 9:35am

Known for her strikingly emotive photography which she's produced in solo exhibitions Anima and Harmonia, Sylve Colless has steadily become a master in both the commercial and personal arenas. Drawing inspiration from psychiatry and phycology, Colless lets the work of Carl Jung echo through her own. The result is very beautiful and multi layered photographs of the female form. We caught up with her to find out more about her creative style, process and her up coming panel discussion at Semi-Permanent this weekend. 

Who are some of your go to collaborators?
I do a lot of work with the guys from Zanerobe. They were recently awarded number one menswear brand so just being able to see their brand grow and evolve internationally is really cool. I've shot for them for nearly 5-6 years now. I've been doing quite a lot of work for RVCA, Creative Director Jesse Hart, and with Dee Jenner at Elle Australia. They're all very different but we have a great understanding of how we work, we have a rhythm, an understanding.

Could you tell us about your creative process?
Usually it starts with a lot of research and whatever I'm reading, whether it be an idea or philosophy on something. I make notes on certain topics and then what I'll often do is make a mood board. I often reference oil paintings, renaissance art or even just colours. It's usually just a collection of images that I'm attracted to at the time. It's a really subconscious process of throwing them all together. Then I'll speak to one of my good friends who's a clinical phycologist specialising in art therapy. Then we'll discuss any themes or things that are emerging from the collection of images and I'll move forward from there.

Seems like philosophy and psychiatry has a big role in your work. Carl Jung was said to be a big influence in your work in Anima. Do you often like to conceptually explore it?
Definitely, I'm always very interested in ideas, thoughts and views on things. It's a way of figuring things out. I love to explore ideas and philosophies around the human psyche. In order to do this I need tap into my subconscious. Creating personal work is like therapy for me. It's such a process for each show.

Do you see those themes having a impact on your viewers when they see your photographs?
Yeah, it's funny. For instance, in my last exhibition there were a few pieces I was about to leave out because they were quite dark and twisted. But some people said to me, 'Oh but they're so beautiful'. It's kind of so nice that people see different things in it because it's such a personal thing; viewing art. I don't want it to be necessarily where I've come from creating it. It's nice that people can attach their own meaning to it and see things in a different way. I think that's the beauty of it.

How would you describe your creative style?
I think commercially I'm leaning to slightly more raw, clean but still polished, a more simple aesthetic. Less post production and not tweaking them a lot afterwards, which has been really nice. It means on the day getting all the details right and that's been a nice process. With the personal work, definitely looking at oil paintings, renaissance and that kind of light. Fleshier bodies and all those things that are beautiful about being feminine. I think that's something that's coming through, especially in my last show.

Have you been working with any other mediums?
I've been painting a lot lately. For my new show, I felt like it was really important for me to get involved and be a bit more hands on, like building sets and making backdrops. This show is a lot more tripped out and psychedelic than my others. There's objects being hand made and a synthetic feel as opposed to the natural environment of the other shows.

You're about to be in a panel discussion for this years Semi-Permanent. How are you feeling about it? Is this something that you've done before?
Mildly terrifying. No, I'm really excited it's such a amazing opportunity to get up and speak but I was the kid in high school debating with the stutter and clammy palms so I'm not sure how it'll go. I'm really passionate about the topic that we're discussing - art and commerce. I'm discussing balance; maintaining authenticity within your commercial and personal work. I'll be speaking with Sebastian Moody, he's such a brilliant artist and Fenella Kernebone is presenting. Yeah, I think it'll be a really great discussion. 


Text Savannah Anand-Sobti