Artist Feature: Henry Stentiford

Interview by Maxim Buckley

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M: The work you’ve done spans a number of different mediums, do you think it’s important for modern artists to tackle a number of different mediums in their artwork? What is your favourite medium to work with?

H: I think it’s incredibly important for artists to explore different mediums in their artwork, especially during their formative years. It’s so much fun to pick up some chalk and tea-towels and see what happens when you burn them on a kettle — random things like that — it connects you to the art-making child within. Experimentation allows you to look at your art practise differently, and the more you experiment, the more you solidify what you do and don’t want to make. I think it takes a long time to know your voice as an artist and experimentation is the journey to find that voice. I have a certain style now but who knows what I will make down the track. My favourite medium for the time being is clay sculpture, I love considering the three-dimensional space and the sense of touch and connection to the material that’s involved.

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M: Given your success with murals, designing wine labels and the illustrations you’ve done for West Thebarton, what tips would you give to young artists for becoming self-sufficient through artistic expression? How did you yourself get to this stage?

H: I am not self-sufficient through my art practice sadly. It’s a tough gig making a living through art, and if you want to be a full time artist you also have to be a part time something else. Artists are generally not the most finance focused people I have met, but there of course comes a time where you have to face the music of making an income. I encourage artists to work elsewhere on the side to relieve the pressure of making money solely through their art. If you need to sell work to live, that can interrupt your enjoyment of making art which in turn takes away from the quality of the finished product. My advice is also to treat your art practise as any other job and demand self respect when it comes to being paid. Be a professional when you meet people, and remember that one day you may be able to be self-sufficient from your art, but it’s a patient journey there. Networking is also incredibly important, and this is made so much easier in the age of social media. I’d encourage artists to take advantage of the many amazing grants and residencies available to them nationally and internationally — the South Australian state Government offers some amazing grants for artists through their website, so take a look.

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M: Given the variety of clients you’ve had, do you ever find your work to be restricted by their vision? Or do you get a significant amount of flexibility with what you can produce?

H: I often find my work restricted by clients, but I don’t wish to frame that as a negative thing. Clients are the ones with the money after all, and you need them. Don’t be precious — be grateful — appreciate your opportunities as every commission draws you closer to your dream commissions that will one day come. I consider myself very lucky as I often have a lot of creative freedom in projects, this is because my current style is quite definable so people know roughly what they’re getting.

M: As an avid West Thebarton fan, I’ve always wanted to know what the inspiration was behind the album covers you did for them? Who is the man in the yellow?

H: The inspiration for the West Thebarton artwork came from the great stories each of their songs were telling. West Thebarton’s music often embodies a lot of fun and play which you will know if you’ve seen them live, but also a sense of contemplation and discovery. I wanted to reflect these themes in the artwork and I hopefully made something that was silly but serious. As for the man in yellow, he was supposed to visually embody the musical themes and he himself be on the journey the music described. I wanted him to be positive, cool, a bit disheveled, mysterious and a bit funny, which is hopefully what people have taken from him.

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M: Your work has taken you internationally now, was this something you ever expected would happen? Will Adelaide always have an influence on your work no matter where you are?

H: I never thought, but always hoped, my work would take me internationally. Art is a beautiful thing in its ability to cross language divides and connect cultures. There’s a bevvy of amazing opportunities for artists overseas and it’s a great way to see the world. My partner and I took part in an artist residency in Spain called Pinea Linea De Costa, which was an amazing experience in both meeting other international artists and being able to research a new culture, and then make and exhibit art about it. Get out there and do the same! People around the world are waiting for you to go and make art with them so get on your bike!

I think Adelaide and Australia at large produces a really high calibre of artists, and Adelaide has provided me with countless opportunities to develop my art. Adelaide will always be a part of my artwork in one way or another and always be my spiritual home. I hope to learn as much as I can from around our country and the world that I can one day contribute back into the fibre of our great state.

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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