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In Conversation with Artist Leanne Failla

"While I have my own narrative around a specific item in the work, someone else can see the object and have a whole other scene which they construct from it. The object is powerful as it becomes this anchor point which drives a myriad inflection."

Before Sunday 7 May, visit c3 Contemporary Art Space and see the intricate ‘Every Object In My House (in paper)’ by Leanne Failla. Failla spent nine months sculpting miniature replicas of every item in her house using paper, creating an exhibit which has captured the imagination of gallery goers. We talk to her about this labour of love and how scale can alter an object’s meaning.

Were you tempted to do a big spring clean before you started auditing all the items in your home to reduce your workload? There’s close to 2000 items in the exhibition.

Really? Thanks for counting. Now I can tell people something other than ‘I don’t know’. I honestly didn’t really think about it. If anything, I knew I needed volume, so my initial concern was whether I had enough in my house to produce that. I didn’t have my studio set up at home then, and had, and still have, a lot of items in storage at my parents’ house, so if I were to start the process now there would be significantly more items. It’s also been interesting to see how much more I’ve accumulated since starting. I don’t consider that I buy a lot, but when you are very aware of it you feel so excessive.

How long did it take you to create?

It was about a nine-month process.

Obviously, some objects take longer to create than others. What are some of the more complex pieces on the gallery room floor?

Some of the chairs took a little trial and error, particularly my desk chair. I have a little rejected legless version I couldn’t bring myself to throw out until today actually. But generally, the most complex pieces were ones with softer shapes such as some of my vases and bowls. And my Troy Emery sculpture. Trying to get that to look fluffy enough was a bit of a nightmare.

By shrinking everything down and stripping it of its scale, you’ve created a real child-like sense of wonder and inquisitiveness in gallery goers. It’s not often you see patrons rolling around the gallery on all fours to get a closer look. Were you expecting this reaction?

Not at all. I personally see the representation of the objects at this scale as a mode of distance. I think it’s so fascinating though to see the flip side of that where you are almost inserting yourself back into it. I think the action surmises my conflicting state on the role of objects in narrative wonderfully. On the one hand you want to be free from their influence but on the other we can’t help but build a reliance on them for holding your world together.

Our c3 Gallery Director Jon Butt has been a little bit nervous about just how fragile your work is, sitting on gallery floor. Are you at all concerned about your work being damaged?

Everyone seems far more concerned than me. I’m always of the opinion that the work doesn’t end because it sits within the gallery environment. All the actions that take place become a part of its narrative. I certainly prefer to hear that people are engaging and not afraid to get up close to the work. I think that’s an important part of creating work which is addressing scene – the space between the work and the viewer needs to cross over.

Selling your art helps pay the bills. Have you considered selling this work, and if so, under what circumstances?

I consider the work to be a whole, so realistically, it being taken on as a collection is a lot to ask of someone. I make work to test out ideas first and foremost, so I often don’t think about those practicalities during my process. I’m lucky I have a couple of day jobs that allow me to be a little decedent with this.

The idea of exhibiting replicas of every item in your home seems very personal. But the work feels impersonal – scientific in its presentation. By removing scale, colour and texture, you’ve removed some of their potentially sentimental qualities. Have you stripped them of their power too?

Well one of the aims was to shift such hierocracies, so while some objects have definitely lost their power, others have been elevated. Part of the process was to test out a form of neutralisation but as soon as the objects begin to take on a sense of what they were representing it became impossible not to reintroduce an action or scene around what it is that you are reading the object as. But some of the more obscure objects are definitely the most valued of my possessions. The thing that I would want to save most if my house was on fire is my art collection and more of them are completely void of any sense of what they are. They’re simply a rectangle with a frame.

Despite that, most items are still instantly recognizable. Gallery goers light up when they see an object they know from their own homes. Have the objects taken on a different power in their new form?

I consider them to be a new type of object from what they represent. My work is a lot about how moments can have infinite extensions, which is why objects are such an interesting focus for me at the moment. This is a perfect example. While I have my own narrative around a specific item in the work, someone else can see the object and have a whole other scene which they construct from it. The object is powerful as it becomes this anchor point which drives a myriad inflection.

What project are you working on next? I hear you might be working with paper again but on a bigger scale…

I’m actually not working with paper but will be working larger at a 1:1 scale, again focusing on object and action. I’m kind of doing a marriage of this current work and an older project where I used ground down chairs to produce a series of paintings. So again, using objects as the medium for work, but this time it will be sculptural. That’s the plan anyway.

‘Every Object In My House (in paper)’ is part of the c3 April Exhibition, and is on display until Sunday 7 May.