Open Studio: Elizabeth Willing

In conceiving her multisensory and frequently edible artworks, Brisbane-based artist Elizabeth Willing aims to bring viewers into communion with her materials. For Open Studio (until 12 Feb 2023), Willing’s brings objects and research from her home workspace into conversation with artworks from the Gallery’s Collection and provides her with a platform from which to create new work that explores our complex relationship with food. Willing’s participatory practice revolves around food production, consumption, and the rituals and ethics of eating, resulting in layered experiences in which the non-visual senses are central.

Elizabeth Willing introduces the Open Studio installation

For the Open Studio project, Willing’s will design pieces of modular furniture that function either as autonomous artworks or as sites for audience engagement. Decorated with motifs that evoke both the butter icing piped onto children’s birthday cakes and the human digestive tract, the tables will either be hung flat against the wall of the space in their disassembled form or set up to allow Willing to hold workshops. Describing her proposal, she explains that ‘when the table splits and assembles [the design] will be fractured. The intestinal form has reoccurred many times in my work and has become a metaphor for a kind of internal hosting’.1

Elizabeth Willing creating a digital collage using novelty birthday cake images / Photograph: J Ruckli © QAGOMA

The idea of the body as host is one of several that Willing will explore during her Open Studio. The project will provide her with both the conceptual and physical space to experiment with speculative artworks that until now have lain dormant. As she has expressed:

My studio process requires physical spaces to test out new work, often these spaces are flexible, meaning [my] living space needs to fluctuate to accommodate the scale of different projects… [They are] often created in concise bursts, installed and deinstalled within a week, or rolled up/ rolled out again each day.2

For Open Studio, Willing brings the materials that inspire her research-based practice into the Gallery, allowing visitors to engage with her working methods. Drawings and journals will sit alongside the ‘stuff’ of her art, including recipe books on confectionary, herbal tinctures, and existing artworks such as the ‘mouth cups’ that she uses in her performance dinners. In the adjacent gallery space, Collection works Willing has selected for their gustatory references will extend the discourses running through her work, including the concept of:

the human digestive system as a filtering threshold for contemporary food technology… Much of the matter we ingest will pass through us and become mulch back on the land, though some will be indigestible, pollution, stuck in our systems, obstructing our organs, remaining as a parasite until our fossil records reveal these everlasting objects.3

Epitomising the objective of Open Studio to provide a space where artists can trial ideas and audiences can gain insight into their creative processes, Willing’s residency promises to be both illuminating and thought-provoking.

Samantha Littley is Curator, Australian Art.
This edited extract was originally published in the QAGOMA Members’ magazine, Artlines, no.3, 2022

1 & 2 Elizabeth Willing, ‘Open Studio Proposal’, 9 February 2022.
3 Elizabeth Willing, ‘Framing document’, 16 May 2022.

‘Open Studio: Elizabeth Willing’ / Queensland Art Gallery /  15 October 2022 – 12 February 2023

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