Hiding behind an easel is a means to recluse for many artists, but Amber Stokie feels most connected to her art when she involves others in its journey.
Growing up a triplet, Amber has long wondered about her identity. Her uncanny resemblance to her sister has often meant that neither of them have been referred to as individual people.
Since this has been the case for as long as she can remember, Amber decided to explore her relationship with her siblings through a Master of Fine Arts at RMIT University.
“My sister and I look similar and have often been treated as one person. Having grown up with two close bonds like this, I’ve never seen myself as a singular but part of a group,” she said.
“I’ve always been a ‘we’ not an ‘I’. In my work, there is often more than one person. There is a scene or set which contains relationships.”
Amber’s fascination with psychology and sociology has seen her strive to create meaningful art that invites question and prompts discussion.
Drawing from life experience while immersing herself in nuances about the world around her has enabled her to reach unexpected heights with her art.
“I believe to create good and meaningful art that connects to people and makes them think, you need to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see life from multiple viewpoints.”
But Amber credits her supportive parents for unearthing her talent. She said art has always been part of her life, and most of her relatives have succeeded in the competitive space – from toymaking and design through to photography and craft practices.
“They (Amber’s parents) enrolled my sister and I into private drawing and painting classes outside of school art class throughout our primary and secondary schooling.
“It’s (art) something that fulfils me; its meditative qualities as well as the opportunity to create something from my imagination and have other people connect with it.”
While paint is Amber’s “first love”, she has had a wealth of experience using other mediums including performance photography, documented performance, installation and sculpture.
She said although performance-based modes of expression were helpful in conveying her personal ideas surrounding identity, she’s gravitated back to paint after a brief hiatus.
“I’ve come back to painting in the last 12 months because I love its tactile qualities, colour and flexibility it allows in my work.
“I enjoy a studio-based practice, and nothing excites me more than a blank canvas. My aim is to always maintain a level of conceptual thinking in addition to using a medium I enjoy working with.”
Finding inspiration is less of a challenge and instead something to look forward to, with the Geelong artist uncovering ideas from the every day.
And wherever it is sourced, colour is an unrelenting feature in all of her artworks, as seen in her latest exhibition And So It Goes (named after the Billy Joel song) at Boom Gallery.
“I find colour uplifting which is fitting in this current exhibition because the works are about basic needs such as love, companionship and the importance of forming meaningful, positive connections.
“Loneliness is on the rise, so my work shows a hand being held, a look, an understanding. I wanted to depict connections between people – and sometimes plants or objects representing people – and in doing so elicit a connection between the work itself and the viewer.
“I like to leave enough room in the work for the viewer to be able to step into it and explore and discover things on their own, which ideally relate to their own lives.”