Pluck a clever, peripherally observant, and beautiful woman from the world. Literally any part of the world—far or near, rich or rare, physical or internet. A skyward follower count is not a determinant for selection. Ask her a set of questions that invite a discussion of sexuality, sensuality, modern feminism, career, and creativity, explored through her very personal lens. Have her answer them. And there you have it: that’s In Touch, a Par Femme segment, assembled, for you, with pleasure.
Amy Finlayson curates, paints, writes, models, and more. After curating our beautiful femme-empowerment art show, La Puissance, in 2017, we sat down with her to dive into what inspires her work, how she shows her strength through art, and—of course—the sensuality and sexuality of it all.
Art [allows me] to draw upon a well of passions and desires that I find difficult to communicate in the normal world. My hide-away in my high school years when not modelling was the art room, and it’s here I found another level of confidence in beauty, one that wouldn’t fade as I aged. In fact, it would only grow stronger as my modelling career slowed down.
Your art is often mixed medium. What makes it hard to choose just one?
Life isn’t 2D. Why not make it rich and multifaceted? Layers of meaning, textural delights, imperfections… that’s what makes life delicious, and my art represents that.
What do you wear when working?
When painting, I wear denim. Black denim, specifically, as it allows for ample smearing of colours and mediums that may not make it to the canvas. I have one specific black denim skirt that has been popular for the past few shows, however, my next solo show (December 2018) will have to be done nude… you'll have to watch this space to see what that show brings!
Intriguing. We can’t wait! Tell me about your recent collaboration with Matteo.
I wanted to create pieces on raw linen that stirred something in the soul of the viewer. These works are deconstructed emotional landscapes. They mimic the memories and markings of an old soul. I was searching for my own emotional vibrancy when painting these works, and in order to do that, one sometimes has to uncover memories that live deep down from a previous time in your life. They are framed floating in a box frame of pine wood, much like how insect specimens are displayed. They are 'relics' in that they represent emotions from the past, things that have gone before. Due to this history, they should resonate with each viewer in a different way, just like music does. I painted this whole show to one song; “Hallelujah” (written by Leonard Cohen, performed by Jeff Buckley). I feel that bringing these pieces to a dining environment enhances their impact by combining the visual sense with a sense of taste, and, above all, the feeling of companionship.
Leonard Cohen has a divine way with words. I often put “Bird on the Wire” on at home while writing. It’s guttural and romantic and stirs things up inside me. What music do you listen to while working?
It’s so true. Music has a way of clearing the muddy waters of a soul whilst at the same time we are able to tap into something so pure, something we maybe never knew we held. I feel it is essential that I listen to music when I paint. The show at Matteo was created to “Hallelujah” because I felt that I had to clear up some deep-seeded emotions that were lying dormant in me, and by mirroring the raw, vulnerable chords of Jeff Buckley, I was able to get out of my head for a few moments a day. With other shows, however, it really depends on what I am trying to convey, how emotionally invested in the story I am, and what I want the final product to be. It can honestly range from R&B to Eric Clapton.
You’ve got an exhibition launching on 1st November at Barangaroo House here in Sydney, Rosé Rising. It got me thinking that any time I want to create, I’ll pour a glass of chilled wine and let the juices run through me—In vino veritas and all that. Do you drink when you create?
I actually prefer to stay away from the booze when I create, preferring music over alcohol to get my creative juices flowing. I find it easier to tap into certain emotions when my head is clear and my mind is focused.
Speaking of emotions, I feel the most sensual when working with my hands. It allows me to release tension, open up, and let my heart pour through the page or notebook I’m working on. What does being creative do for you?
There’s really something to be said for art therapy. What I paint comes from deep in my subconscious... it’s a well of emotion that if not tapped and released positively (with paint!) springs out in different expressions, some of which aren’t always positive. A short fuse, an incoherent rambling, a confused mind, a passive-aggressive comment—self-sabotage at its best, if not graciously laid out on a canvas. This well and river of energy give me life, but, like all forms of energy, can be a force for destruction. Being creative for me is so close to me, it's like another limb. It’s so much a part of me I can never ignore it. It occasionally gets in the way, but at the end of the day you are so grateful for it being there, you couldn't imagine life without it.
Your exhibition with Georges Antoni earlier this year mixed photography, paint, and the female form to show glimmers of skin so that you almost needed to step back and drink in each piece to make sense of them. It was one of my favourite collections of yours. Compared to today’s over-saturation of flesh via Instagram, what does it mean to you to leave something to the imagination?
I feel that we as both a gender and a generation have forgotten the art of the tease. Actually, that is incredibly sexist. Men are most certainly included in this assumption of mine. Do we really feel that with the crushing dominance of social and mainstream media that we have to flaunt ourselves in next to nothing to get people's attention? And, if so, what on earth has the world come to? Why does sexual validation in this season’s latest bikini have to trump all the incredibly intimate and amazing things that make up a human being? Sexuality shouldn't be oversaturated for the sake of your ego. Sexuality is a complex, sticky, messy, amazing web of things that have to be discovered in real life, not through Instagram filters. I am not saying that you cannot show off your body and post images on social media, but I just feel that it should be done in a way that doesn't make you want to die inside while posting it. Have a little integrity is all. Ask yourself: would my grandmother be proud of this?
In relation to the exhibition, Georges and I feel that the subtleties are so much more important when trying to entice someone. Why show them everything at once? How boring! I wanted people to have all senses enveloped at the show... I wanted them teased from taste to sight—stepping up close to a tiny artwork, trying to figure out if it's a figure or just a fold of flesh, only to walk back and ponder the pose of a hand or even to uncover the entire person that lies beneath in all her wonder.
Your Girls on Cars series merged the soft femme with hard metal. Why the juxtaposition?
Girls on Cars was a literal vehicle for me to start this dream of creating art for a living. The cars were symbols for the women I photographed to drive their own dreams into the future. We were all on the precipice of something greater than modelling and this show was my chance to show that to the world. I photographed them in public, as they embodied their own negotiated gendered identities on pieces of machines [normally] associated with members of the opposite sex. Themes of female liberation and desired sexual equality in society were explored, while the cars were, as mentioned, a metaphor for driving these women into the future. I then drowned the images in a paint bath, reminiscent of how Narcissus drowned in his own reflection. Again, a play on how the constant obsession with face value, materiality, and media dominance can lead to our downfall if we do not drive ourselves onwards and upwards.
Our partnership exhibition, La Puissance (June 2017), celebrated Australia’s strong female artists. What do these women mean to you?
Lina Nochlin's essay "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" has been made popular recently, with Maria Grazia Chiuri using the title in her Spring 2017/18 collection for Dior. This essay was written in 1971, and still, halfway through 2018, we seem to be struggling with the same issues. I truly believe this is changing rapidly and dramatically to a time where we won’t even have to discuss equality between the sexes. It should simply (and hopefully!) be a given. Each artist in La Puissance brought something unique to the table. From Kitty Callaghan and Kym Ellery's photographic prowess to Rachel Rutt's weavings, each female brought something unique and was celebrated for it. I truly hope this can continue in the future.
I remember seeing you on the catwalk in Perth decades ago and thinking, This girl marks a real change in what ‘beauty’ means. She’s unique and not what was previously the ‘traditional’ definition of beauty. It was inspiring. How has your perception of yourself changed as you’ve grown?
This has been exceptionally challenging as I have become older. From being wholeheartedly embraced by the industry when my look was (literally) in Vogue, to being left alone when I was no longer “in fashion” marked—and still marks—a time when I have had to struggle to find a definition of beauty and success outside the industry. Ironically, I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was when I was younger and traveling the world modelling. The difference now is embracing something that you believe in and making sure this newfound venture embraces you back. I would much prefer to be photographed now in regards to making a difference or inspiring change, rather than pushing something I am not connected to.
What is it that really turns you on?
Honesty. Honesty in the man you truly are and in the imperfections you and I both have. No one is perfect, and I think embracing that makes for something really magic. Also, you have to make me laugh. Do both and I’m all yours.
Follow Amy on Instagram.
Photographed by Tim Swallow.