Evie Cahir and Gemma Topliss: ‘Heavy Leisure’


This week, Backwoods Gallery presents an exhibition of illustrations by two young artists, Evie Cahir & Gemma Topliss, who are representative of the bright future of Australia art.
In ‘Heavy Leisure’, opening on the 17th of April, Cahir and Topliss will present a series of delicate, illustrative works. The collection re-evaluates the seemingly mundane moments, objects and routines of daily life, imbuing them with emotional undertones.

Evie Cahir’s illustrative works offer a new, more attentive regard on the banal but precious objects and moments encountered in daily life. Cahir is fascinated by the hidden meanings of routine and the interplay between light and shadow. Her artwork employs sophisticated composition, refined techniques and subtle humour to present her point of view in a truly unique and beautiful way.

Gemma Topliss explores the connection between the interior and the exterior, both spatially and emotionally. Her charcoal and graphite drawings are intimate, fragmented and personal. At only 19, Topliss is the youngest artist that has exhibited at Backwoods.

In the lead up to the exhibition, they both took some time to speak with VNA.


Damo: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your style?

Evie: I am a Melbourne based artist, I spend most of my time in my bedroom drawing and watching people out my window. When I’m not staring at commuters outside I am combining watercolor paintings and pencil studies as a means to document fragmented but detailed moments. Style-wise it is a collision of narrative, popular culture and the mapping of intersecting memories and moments.

Gemma: My practice focuses on fragmentation and processes of revealing. I am in second year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and I am really enjoying discovering more about my practice. I think art school is a great platform for understanding yourself as an artist and developing your ideas as you move through. I don’t see my work as a static thing and I am looking forward to see how it evolves.

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Damo: What can we expect to see in the show, and what do you hope the viewer will take away from the show? What work are you proudest of?

Evie: Expect references to the Simpsons, Summer-time in Melbourne and Sun rises. It is the initial paintings background studies, photographs and watercolor test sheets created in the lead up to developing a concept for Heavy Leisure that I am most proud of. I would like the viewer to walk away with revolutionary personal inspiration, a price-list and a beer.

Gemma: I am trying to explore the space between interior and exterior and the ambiguous space of the removed and the revealed. Presently, I am working with drawing as it presents itself as a halfway site. Drawing, historically has been as a means to an end and not necessarily an end in itself. This has a strong connection with what I am dealing with conceptually as drawing lacks permanence and it seems as a constant pushing and pulling between a finished state and potential for change. All I can hope for the viewer is that they engage with the work.

In their beauty

Damo: as an emerging artist, how do you hope to make your mark on ‘the scene’?

Evie: I hope to make more than a mark – I aim to infiltrate the ‘scene’ by constantly creating bigger & better work, collaborating & learning from other artists.

Gemma: All I really want to do I make my art and become more aware of my practice. I think if I was to say the main hope I have, even though it sounds cliché, is that I want to continue to make my art and for people to enjoy it.

Damo: What drew you to art?

Evie: So many factors drew me to drawing [ p u n ] I remember the constant flow of pencils and paper when I was young. It was a technique my parents used to keep me quiet and entertained, it has worked ever since. I was also home-schooled for the majority of my childhood, which allowed me to create my own curriculum revolving around studying and drawing horses and dolphins. Basically, I have always drawn.

Gemma: I never consciously decided to be an artist, it’s always just been something I’ve done since I was really young, and I’ve never stopped. I continue to create because I’m drawn to the vastness of possibility within art, as well as the Sisyphean task of making work that is relevant and resonates within a context – always chasing something that can’t be finished.

Damo: if you weren’t an artist, what would you like to be doing.

Evie: Based on the Myer Briggs Personality Test I would be a pastry chef, set designer, florist, Art Director or illustrator. They all sound like great side-gigs to me.

Gemma: When I was a kid, I want to be an astronaut or a paleontologist so maybe that?


Damo: what do you do when you’re not creating?

Evie: Snacking and Stretching, like everyone else.

Gemma: Creating and thinking about creating takes up most of my time, when I’m not doing that I read or see my friends

Damo: what does the future hold?

Evie: A month long Art residency in Finland, the start of many to come hopefully.

Gemma: Continuing to make art for as long as I can.