Season Four – Lara Chamas

Image credit: Haschem McAdam

Season Four – Lara Chamas

Season 4 – Episode 2


Fundere Studios

Instagram handle @lara_chamas_


00:00:00 Kiera Brew Kurec
Hi, I’m Kiera Brew Kurec

00:00:01 Nick Breedon
and I’m Nick Breedon

00:00:02 Kiera Brew Kurec
welcome to Pro Prac,

00:00:04 Nick Breedon
where we explore the professional practice of artists

00:00:06 Kiera Brew Kurec
and hear their stories.

00:00:08 Nick Breedon
Lara Chamas is a Lebanese Australian artist based in Naarm. Fleeing from civil war, her parents migrated to Australia where she was born. Her practice investigates topics of post colonial and migrant narratives within the context of her cultural identity. Using narrative and experience documentation, Storytelling, transgenerational trauma and memory, and tacit knowledge. Her research intends to explore links and meeting points between narrative theory, cultural practice, current political and societal tensions and the body as a political vessel.

00:00:45 Kiera Brew Kurec
Lara, thank you so much for joining us on the show again. We’re so happy to have you back on Pro Prac for a full episode and we will kick it off how we always do and ask you, how did you get to where you are today?

00:00:59 Lara Chamas
Yeah. Well, first of all, my absolute pleasure to be back, to be back for like the full episode. So, my family came here, fleeing the Lebanese civil war. So my parents came as migrants, and I was lucky enough to be born here. I moved around a lot as a kid, just sort of a typical migrant sort of instability kind of situation, but I was always really creative as a kid. Yeah, and I did community theater for like eight years, starting in high school till I was about 22, and I think that sort of really opened me up to the idea of creative expression and storytelling and, eventually art. So how I, I guess how I got to where I am now is like, unfortunately through art school. As I was, yeah, as I was thinking a lot about these questions, I realized, oh no, I’ve actually got a lot to attribute art school to. But it’s not without its anger and critique. But that’s okay. So I studied fine art, but it actually was not my first choice. And it was sort of my backup of, I don’t really know what else to do. So I wanted to study stage crafts specifically and do like costumes and props, like behind the scenes of theater production, but I didn’t get into that. So I studied fine art. Naturally, yeah. A bit of a like, oh, I can do a bit of this, a bit of that. I can, I can still be creative, but I’ve got, like, it’s just not as specific. Yeah, so I didn’t feel like my degree started until third year. I felt like I was just fucking around, for the most part. Then, I was encouraged to apply for honours because I felt like I had only just started and so it felt like a really good next step. I did really well in honours. I graduated with first class. And then that led to, that led to, masters and I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship, for my masters as well. So I had this really, I had like this trajectory of like straight from high school, just going straight from undergrad to honors to masters. And in, I guess, yeah, there was like definitely a momentum that happened. And I think like, unfortunately I can attribute like a lot of where I am now to those really gross fast years of Like study after study after study. Yeah. A lot of my trajectory though was encouraged by a few key lectures that really pushed me in terms of exploring the more political aspects, cause I was very, very discouraged from that. And I sort of like hid it a bit in like my, my visual diary and that kind of stuff. But I met, there’s two lecturers that I have in mind that really, really pushed me and was like, no, you absolutely need to explore this. So that was, because a lot of my work, now is quite, political or… Personal political I guess. Yeah. And then I guess another like props to uni is I befriended a lot of the techs and learned a lot of hard skills that I would do outside of class time, because there’s a really big de skilling in uni that I find is not, not conducive with actually having an actual practice. So that, I think, is really, that was really important. Yeah, so pretty much, I won prizes at my grant show. Yeah, which led to honors, which I also won prizes at. Which led to shows outside of uni, which led to like more exposure to my work than the scholarship to masters, which just led to me showing more often and people keeping me in mind and over the years that slowly built and built. And now I’m, at a point where I’m very lucky and thankful that I don’t, I don’t really apply for things. I do, and I, and I, I probably should more because I’d be busier and things could be better, but I’m very rejection sensitive. So I apply rarely to things. But I’m gracious now that I’m at a point where I’m approached enough to have like a semi steady showing and or freelance workflow. And I’m, and, and yeah, unfortunately I think I attribute a lot of that trajectory to uni and the opportunities that came out of that because I guess galleries, at least in Melbourne, come and scope out the grad shows and they sort of like earmark you for like, oh, we should follow this person, see, see how they grow outside of uni. Yeah. And I think, yeah. And then those connections, you know, thankfully stayed and I am where I am now.

00:05:43 Nick Breedon

00:05:44 Kiera Brew Kurec
Do you mind touching on, you mentioned the needing to kind of go outside of the university for those skills, and those practical making as well. Do you mind kind of elaborating on that, about how, like where you learned, the processes that you employ in your practice?

00:06:02 Lara Chamas
Yeah, so it was by befriending the technicians at uni and sort of going out of my way to learn from them directly, because it wasn’t really facilitated, inside of class time or contact time. Yeah. Yeah. So it, it was like sort of through uni in that way. Yeah.

00:06:23 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. What has that kind of looked like post university for you? Do you have places where you go to often for foundry, like get your foundry work done or how do you manage that at the moment?

00:06:37 Lara Chamas
Yeah, that does become really hard. I can do sort of a lot of the things on my own except for, yeah, foundry work. Like, specifically, because I can’t, I can’t build and operate one out in the backyard

00:06:51 Kiera Brew Kurec
we all wish we could

00:06:53 Nick Breedon
hey, hey, I did. Not easy, but it’s possible. But also, also don’t, don’t, also don’t.

00:07:05 Lara Chamas
Yeah, I have a specific foundry I go to, which, the guy’s just really lovely and it’s like probably just the most, um. I chose it initially because it’s the most competitive price because yeah, bronze casting outside of an institution gets insanely expensive. Yeah. I don’t even know how to say it. It’s Fundere or Fundere foundry in sunshine.

00:07:27 Nick Breedon
Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I haven’t worked with them, but yeah, I’ve heard they’re good.

00:07:32 Lara Chamas
The guy, oh, look, I also forget his name, sorry, he’s, just an absolute sweetheart, a very welcoming guy to work with, yeah, and yeah, just does really good work at a really good price and isn’t. There are other foundries here that are a bit pretentious and a bit, they have an air of exclusivity around them. Yeah. And Fundere doesn’t, doesn’t have that. So I really like to use them.

00:07:54 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Great. That’s a very good recommendation. I, I wanted to ask if you had the choice to do it again, do you think that you would do your kind of education, journey differently? As, you know, as you said, you went straight through from undergrad to honors and then into masters. Do you think you would do that differently if you were going to do it again?

00:08:14 Lara Chamas
So that’s a really, Oh, that’s like a yes and a no, because yes, like it was insane and it burnt me out. And like, I also didn’t know how to operate outside of it, of an institution for so long because I was just in there for like, what, seven, eight years or something. So that, that part, I guess I would do differently, I guess, maybe taking a break from between honors and masters maybe, but I guess in one way the answer is also no, because I think that trajectory really helped me. I like to think of my honors year as the year I turned from a student into an artist. Cause I think that fast paced, sort of force and like I was forced to grow, I think. Yeah, there’s such a focus in honors, you know, practice. Yeah, exactly. It like, it really forces you to hone in. So that was really good. And so I, I think that the momentum was really important to follow as well. But. Yeah, it also made, it also made it really hard to operate outside of a university setting. And that was something I struggled with and stumbled a lot. So yes and no.

00:09:34 Nick Breedon
That’s a good answer. I have a lot of students, asking me about, you know, should I do Masters? And, generally I recommend that they, you know, spend a bit of time. And, you know, it’s completely biased off of my own experience. I’m doing Masters now and it’s, it was 10, 10 years between, finishing honours and, and starting Masters. And just to have that, you know, a bit of extra time of, of practicing and, you know, it is practice based research. And there’s, I mean, there’s been times for me where I’ve, I’ve had that experience of knowing my practice outside of a university context to know that like, you know, when I get in a bind or I get stuck with something to know that the ideas will come. I just need to like, wait and maybe, you know, read some more, look at some other art, but not knowing that I can rely on, on the ideas to eventually kind of arrive. And I don’t know if I might have, you know, had that, confidence in my experience if I hadn’t, you know, kind of had that, that time to kind of practice, but you know, everybody’s experience obviously is very different. And I know a lot of people really thrive on having that dedication to, you know, the risk at being able to access the resources of the university and, having that kind of, you know, guidance of their supervisor, can be really helpful. So, you know, obviously everybody’s experience is very different, but, yeah, it’s good to hear your kind of take on it.

00:10:58 Lara Chamas
That’s where I would have like, yeah, I guess if I did have to do it again, that’s where I would have taken the break between honours and masters because as you said, and yeah, the confidence of, of knowing that it’ll come and, yeah. And because post grad then becomes this whole other monster that, that you have to deal with when you’re doing a master.

00:11:19 Nick Breedon
Well, it’s a marathon too, so I just can’t even imagine like spending that long, just like, flogging it out. Like it’s a lot of work.

00:11:27 Lara Chamas

00:11:27 Nick Breedon
I’m exhausted.

00:11:30 Kiera Brew Kurec
What you mentioned about seeing your practice kind of come together in your third year. That really resonated with me because I think for me as well, there was the first two years, just so much experimentation. I had also just gone straight from high school, so I was a teeny tiny baby. And in the third year, that’s when kind of, I can see when I look back those ideas that I still use within my work and, kind of a working methodology really start to develop Obviously, you know, much more naive state than they do now, but it was, I think those first two years were really a place for experimentation and, and kind of risk taking and just getting used to what it’s like to have, a practice.

00:12:19 Kiera Brew Kurec
So do you mind sharing with us what some of the biggest challenges or things that you’ve needed to overcome to continue your practice have been?

00:12:27 Lara Chamas
Yeah. So there’s, there’s actually quite a few, so first of all is money. Money of course. Second of all is existentialism of why am I doing this? Why am I obsessing over this one thing and following this tangent? Does it mean anything to anybody else? Why should I do this when people are dying and starving? Yeah, I suppose a big challenge for me is justifying the idea of having a practice at all. Then we’ve got who my audience is. Which is, which for some reason is a really big issue and I never thought it was, but a little bit of feedback I get is who’s your audience and who are you actually making this work for? And yeah, I don’t know, because that becomes a very big question of like, okay, where do you want to show this work and in which context? And then because essentially art, art is for us, but art is also for the audience that sees it. And I think something I got a lot in uni was, who are you making this for and why would it, like, you know. In what context, and, and why would, like, why are you doing this, essentially? I would sometimes be told, this is not accessible, for others. Or, you’re preaching to the choir. Or, yeah, there’s always been a big, like, who is this for? And then, so that, I think, is something that was really ingrained in me in asking myself. So now when I make a work, I, I think about, okay, who is this for? Who does this benefit and why am I doing it? Next, we’ve got pigeonholing slash orientalizing myself. That’s been a, that’s been a big challenge to overcome because not only would it happen from other people doing that to me. There was definitely a point where I would do it to myself and it was very, very limiting and it didn’t feel good. And then the last, but probably the most important and the biggest challenge to overcome is the burnout from exploiting myself, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, yeah, with my work and with my practice and being encouraged to do so. Some of my best work, I think, comes at such a great toll on myself in every single way. And, you know, that’s the work that people want. And it’s the work that the galleries know you for and want you to make more work about. Overcoming that I suppose within myself and trying to figure out what’s a more sustainable way to practice where it doesn’t destroy me completely on all these different levels is probably something I’m still learning and trying to overcome.

00:15:20 Nick Breedon
I don’t think you’re alone there.

00:15:22 Lara Chamas
Yeah, of course. Unfortunately.

00:15:24 Nick Breedon
Yeah. I want, you know, I say that like you’re exploiting yourself, but like, are we, are we exploiting ourselves or are we being exploited

00:15:34 Kiera Brew Kurec
yeah, I think a lot of galleries and institutions need to take the responsibility of what they are commissioning or what they’re programming and understanding that, not just financially, like what is being given to the artist in terms of a fee, but what they’re actually asking of that person emotionally is, is a lot and it doesn’t seem like a balanced or reciprocal exchange. In what the, like the benefits that the gallery is getting at the cost of the artist experience is, yeah, it’s very weighted to one side, I think.

00:16:12 Lara Chamas
Yeah, I agree. You’re right. It’s like, yeah, you’re right. It’s, it’s not. Yeah, it’s mostly like us being exploited. But I guess, I do think of the role that I play in that because I always have the chance to say no. Right. But then, but then it’s really hard also to say no to an opportunity

00:16:30 Kiera Brew Kurec
when they’re the only opportunities that are coming your way, then it’s really hard to say no because you’re like, if, is this the only one? Like I’m only getting

00:16:39 Lara Chamas
Yeah, exactly.

00:16:39 Kiera Brew Kurec
I’m only getting programmed in this kind of aspect, so of course I’m gonna say yes because no one wants me for anything else, or

00:16:47 Lara Chamas

00:16:48 Kiera Brew Kurec
But yeah, I don’t know. I think there’s, I think a lot about this and I think a lot about. Of the times that I’ve been in the position as an art worker and being maybe one of the only people in the space seeing the actual toll that it takes on the artist for what’s being asked and then having to kind of like defend them to the rest of the organization or whatever when an artist does put up a boundary and then there’s that like, Oh, they’re being difficult or all the, you know, and it’s like, do, do we not understand collectively what, what is being done, like what is happening right now? Yeah, it’s really hard.

00:17:33 Lara Chamas
And if I may ask you a question, do you think that you, do you think that you can see that better because you’re also an artist? Because something I find is,

00:17:43 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:17:43 Lara Chamas
yeah right, Because something I find working with arts workers who also have a practice is there’s typically not, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but typically there’s a, There’s a sensitivity and understanding of what’s being asked versus people who are purely arts workers and don’t actually have a lived experience of what they’re asking someone to do.

00:18:03 Kiera Brew Kurec
I always find a very stark difference between that. Yeah, absolutely. They think everything is an opportunity for an artist.

00:18:10 Nick Breedon
I think it’s not just that too, but they, they, I think there’s a tendency to, I think that what one person who might be much more resourced than another can produce, they, that every artist has the ability to produce to that same level. So, you know, when you’re, when you’re, when you’re having, you know, like, an artist who has like a, a team of, you know, installers that they work with or, or assistants that they work with, or like maybe they have an admin assistant that they work with, you know. What they can produce and how quickly they can say, reply to an email, how quickly they can like deliver their work, you know, whether or not they’re doing the entire install by themselves, which means that maybe they’re going home and working on it some more at night, which means they’re tired when they come in, you know, like if you don’t know what it’s like literally to be an artist, you might think that what, you know, really like top performer, that’s like a really bad way of putting it, but someone who’s like really well resourced can produce the same, or rather an artist that’s just out of uni who has no resources can produce at the same level and cope with the same kind of like demands as somebody who’s really well resourced who, who has a lot of funding or, you know, something like that. Yeah, not everybody, not everybody has the same resources, but I think if you don’t know what that looks like you, you just think everybody like, you know, like why isn’t this artist like doing everything so easily as, you know, whoever we had last month. And that’s, you know,

00:19:46 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. I think there’s all those technical things, but then there’s also just the actual sensitivities of, around what the work may be about and how that, like the implications of that on the artist when they are making works that, like involve things that are very personal, to them and and how much of a toll that really takes on people that they are coming out publicly, kind of putting it, putting these works together in the public eye. And I think, you know, from an institution point, they’re thinking about how that work can be consumed. They’re not thinking about the care that is needed for the artist in that process of making. And In the process of presenting and, that care can take so many different forms, but I think there is a lot of insensitivities from arts workers who don’t understand what that process is like as an artist to put something out there because, um you know, we’re not all wanting to actually be the center of attention, even though we’re making work. If that makes sense?

00:20:52 Lara Chamas
Oh, I couldn’t yeah, I couldn’t agree more with everything you both said. Yeah. I went to, a really shitty high school, actually, cause we moved around a lot. I bounced around primary schools and high schools, but I did my year 10 and VCE, Hallam senior college, which in my year 12 year, which was 2012, Hallam was voted the worst suburb in Victoria so I, yeah, so I, I think I want to highlight. And so at the career counseling sort of part of year 12, they were just like, cool so like, you know, what do you want to apply for? What do you want to do after school? And I was like, yeah, I want to go to uni. I want to go here and I want to study this. And like, I was discouraged from, they were like aim lower, aim lower than that shit. And I’m pretty sure I was maybe one of three or four people that, went on to higher study in my entire VCE yeah. And I just, I think that’s important to highlight just because when I then got to art school, I realized that. Let’s say maybe 90 percent of the people had come from something like a middle class background or a private school or something like a world I was not familiar with a world that was completely dissimilar to mine and my experiences and having like a tough childhood and a tough upbringing and, you know, parents, I would have to translate things for and, you know, I think class is not something that we talk about in the arts anywhere near enough. So it feels really important. And I, and I guess, yeah, I’m reflecting a bit on, wow, I’m where I am. And I came from where I am and I should be proud of that.

00:22:48 Kiera Brew Kurec
For sure. Especially, yeah, when, those times when you’re younger at school and your dream or your aspiration is just. blatantly kind of shut down or looked down upon, to overcome that when I look now at young people and see how young they are and how precious they are. And to think that there’s people out there that, you know, Saying no to them. It just seems so cruel.

00:23:22 Lara Chamas
Who hurt you? Like, who hurt you to break that little child’s dream?

00:23:27 Kiera Brew Kurec

00:23:27 Nick Breedon
Lara, do you want to just run us through what a successful practice means to you?

00:23:35 Lara Chamas
So, When I quit art for a bit, I asked myself this a lot. And for context in the pandemic and hard lockdown, I was unfortunately forced to quit my masters. So I never actually finished it. I was like months away from submitting, which was really crap. And I’m more than happy to name and shame Monash university, for not at all facilitating me to finish my master’s in a global pandemic. Anyway, yeah, so I asked myself a lot. Am I still an artist? If I’m not making and I’m taking this active break. Like, and, and, and yeah, what, what does it mean? Like, am I still who I am and yeah, what does my, you know, quote unquote success look like? And I eventually landed on the term recovering artist and I think largely I still am a recovering artist. This year I’ve gotten back to showing and slowly making new works and stuff. I think success or successful, having some successful practice is when you reach people and touch them and make a lasting impact, whether that’s with your work or just like your words, or even your spirit in terms of like connecting with a peer and having a friendship, or even just a professional relationship that helps people to continue. I think, yeah, making some sort of lasting impact is success. Success to me has never been about. If I’m showing constantly or if I have gallery representation or, or anything like that, I think it’s the, I think it’s, it’s the, the meaning created between people.

00:25:22 Kiera Brew Kurec
Beautiful. Thank you. That was really lovely. And yeah, I, I agree wholeheartedly on that one. It’s It’s really also, I, I found that hard over the years to kind of come to that cause no one ever tells you that when you’re younger, like, especially when you’re in the university time as well, success is kind of labeled all of these things other than what you just mentioned.

00:25:48 Lara Chamas
Yeah, exactly.

00:25:49 Kiera Brew Kurec
And so it’s really hard to like, come to it and be like. You know, when you’re slowly, those kind of layers, unfolding and you’re kind of peeling them off and being like, Oh, actually, no, like that, that doesn’t mean success to me, or that isn’t important to me.

00:26:04 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Hopefully when we all really, truly. believe that and embody that, then we won’t be able to be exploited anymore.

00:26:19 Lara Chamas
See, but it took, I think it took a long time and probably, I think it took me actually quitting art as well for a little bit to come to that definition. Because, yeah, for a long time, I thought that success was like, if I’m not showing, I’m not successful because I’m somehow not relevant anymore. Yeah, or I was like, oh, success is getting a lecturing gig or success is being represented by a gallery. But actually, I think I’ve come to realize. I really don’t know. Oh, I shouldn’t say that, (laughter)

00:26:53 Nick Breedon
you don’t, you don’t want representation above all like your sanity and, you know, emotional safety and agency as a, as an artist and a human being is what you mean.

00:27:06 Lara Chamas
Yeah, exactly. That is what I mean. I mean, should a gallery want to represent me, I would probably welcome you with open arms. However. But also I’m sort of just like, Oh, well, Is success selling my work? I don’t know if it is, and I don’t, my work, like, even though I make a lot of objects, I’m like, my work’s actually not that sellable because the meaning it has, like all these objects I cast and stuff, the meaning’s all with me. And so for somebody to have that in their home, for example, like it just, I find that my work is really not consumable in that way. Maybe in an institutional sense, if like a gallery or institution were to purchase it, that might be different, but I think with the little experience I have of friends who are represented or like, yeah, with a commercial gallery or something. Yeah, a lot of the, like the clientele that the, that are buying the work like they don’t, they don’t actually want like they want. They don’t want things that, they don’t want the kind of things that I make, which is fine. So I guess when I sort of, when that clicked for me, I was like, Oh, I don’t necessarily want representation. But in saying that, you know, should somebody hear this, you know, you can still approach me. But yeah.

00:28:25 Nick Breedon
Yeah, I was like, yeah, I think that. For me personally, I, I feel a little bit the same, like where, you know, the idea of somebody owning some of my work in their home is just, really inappropriate, you know, because of the meaning of the work. And also like, you know, they’ll be like, Oh, how much does this cost? I’m like, Oh, $100, 000. And they’d just be like, what? And I’m like, no, for real. It cost, it took me two years to make, like, that’s how much it costs.

00:28:53 Lara Chamas
And my blood, sweat and tears.

00:28:55 Nick Breedon
Yeah, like, actually, literally. It’s probably contaminated. You can’t have it. But like, but seriously, like, but if, if I think if a gallery did approach me, you know, I would certainly be open to, you know, because I think, I think the kind of work that I’m like that work that, you know, Contains that blood, sweat and tears. \It is like we were talking about before it is, it is the work that consumes you and it is the work that really drains you and causes you to be really burnt out. And it’s like, I actually would be really open to making work that is a little bit lighter, that is a little bit more of a, offhand, you know, expression of like, you know, the kind of joyous fleeting moments rather than the really big heavy kind of things. And I think people are probably a little bit more, interested in buying something like that.

00:29:46 Kiera Brew Kurec
Nick Breedon light..

00:29:50 Lara Chamas
, yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think the, the permission as well to make that kind of work when you’re known or when you’ve been, you know, successful for making the Blood, Sweat and Tears work, and you know, maybe that’s not permission from others, but for me, at least it’s permission from myself and I don’t really, that’s really hard for me to, to get for myself. I’m like, why are you trying to paint a still life? Yeah. I really want to actually. I’ve been thinking about it more and more.

00:30:20 Nick Breedon
Alright, challenge. Challenge accepted.

00:30:22 Kiera Brew Kurec
I did a slight version of that where during the lockdown was just making, work. It started off that I wanted to make a few light pieces for a larger work. And then I was like, Oh, just do some of this for fun and just started making some work just for fun. Like it completely adjacent to my practice, not. Not related at all was so nice, I think really healing as well because it had been so long that I, since I was just making things for the sake of making things

00:30:51 Nick Breedon
and everyone loves your led light. Everyone wants one.

00:30:54 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. They’re very wonky. On purpose. So, no actually on purpose, but, and that, and that’s part of it. And I think it’s, it, there is something really lovely about reconnecting with the things that that drew you into practice to begin with, but it’s also the first thing that we got taught to divorce ourselves from at university. Because artwork has to have all of these meanings and it has to have all of these things. And if you have, you know, if you happen to come from a community or belong to a community that is in any way disadvantaged, then you must make work about that and only identify with that for a certain part of your career. That’s exactly what we’re saying that where the exploitation comes from and, but where the opportunities like where people kind of keep wanting you to perform in this area. And so to kind of step back and say like, no, I’m just going to spend some time for myself to make things that actually just feel good is like, I know, I feel like it’s a bit of a fuck you to all of those. You know, key selection criteria and applications of, having to, um…

00:32:04 Nick Breedon
Maybe it’s more subversive too.

00:32:06 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah, yeah. I don’t know. I think you should both try it, if, if not just for… An afternoon paint a shit still life. I mean, I love still life.

00:32:18 Nick Breedon
Who are you calling shit still life? I think both of us would make a really nice still life.

00:32:23 Lara Chamas
Yeah. Yeah, Kiera

00:32:25 Kiera Brew Kurec
I’m just saying like…

00:32:28 Nick Breedon
Just cause your art’s wonky.

00:32:30 Kiera Brew Kurec
Make a wonky still life.

00:32:33 Nick Breedon
Couldn’t if I tried. Couldn’t if I tried. Literally.

00:32:37 Kiera Brew Kurec
Do you mind, telling us what your practice looks like, like a day in the life, a week in life, or a month in life? What are the kind of practicalities around how you structure your practice?

00:32:48 Lara Chamas
So my practice looks really boom and bust. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term, but I’ll, I’ll explain it very briefly, I guess. So the boom and bust cycle is, it’s actually often talked about with chronic pain or chronic illness, which is something that I live with as well. And so it’s essentially like, when you have the energy, all the opportunities, and you make, make, make, make, make constantly, You are booming and then the bust is the burnout and the recovery phase from doing so much. So that’s what my practice looks like, unfortunately, and that’s not something I want because it’s not at all sustainable. So a lot of my weeks are really flexible and that for me is both a blessing and a curse. Because it obviously gives me the flexibility to do whatever I want, or to, I don’t know, to sleep in, or, you know, have appointments during the week, things like that, but for me it’s a curse because an idle mind is the devil’s playground, is a very accurate statement for me. So I cry a lot and I ruminate a lot. And so when I’m in the bust part of the cycle where I sort of have like nothing to do, it really, really gets to me. So a balance between movement and risk is essential for me in my, in my practice, but then also on a practical level in, in my life for, to not make my pain, worse and to not make my mental health worse. So usually I’ll either have way too much going on or nothing at all. And for me, that’s where a stable job is really essential. So that’s, so that’s what I’m currently in the process of trying to do is just trying to find, more stable work. Cause after the,

00:34:37 Nick Breedon
you heard it here first, everyone.

00:34:38 Lara Chamas
after leaving institution. For me, it looks like a lot of freelance work. And this is largely how I survive. And so freelance work is like taking any gigs that come up, any shows, workshops, install work, making work for other artists, something I do not a lot, but a bit of, and I have some casual work with like youth arts organizations. But it’s definitely not, but this is not what it’s going to look like in the future for me because I’ve long since burnt out from having this like gigging lifestyle, which isn’t exclusive to just the arts. I know that like, I think it’s something like our generation is very gigging based in, in how we work and how we make money to live. Yeah, so, but it’s, so for me, that’s really hard because I want to find stable work where freelancing and making art is still something I have room for. And so because of also all the health complications I live with, the hours I can work are limited. And so that means I can only apply for certain jobs. And then a lot of that is like hospo or shift work and things like that. So then that becomes this vicious cycle of like working the kind of work that is actually, that needs me to go like to recover from and to go to allied health, which means more money and more time. And it becomes like, yeah, this really gross, vicious cycle that disheartens me a lot. But I’m trying to find balance. I’m definitely in an era of my life where I really want to find balance. And so because of that flexible, but then a plus side of that flexibility again, is\ the flexibility to try and take care of myself and then to be on call for, like family obligations and things like that. And it definitely allows me to, to show up for others at short notice because yeah, I don’t have like a nine to five that, forces me to be somewhere. But yeah, I’m definitely trying to find balance in the future. Yeah, but something that allows me to still have a practice.

00:36:50 Kiera Brew Kurec
Do you work from home making, making your work?

00:36:56 Lara Chamas
Yeah. So as of just like three months ago, I pay for two rooms in my rental. So I have a studio at home, but it’s the first studio I’ve had since leaving my master’s. Yeah. Because it’s somehow cheaper than having an external studio.

00:37:12 Kiera Brew Kurec
Have you had to adapt your practice at all to accommodate working from home?

00:37:16 Lara Chamas
Yeah. Like a little bit, like there’s, I can’t get as messy and I can’t go as big. And there’s a limit on things like, yeah, yeah, things like foundry work and, I, I, I love to work with glass a lot, but that is like, or similar to foundry, it’s just another facility that, like, I can’t possibly use unless I, yeah, go out and sort of externally hire and work in that facility. So it sort of limits the work that I can do, but, but more so on a. Yeah, on a time, like on a, like physical space capacity. Yeah. And yeah, you can’t make too much lasting mess, of course, in a rental.

00:38:05 Nick Breedon
Mm hmm. Lara, would you mind, Telling us about some of the, the best resources that have assisted you in your practice.

00:38:13 Lara Chamas
So to me, this is a really holistic question because my practice can’t happen without me. So that includes taking care of my mental and physical health, which is hard and questionable at the best of times. But I think learning hard skills has really helped me to make my own work and then to make work for others, which provides income and also a connection with peers. I have a solid set of good artist friends and peers that I draw upon and ask questions if I’m unsure about a gallery or a decision or unsure which direction to take a work or, Yeah. If I’m unsure about if a treat, if treatment is fair or not. And personally, I really value the anecdotal and experience side of advice. Yeah. And that kind of stuff informs like what the best decision for me is. Then honestly, Instagram, following, and talking to artists and making connections. And, and that’s where I see a lot of opportunities come up or that’s where I get a lot of information from. Which isn’t great, but It is what it is. And then probably the biggest resources is actually my family and my heritage. That’s where a lot of the research and like, like informed part of my practice comes from, because a lot of it is experience based or story based. And, I have my ancestors and my parents largely to thank for that well of knowledge and resources that I, draw, draw

00:39:43 Kiera Brew Kurec
from those, hard skills that you mentioned. Are they things that you, kind of learnt during that time of university or have you been adding to them? And if so, do you mind elaborating on some of those resources that helped you learn them and how you learnt them?

00:40:01 Lara Chamas
Yeah. So most of the hard skills I, I still use in my practice. Yeah. The learning, through university, through befriending the techs and making sort of, outside time to, to learn from them. So I think like it’s, it’s mostly largely things like mold making and I suppose your basic woodwork and fabrication kind of stuff. And then I guess like not to toot my own horn, but I’m, I’m pretty sensitive with materials. And so, The base of hard skills, I’ve thankfully been able to through experimentation and stuff, like build upon them and yeah, and yeah, get better and use different materials and stuff. And when I don’t know, honestly, I literally look up YouTube tutorials or how it’s made videos, really. I first started to watch them because like, I find them really relaxing and really like, I just, I really love knowing how things work. But sometimes that’ll help me, solve like a sort of engineering problem in something I’m trying to make. Yeah. By like using a preexisting thing. If that makes sense.

00:41:13 Kiera Brew Kurec
Yeah. Totally.

00:41:14 Nick Breedon
Yeah. Bless YouTube. Like. Yeah. For, for anyone out there who tried to learn anything before YouTube, like it was, it was a horrible time. It really was a hard, like I used to be like, Oh, how can I learn this? And I would go to the state library and check out a like 50 year old book and get it out and read it. And I was like, But what happens between these two steps, it doesn’t make any sense. There’s a huge gap in like what they’re trying to explain. I don’t get it. Bless YouTube.

00:41:48 Lara Chamas
Yeah, definitely.

00:41:50 Kiera Brew Kurec
So to round everything out and conclude, for today, what advice would you have liked to have received when you were starting out or if you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would that be?

00:42:06 Lara Chamas
Art is not a full time job and never should be. It’s about balance. Balance because you’ll burn and you’ll, you’ll lose the joy in what you love doing when it becomes a, like a money making thing you have to do to live. And that’s something I, I regret happening is losing the joy of making and losing like the spark initially draw me, drew me into like creative practice. And I think that’s because I, I didn’t have a balance and I didn’t have, like, it, it was my everything and it was my full time everything. And I think you sort of have to get away from something a bit to miss it again. I would have told a younger, Lara also to develop thick skin because people are mean. And, and that art is not a utopian radical political environment that you think it will be, it’s just as slimy as the rest of the world in terms of moneymaking and clout and industry connections and people will exploit you until you know enough and know better than to stand up for yourself. That’s, and I think I had to go through that to learn that, but yeah, I, if older Lara could tell younger Lara, I’d, I’d warn her again and I’d get her to learn a bit sooner to to say no to, to shitty things.

00:43:44 Kiera Brew Kurec
That’s some really good advice.

00:43:45 Nick Breedon
Great advice. Thank you so much for joining us today, Lara.

00:43:49 Kiera Brew Kurec
So I feel like we’re leaving everyone on a very, uh.

00:43:52 Nick Breedon
Yeah, yeah, brutal note to end on there, but,

00:43:56 Kiera Brew Kurec
Thank you so much for sharing everything today. There was. It’s just a lot that you shared today that I think is really helpful for people at any stages of their practices and careers to hear and reflect upon.

00:44:08 Lara Chamas
Oh, thank you. My absolute pleasure to chat to you guys.

00:44:13 Nick Breedon
This episode was recorded on the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal of the Eora nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded. And we extend that acknowledgement to the lands on which this podcast reaches you on today.

00:44:29 Kiera Brew Kurec
This season of ProPrac was funded by Creative Australia.

00:44:33 Our music is created by Evelyn Ida Morris.

00:44:36 Nick Breedon
hanks for listening to Pro Prac. You can find us on Instagram @propracpodcast or reach out to us at We would really appreciate if you could take a moment to rate and review us. As it helps others find Pro Prac and it assists in our funding applications.

00:44:52 Kiera Brew Kurec
Also, consider sharing this episode with a friend.