Victoria Constable & Estephania Corbelletta — Metamorphosis.

Victoria Constable & Estephania Corbelletta — Metamorphosis.

There’s scarcely a better time for reflection than in the flush of a new year, and one subject that’s not only worth revisiting but worth endeavouring to learn more about and to better understand is the simple, strange beauty of the natural world.

Courtesy of Victoria Constable, All Rights Reserved.

Melbourne-based artists Victoria Constable and Estephania Corbelletta are as passionate about nature as they are art and illustration. And it’s this shared love of animals and nature — as well as symbols and the surreal — that inspired Metamorphosis, their new collaborative show due to open in the coming days at Off the Kerb Gallery in Collingwood, Australia.

Metamorphosis is inspired by storytelling; by mythology, poetry, and emotion, viewed through the lens of natural imagery and animal portraiture. The works in the show have a delightfully curious dose of the surreal, planting them somewhere firmly between storybook illustrations and scientific drawings.

We chatted with Victoria and Estephania recently about their upcoming show, conversations in art, and the strange beauty in nature —

Courtesy of Estephania Corbelletta, All Rights Reserved. via @etta_illustration / instagram.

First things first — tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Victoria Constable: I’m an artist who grew up in Canberra but moved to Melbourne to study and pursue a creative career. 

I have a background in street art and tattoo design, but my practice is very much still evolving as there are so many things I want to do. I’m an avid reader, and I think the beginnings of my love for drawing was in trying to create a visual representation of the wonderful things I would read about — I was gutted when I couldn’t find photos of unicorns and dragons as a kid, so I drew my own versions! 

Estephania Corbelletta: I am a Colombian-born artist, illustrator and graphic designer, and have been living and working in Australia for six years, now. I have been studying, exploring, and getting inspiration from Australian culture and nature.

I finished my Bachelor of Illustration course in November 2017, and have since been developing a personal illustrative style and working on my boutique design company, Genka Creative, with my partner. 

Metamorphosis, your new show, is a collaborative one. How did the pair of you meet, and how did the show come to be?
Constable: Steph and I met at university, where we studied Illustration together. We quickly found an affinity with each other — a love of animals and the natural world, a fascination with fantasy and surrealist themes; a style of art that often focuses on meticulous detail and symbolic motifs. 

The show came to be after an artist call-out from Off The Kerb. Steph and I had kept in touch, and I knew she’d be the perfect person to work with. We both worked exceptionally hard to put together our show in only three months. 

Corbelletta: Vicki and I met during our illustration degree at Melbourne Polytechnic. She has always been such a sweet person and an excellent student. After our course finished, we kept in touch, and eventually, the idea just came up naturally. 

We found so many things that we have in common that we did not know about previously. This exhibition has opened the doors to a really beautiful friendship. 

Courtesy of Victoria Constable, All Rights Reserved.

The subject of the show feels at once simple, but at the same time, quite sweeping and broad — which is no mean feat! Tell us a bit about Metamorphosis and the message and intention behind the artworks.
Corbelletta: The idea of taking my style in a more surreal direction had been brewing for quite some time, and since Vicki and I both share the same passion for natural cycles and giving fauna and flora symbolic meaning, we thought of it as a great conduit for our work. 

I, personally, am exploring the idea of the artwork as a witness of our human metamorphosis — artwork as a stamp of our human condition, our constant state of change, and at the same time, a reminder of moments passed but with the witness always remaining. 

Your individual works in the showing feel very much like they’re in conversation — a lot of Victoria’s pieces are bright and have an almost whimsical quality to them, whereas Estephania’s tend towards being more monochromatic and storybook, like. Respectively, how would you say your work speaks to that of the others?
Constable: My use of bright colour for Metamorphosis was very intentional. I think Steph and I are saying similar things, in different ways. 

Her monochromatic pointillism really draws you in and makes you want to get up close and stare at each individual dot. I’ve caught myself thinking, "how on earth did she do this?" several times! 

The colour in my work is, on the other hand, meant to be more relaxing than confronting. I’m guided by a feeling more than a premeditated plan, and the feeling of these works, especially my fox piece, is peace and meditation. My mythical creatures are bright and vibrant, but in a naturalistic style to provoke thoughts of, "what if they really were a part of the ecosystem? What would that be like?”

Corbelletta: I simply feel that there are two recurrent subjects in our work for this exhibition — life and death — and our works both take turns to be alive and dead; quiet and scream out loud. 

We have constantly been updating each other on our process and progress so by osmosis, we have included some of each other’s ideas into our work. I guess that's what happens when you share a vision for something — harmoniously, it falls into place. 

Courtesy of Estephania Corbelletta, All Rights Reserved.

You’ve spoken about how the show was inspired by many things — by various forms of creativity. What were some of the biggest inspirations for the show?
Constable: Personally, I was inspired by vintage natural history illustrations, in particular, Ernst Haeckel. I was very taken by his illustrations of bats in Kunstformen der Natur. 

Several of my pieces are my idea of what creatures of legend may have looked like, included in that type of illustration — imagine finding a drawing of a jackalope in a vintage biology textbook! I was also inspired by surreal nature artists such as Teagan White and Caitlin Hackett, and seeing plants and fungi grow at my grandparents’ house in the Dandenong Ranges. 

Corbelletta: The biggest inspiration for my pieces are my mum’s poems — lyrical words about my family and her life experiences. Even when these poems sometimes are not directly related to the artwork, they have helped me to get in contact with a lot of personal emotions, causing me to produce the most personal pieces that I have done, to date. 

Victoria, in some of the pieces of yours I’ve seen, you seem to depict themes like death and decay, which are typically seen perhaps as darker, as being beautiful. How motivating for you was the want to show the cycle of nature as being positive?
Constable: Very much so. I feel like as time goes on and life expectancy becomes longer people are less accepting of death. I think it’s become a lot harder to metabolise the experience of someone in your life passing on, and it’s harder to normalise the experience by talking to those around you because it’s much more uncommon than it used to be. 

Part of my personal journey in accepting mortality was discovering animal remains in nature, photographing them, and creating art to process my feelings about what I’d seen. It helped me realise how natural and necessary it is. 

How inspired were you by Estephania’s work, and did you find her expressions challenging or inspiring to your own work as you put the show together?
Inspiring, for sure! Steph has this remarkable ability to tell a story with her work, and that was very exciting to watch come about in her newest pieces. It was wonderful to have a collaborative spirit as we worked on our individual pieces — we could be each others’ personal cheer squad! 

Courtesy of Victoria Constable, All Rights Reserved.

Estephania, your pieces feel like a strangely wonderful amalgam of fairytale illustrations and scientific drawings. What informs that distinctive style of yours, and did you work in a way that was any different from usual in putting together pieces for Metamorphosis?
Corbelletta: All my pieces are informed by my curiosity and desire to learn about nature. What was different this time was that I wanted to illustrate my mum’s poems. There was a lot of love involved in the making of every piece, and the desire to make her feel proud. 

And as with Victoria, did you find your work informed at all by the creativity of ideas being reflected in your cohort’s pieces? 
Corbelletta: Definitely — I wanted to create pieces that would be up to the level of my talented friend, so I was always trying to align with what she was doing and thinking about her work, looking at her progress, and learning from her methods and inspirational sources. 

What’s coming up next, for you both?
Constable: I’m planning to keep exploring this vein of work and pushing my boundaries, making some much larger pieces, and experimenting with medium. 

I have a lot of project ideas I’d like to delve into, as well as collaborations — I’d love to work with Steph, again. I’ll also be focusing on my freelance illustration career, in the hopes of doing some work in publishing. 

Corbelletta: A lot of hard work — I want to take my creative practice to a greater professional level and work on my presence online. I am also going to be designing my first illustrated book — a creative collaboration between my mum and myself. 

The pieces for this exhibition and many more are going towards nourishing that book, and I plan to use those new pieces for a future solo exhibition. And last but not least, hopefully, more collaborative projects with Vicki.

Courtesy of Estephania Corbelletta, All Rights Reserved. via @etta_illustration / instagram.

Thanks to Victoria and Estephania for taking the time to chat with us.

Victoria Constable and Estephania Corbelletta’s Metamorphosis will be on view at Off the Kerb from January 17 to January 31, 2019. 

You can follow Victoria Constable and see more of her work on Instagram and her website. You can also find Estephania Corbelletta on Instagram and see more of her work on her website.

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