PROFILE: ANNA-WILI HIGHFIELD
This Sydney artist uses precious metals and jewels to create fascinating icons of nature, with herself as the intermediary
“MY WORK IS QUITE FEMININE IN ITS SENSITIVITY. IT’S INTIMATE AND FETISHISED”
This series feels like the culmination of what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years,” says Anna-Wili Highfield. Having historically worked under commission, the Sydney artist has had a side career in creating installations for brands like Hermès in Brisbane and Anthropologie in New York, where she collaborated with Sibella Court. Right now she is creating her first body of noncommissioned work for a show at Olsen Gruin’s New York gallery in February 2018. Highfield is renowned for her cotton-and-wire sculptures of horses and birds. “I have always represented animal life,” she says. “I look for a spirit in the animal that I can relate to. I consider them self-portraits, reflections of parts of myself and of all of us.” Her new collection is a departure into something darker, deeper and more ritualistic, using hard sheet metal over yielding cotton. “I’m taking this spirit of reverence for nature and I’m deifying it,” she says. “I’ve been looking at iconography and have used precious metals and jewels, creating icons of nature.” This time, the artist is also depicting herself in human form among the fauna. “I’ve put myself in as this kind of medium character,” she says. “The animals will be looking and engaging with the viewer, but the humans are in a state of meditation between the human and animal world, or spirit world.” Highfield’s sculptures convey a powerfully female energy. “My work is quite feminine in its sensitivity,” she says. “It’s intimate and fetishised. It has a sense of luxe and sensuality, and draws you in rather than pushes you out. It’s against monumentalism.” Ultimately, her art also seeks a creative alliance. “Art brings to the fore something you can’t really explain or articulate, but you recognise it in that work.” You, the spectator, complete the sculpture.
clockwise from top left: works from Anna-Wili Highfield’s collection include Wren, Owl, Falcon, Mother, Bee, Raven and Horse, made from brass, pearls, onyx, turquoise, mother-of-pearl and bohemian crystal.