PRO­FILE: ANNA-WILI HIGHFIELD

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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.

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