“I have always sought out challenges in my life and making art is one of the biggest challenges I can think of,” Seabastion Toast says. “It can be both the most exhilarating and heart wrenching experience ever.” She has focused on foxes and other feral animals in many of her works because while they’re known for their beauty, they are damaging to native fauna and flora. “In Australia half of our marsupials are extinct and the other half are endangered,” she says. “I find it precious to encounter any kind of wild animal in daily life, and I am also drawn to explore points of difference in my art. I am interested in the grey areas where the black versus white blend and beauty intersects with horror.” 

After completing a visual arts degree in 2000 at Southern Cross University, which included a six-month exchange at the Pratt Institute in New York, Seabastion spent some time immersed in experimental music. However, in the past four years she has returned to painting and in 2011 won the Gainsborough Greens Art Prize. She has also been a semi-finalist in the Doug Moran prize and won D'Arcy Doyle landscape prize too. She currently lives at Cabarita Beach in Northern NSW and her most recent exhibition was at Anthea Polson Art.

Which five words best describe you? Intense, passionate, adventurous, determined, sentimental.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Even though I majored in painting I was very interested in performance art when I was at university because it seemed like a better vehicle for the postmodern theories I was enamoured with at the time. I began writing the soundtracks to my performances and ended up writing
and performing experimental music and even got a composition grant a couple of years after I left uni. I did a lot of traveling and solo long distance cycling along the eastern seaboard and other parts of the world in an attempt to make sense of things before landing on the Gold Coast and committing to a full-time art practice in 2009. I really enjoy the solitude and temporal restrictions of a painting and studio life and I enjoy the ways the four edges of a canvas can focus and arrange my ideas.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To just keep going. One painting at a time. If you work consistently at a project every day there is no option for failure. Doing a university exchange in New York was a real eye opener in terms of what it takes to be a professional artist. The kids there pay a lot more for their education and they work incredibly hard to succeed. There is also a more comprehensive system of mentoring and appreciation/education in the general public and so students are supported by exploring and developing works outside of the popular market.

What’s your proudest career achievement? I am probably most proud when I make a breakthrough in my work. It is always nice to hang a show or win an award but at the end of the day it’s not really other people’s opinions that will push you to make your best work.

What’s been your best decision? To make art my full-time job and totally commit to making it work.

Who inspires you? I am inspired by a really broad range of people, artworks, books, music, landscapes, experiences, cultures, ideas. I can happily say I am never bored. I’m interested in anyone with a keen intelligence pushing the boundaries in their chosen field. I really enjoy reading artist interviews about their process. John Olsen’s Drawn from Life is a humble, inspiring read, as is Brian Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appendices.

What are you passionate about? The environment, women’s rights, education, knowledge, science, running long distances through forests, women in sport, theory, animal rights, politics and sustainability.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Kathy Acker. I love how she combined her punk philosophies with feminism and postmodernism, and I was struck by an essay she wrote about the body and training - specifically weightlifting - where she spoke about the idea of breaking things down as a method of rebuilding and restructuring. In this way failure becomes integral to the process of growth. I meet very few people from the arts who are as into pushing the physical limits of their bodies in athletic ways, and who enjoy musing on the poetry and philosophies therein.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I am still in pursuit of making a “really good painting”. I would like to be able to contribute something to the broader knowledge base. It
would also be nice to run a sub 40min 10km and/or do an air reverse in the surf.

What are you reading? I am furiously learning Spanish in preparation for my upcoming surf trip to Costa Rica, so I have limited myself to textbooks or articles in Spanish. They are pretty basic at the moment but I hope to be able to tackle Don Quioxte soon!

images courtesy of seabastion toast and anthea polson art