When two art students arrived in the city to attend the Queensland University of Technology, the sky seemed like the limit. But after peering in for so long and deciding to take the plunge, they realised they had been locked out. So now, Sam Hope and Izzy Heaton are breaking in with their own exhibition this November, and we’re all invited.
To the uninitiated, the Brisbane art scene exists in two forms; mass monuments to creativity like GOMA and the Queensland Art Gallery, or the occasional miniature nooks that pop up outside buildings and on the walls of restaurants. To the cynics, the city is a stepping-stone on the way to Melbourne or London – cities with an authentic culture that Brisbane crudely imitates. But to outsiders, art permeates Brisbane, and rich culture is entrenched, authentic, and sometimes insurmountable.
When Sam Hope and Izzy Heaton came to Brisbane from their respective Queensland towns, the art scene blew them away, and that excitement has so far kept them here.
Hope, who previously worked at the only art gallery in Cairns, nearly went broke during her first year in Brisbane.
‘I was going to every show,’ she laughs.
‘Going from a place where there are only one or two galleries to a place like this, where there’s GOMA and all the little ones as well … it was refreshing to have a lot more culture around, and not just art, but music and theatre too.’
Hope sits across from me next to her friend, Isabelle (Izzy) Heaton, a Sunshine Coast native who has previously modelled for Hope’s photo series On My Mind, which was featured in the most recent issue of Glass.
The pair are an odd couple. Heaton is colourful, with a green streak through her hair and a vibrant outfit. Conversely, Hope’s monochrome vibe matches the aesthetic of her photos in Glass. Nevertheless, Heaton assures me that their goofy personalities align, and I’m inclined to agree.
When sharing an open studio class in 2021, the tardy Heaton found a seat next to Hope, and they’ve remained friends. Hope has since finished the now-defunct Bachelor of Arts (Creative Arts and Design), and Heaton is a second-year Visual Arts student at QUT.
Exhibiting their art hasn’t been as easy as they imagined when they first came to Brisbane and were taken with the art scene.
‘There’s a lot of cliques and things like that in the art industry,’ Heaton says.
‘So, we thought fine; we’ll do something just on our own.’
‘Our exhibition is showing both of our separate practices and showing them together in one place because we felt like there wasn’t anywhere for us to do that. A lot of the art industry tends to be very exclusive, or it’s who you know, or it’s very pretentious.’
Heaton is disappointed that art is hoarded as a commodity rather than shared as a cultural artifact.
‘The scene is dominated by money,’ she says. ‘It has turned less into culture and more into business, which is upsetting.’
‘We just wanted to do something that’s more “us”, not trying to fit a brief. It’s exciting … we can celebrate our own art and not worry about pleasing someone else.’
‘We were trying to find venues where we could show our work, but there was always ‘you’ve got to do this, or it needs to fit this, or whatever,’ Hope says. ‘So, stuff it. Izzy can show whatever she wants to show, and I can show what I want to show.’
When the pair eventually secured a space at The Station in Fortitude Valley, they ran into a new problem. Their different vibes don’t just manifest in their fashion; they also extend to their practice.
Heaton likes noise, and moving to the city has exposed her to a new world of noise, inspiration, and colour. While there’s always a good spot for street art, her favourite place in Brisbane is a boardwalk that went down in the recent floods.
‘It’s interesting because since it’s been back, it’s got all this random stuff in the branches of the trees,’ Heaton says.
Heaton is a painter interested in expressionism and distorting reality to convey emotion. Her work tends to use uncanny brightness and, more recently, a lot of self-portraiture in examining selfie culture and multiple-self theory.
‘The goal of portraiture is to capture a person, but that in itself is impossible,’ Heaton says. ‘There’s a construction of different faces of myself that I can make, and I explore that in my work.’
When Heaton is political, she is reactive rather than pointed. However, despite not being religious, she remains interested in religious imagery and themes.
‘With portraiture, there is a lot of identity. But I also like duality and having challenging things next to each other, like scary things next to comforting things.’
On the other hand, Hope creates installations, sculptures, and mobiles comprising geometric elements. She is more focused on Bauhaus and brutalist movements and became obsessed with mass architecture when she moved to Brisbane. Where Heaton tends to be loud, Hope gravitates to the urban quiet – a trend reflected in her recent move to photography. Her work concerns itself primarily with human emotion and the themes of grief and loss.
Hope’s installations are usually kinetic, but she isn’t sure if they are very structurally sound. She is more emotional than political and plays with reflection and light to explore how people process thoughts.
‘We’ve got our own niche,’ Heaton says.
‘The only thing that we agreed on was that maybe the work should complement each other in terms of colour,’ Hope says.
‘That was the only boundary we put on each other, but we’ll see how that goes. It’ll be two very different sides of the room at the exhibition.’
‘We’re gonna have merch, but even the art that we’re showing, it isn’t like oh we got to make a sale from this … we’re showing the artworks because we have stuff we want to say, or need to say.’
For now, Heaton and Hope will be staying in Brisbane and potentially hosting more exhibitions, with the goal of including more students and emerging artists. They expect these to be bigger and better and are hopeful the initiative they’ve taken so far might open them up to other opportunities.
Hope is also a singer in the band Twelve Ballet. Heaton plays a bit of bass and is building a guitar with her dad. Their exhibition is sponsored by the spirit brand Pals and will take place for one night only, at 6 pm, November 19th at The Station, Fortitude Valley.
Saturday, November 19 / 6:00pm