Stephen Copland

Sydney, Australia


Tell us about yourself. What does being an artist mean to you?

I see art as a form of exorcism.

Stephen's Studio

What is your workspace or studio like?

Personally whatever space is available to me can be used. Naturally the space influences the type of work one can create. Presently I have a large space near the beach so walking becomes as important as making in the studio…one action feeds the other. The content rules the form.

Stephen's tools

Please explain the method behind your creative process.

Method is a good word because I tend to think of myself as a “method” artist in that I rely firstly on emotions and memories and secondly objects around me. As a phenomenologist I like to experience the object or subject either personally of emotionally (i.e. anger, empathy or sympathy).

What inspires you to create? What role, if any, does identity play in your art? Please explain.

Inspiration comes from reading, travel and personal reactions to life events. My crucial moment regarding identity came in 1990, when the past had merged into the present with the discovery of two objects, a diary (1911, Australia) and a postcard album (1907, Cuba) by my grandmother, Julia Elias Menayer. These objects contained part of a cultural heritage I had not known about. The images and text created a new narrative that would be the beginning of a two-decade project called Migration as Art, a journey through identity, heritage and “ethnic memory”

It could be argued that every artist creates an identity as soon as a work of art is made; the art becomes the person, reflecting a type of identity created by the imagination and individuality in the brain.

How does travelling or migrating (domestically or internationally) influence your creative process?

I have recently completed a body of work called Migration as Art. The title raises questions and suggests various ways of interpretation and different ways of seeing. The “as” in the title has both a practical and a cognitive meaning. The archive represents two decades of visual art interpreting themes of migration: migration for family reunion, the migration of asylum seekers and a personal migration for work as a single continuous body of work. The focus of the archive is revealing how artists can contribute to the ongoing debate around migration and human rights through art and travel.

The Migration Series (1992-2002)                        Heritage and identity

Raft-The Drifting Border (2004-2014)                  Seeking asylum

Transit (2007-2013)                                                Migration for work

Is it important for your art to communicate a message? Please explain.

Yes. The content of my work is crucial to my motivation. Art for art's sake is not enough for me. Writer Carol Becker argues the role of the visual artist needs to be as “social agents”, integral to social and political life. Since 1990 my creative work has focused on this concept of the social role of the artist creating socially relevant material of interest to a diverse audience. My work attempts to function at the level of contemporary art, personal, social and migration history with the overarching theme of the work -the personal narrative voice of migration experience.

In your opinion, what is the best city in the world to see art?


With which artist and in what location, would you like to have lunch? What would you order?

My artist wife Meredith Brice in Paris. I would order coq au Vin.

It has been said that “art and wine go hand in hand…” Please talk about your wine of choice and the three artists with whom you would like to share it.

My wine of choice would be any wine selection by any one of these three artists: Goya, Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

Are you familiar with Basquiat (1996), Pollock (2000), and Frida (2002)? In the essence of these biopic films, whom would you want cast for your role? Please explain.

I enjoyed all the films and thought the Pollock film was excellent. As my work is interested in the social role of art, artist as social agent then perhaps any actor who takes on roles of social justice.