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How Can We Make Our Obstacles Work For Us?

Nature informs and inhabits every aspect of visual artist Joshua Yeldham’s work. It’s in his use of animal totems and in the echoes of the Aboriginal art and traditional Chinese landscapes that illuminate his paintings. It’s in his use of wood and cane and his tireless exploration of the world around him, so that every field, creek and river can be seen afresh.

“Nature works by repelling, attracting, repelling, attracting, all the way down to an atomic structure,” says artist Joshua Yeldham, and the man behind Surrender, a visual journey devised to be a journal for his daughter . “As artists we think we should just keep on being attracted, attracted, attracted to our work, our creativity. My pictures destroy themselves if I start hoarding creativity to a point where I won’t let it collapse. It’s such an important part of any creative path, to learn to push through the complete collapse of your project, or your idea.”


It’s a process most people try to resist, fearful that collapse signifies an ending rather than an important step in the process of renewal or the act of becoming. “I have had to develop the endurance necessary to work through many, many sequences of collapse until I arrive at a point where the picture is no longer telling me to come to it. For me, a picture is finished when it longer asks me to move away and towards it. It just no longer needs me.”


However, it is not only in his art that Joshua feels the influence of this push and pull. It has also been an essential quality of his experiences as a father. “Our children are the same. One minute we’re snuggling up, enjoying this incredible intimacy and then the next minute it’s Armageddon!”


Having children also means more distractions but, rather than resist his new reality, Joshua has come to weave it into the way he works. “It’s very easy as an artist to feel that if you’re distracted you’ll lose your creative thought or you’ll lose your inspiration or you’ll lose your talent just because someone keeps interrupting you. Once I worked through that I realised that I’ve got to find a way to lose thought creatively and trust that it will come back again and again. In my opinion if you feed your family and your loved ones the art will just happen anyway.”

Read the full story in Habitus issue #33, available now.

Joshua Yeldham

Photography by Jo Yeldham
Art by Joshua Yeldham

Words by Andrea O’Driscoll



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