We asked Alexandra Donohoe Church, Managing Director of Sydney design studio Decus Interiors, to select five of her favourite works from our Centum Contemporary Art auction. Read on for an interior designer’s guide to navigating the collection and choosing the right piece of art for your home…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Decus Interiors?
Born in Sydney, my formative years were spent in Seattle. From a young age I’ve always had creative ambitions. I began my studies in Landscape Architecture at the University of NSW, before realising my passion was interiors, ultimately completing a degree in Interior Architecture. Landing a job straight out of high school at one of Sydney’s most sought-after design studios meant I got a foot in the door under the tutelage of some incredibly talented mentors. When the GFC happened, it was just the push I needed to go out on my own. I think I was always destined to work for myself, although running a studio has happened somewhat organically.
I draw inspiration from many architectural styles. Brazilian design between the 30s-60s was truly an inspiring movement, rejecting the heavily colonial and historicized European reproduction, designers sought to re-define a new national identity, starting with the built environment. In a smaller way as a designer, I think we are in a continual state of re-invention, primarily for clients, aesthetically for ourselves and often personally. Daily we ask ourselves “how does this fit the brief?” and that requires reinvention for each client as what we do is so inherently intimate, it is a client’s refuge, their home.
At Decus Interiors we are a muti-disciplined studio striving to redefine our design language within the residential interior landscape; a language that acknowledges the importance of residential design and the role it plays in our lives. We are becoming more experimental, expressing our unique way of thinking, and of course designing. We are detail-driven, layered yet always refined, and we love experimenting with opposing elements for a sense of tension and polarity. All our projects are instilled with something of a rebellious spirit, and ultimately, it’s about creating interiors that our clients love.
How do you approach selecting artworks for a space and buying art in general?
In all our projects we encourage variety and the exploration of different mediums, and this is how I approach selecting artwork. We feel this enhances the sense of authenticity, layering and depth. I love those juxtaposing moments art can create. You can bring a dialogue to life between the works and around the subject matter of the works themselves.
When assisting clients with building their own collections we always encourage decision-making based on feeling a strong visceral or emotional response to the work. We don’t engage in commercial or investment discussions with clients as we don’t advocate making a choice based on the re-sale value. For us, that is completely detached from the notion of building a collection and living with the works day in day out.
Could you share five of your favourite pieces from Centum?
MICHAEL STANIAK (born 1982), IMG_742 2013
Michael’s work utterly transforms as you move towards it, around it and past it. It’s the chameleon at the dinner table, I just love the dialogue it has with the other ‘guests’ (works) in the room and there’s a certain magnetism in the piece that keeps you probing and looking for longer.
POLIXENI PAPAPETROU (1960-2018), Indian Brave 2002
I’ve always been drawn to works which explore identity and how we modulate ourselves with the world. Polixeni’s work has consistently had a focus on aspects of childhood and this work resonates profoundly as I have a young son who is in the midst of exploring his imagination through play and dress-up. There is something deeply knowing in the enmeshed expression of the child and the mask, leaving me with the sense that children are keenly aware of the ‘masks’ we wear daily, those which don’t come from a dress up box.
ROBERT OWEN (born 1937) Origami Series, Untitled No. 2 1992
My first encounter with a Robert Owen work an enormous 8M+ long 5 panel piece in the entry of the AGNSW and it is utterly meditative to behold that ‘Cadence #1’ work. The combination of the mathematical precision, geometry with a type of poetry in the play of colours appeal to my inner designer. It also surprised me to learn that Robert spent his childhood in rural Wagga Wagga, where my parents were both born and raised around the same time.
SAMANTHA EVERTON, Alabaster 2018
Samantha’s Alabaster work reminds me of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Ethereal, exquisite and embellished, yet there’s an undercurrent of strength that I can’t articulate. Perhaps it’s an acceptance of the dance us women are culturally expected to dance… either way I expect she would have a fair bit to say should she join our dinner party.
TIM JOHNSON, Three Friends 1990
Tim’s work feels like a warm hug and the counter point to my other selections. An energetic and enveloping tapestry of colour.