Siri Hayes, 'Four', 2011 courtesy of the artist.

Q&A Visual Artist Siri Hayes

In our Q&A series, we ask an alumnus to tell us their VCA story and find out what life is like after the VCA. This week we interview the visual artist Siri Hayes, currently working and living in Melbourne.

About Siri Hayes

Visual artist Siri Hayes (BFineArt 1998, GCertVisArt 2001) has worked in many public and private collections in Australia and abroad, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Parliament House, the Victorian Arts Centre, the City of Melbourne and Monash University Museum of Art.

She has received awards including The Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture, The National Photographic Purchase Award, an Australia-Korea Foundation Travelling Grant and Arts Victoria funding grants. She has also received an Australia Council residency in Barcelona, Spain.

She has exhibited frequently throughout Australia as well as in Japan, Finland, Poland and France. Some solo exhibitions include All you knit is love at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Aquatic listening at Grantpirrie, Landscapes at the University of Sydney Gallery and Switchback Gallery and Lyric theatre at the Centre for Contemporary Photography and Benalla Art Gallery.

Q&A with Siri Hayes

Alumna Siri Hayes
Alumna Siri Hayes

What do you do for a living? Describe a typical day at work…

I am an artist, photographer and a sessional lecturer. This is mixed-up with being a mother of two small children. So every day is different but could include anything from taking negatives to the photographic laboratory and having photographs made or doing a sessional lecture/tutorial in photography at Monash. Every day is different.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in this field?

I’m not sure I ever decided to pursue being an artist. Since high school I have periodically decided to keep making art because I enjoy it and it feels like the right thing to be doing. My mother, Eve Duncan, is a music composer and she has been a good role model. When I was a child she would always (and still does) dedicate at least a couple of hours every morning to working on her compositions. From her I know that pursuing a career in the arts is very much to do with being self-motivated and working hard as well as the satisfaction that comes with artistic expression.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really love the alchemic part of being an artist which mainly uses the photographic medium. I still use film and there are the wonderful stages of looking at the world through a lens, being excited about what a photograph could potentially be and then seeing the actual photograph. Gold!

Tell me about your first career break?

Being invited to be in the Contemporary Australian Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra was pretty exciting. It was the launch exhibition of the new gallery right down on the water in front of Parliament House. My boyfriend (and now husband) and I drove up in an old Honda and camped along the way. When we got to Canberra we had that grimy after-camping feel and all of a sudden we had about 20 minutes to get ready for this rather swanky do.

Tell me about a career highlight/achievement

I really enjoyed our trip to Spain. My husband, Paul Wood, and I are received funding and a three month residency to stay in an apartment/studio in Barcelona. It was a great adventure taking a 2 and 4 year old to the other side of the world. Barcelona s beautiful but we particularly liked getting out into the countryside and down south round Granada and Cordoba. The experience made a huge impact and also brought about some interesting new directions within my art practice.

How did your University of Melbourne experience help you succeed in your chosen field?

I did my Bachelor of Fine Art and Graduate Diploma of Visual Art at the Victorian College of the Arts. The photography department in the School of Art had and still have excellent lecturers. Christopher Koller, Lou Hubbard, June Savage and Janina Green are all passionate about their art practices and dedicated to teaching. It is inspiring. I had such a good education that it must have helped me in every way with any success I’ve had in the visual arts.

Tell us about your favourite memory at University?

Sitting in the photography department tutorial room eating peanut M&M’s on Friday afternoons whilst we watched some seriously good cinema in our film theory class with Deborah Hennessey.

What advice would you give to students who want to pursue a career in your field?

Perhaps 10% of creative work is inspiration, the other 90% is hard work and dedication. Persevere. It is a competitive industry and generally requires applying for exhibitions, awards and grants. Much of the time one is rejected. Rejection letters should be disposed of quickly! Move on and do not give them a second thought!

What are your goals for the next few years?

I think my goals are fairly similar to what they have always been: to create artwork that successfully articulates my concerns. At present I have a large suite of work I recently begun creating that I am keen to complete. I am also keen to do a Masters of Fine Art. Probably I will do the latter when both kids are at school in a couple of years.

If alumni what to know more about you, where should they look?

I have a website:


A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.