A few Tuesdays ago now I had the absolute pleasure of being the private audience to Chelsea Meatchem, mere minutes before the opening night of her inaugural exhibition, “Happy Tuesday with Chelsea Tuesday.” Now when I italicise “pleasure,” I mean it. For those of you who haven’t met Chelsea, I would probably liken being around her to being near a bonfire made of colours or wrestling twenty golden retrievers. There may be those of you who are feeling a little tentative about meeting Chelsea, or those who may think to themselves: “Well gee, I already have so many friends” or “I’m not sure I have the time to meet Chelsea with this busy sched that I be rockin, guy.” To those I say, fret less my friends. It is with open arms that I invite you to IN-FI’s first ever “Conversation With…” where I meet up with inspiring folks and, in effort to spread their gospel, amplify their sounds and project their visions, try my very best to demystify the rarity behind the art.
It was certainly an illustrious (see: cut and paste) affair, with every one of Chelsea’s pieces she’s ever made plastered across every square centimetre that The Old Bar’s upstairs exhibition space had to offer. As you walk down the hallway your eyes were adjusted to the myriad of colours and shapes awaiting you by a huge floral installation framed by the doorway.
Then, led into the room, you are greeted by a body of work that has itself become a truly psychedelic collage. From luxuriant female torsos exploding into clouds of pink and Robert Plant wailing amidst a mountain range, to ocean bound surfers overshadowed by behemoth desert flora and fauna and the disembodied torso of Stu Mackenzie sporting his flying banana inside a banana; this is what it’s like to take a step inside one of the most colourful minds in Melbourne.
It also wouldn’t be the celebratory night of one of the most musically active visual artists in Melbourne without support from a star studded line-up happening downstairs. Namely The Hum Drums, Jack Harlon & The Dead Crows and the almighty Pseudo Mind Hive, who made sure the walls of the exhibition were constantly humming with muffled fuzz.
So I took this opportunity to finally get to know a little about Chelsea, not just the Chelsea I’ve been good friends with for some time now, but THE Chelsea Tuesday; the lady with the golden scissors and kaleidoscopic mind. So without any further ado about much at all, here’s a conversation I had with Chelsea Tuesday.
Danger Doug: Hey Chels.
Chelsea Tuesday: Hey Ed.
DD: How ya doin’ mate?
CT: Hahaaaa I’m great thanks! How are you doing?
DD: I’m well, but we’re not here to know how I’m doing, would you mind telling us why I’m here tonight?
CT: Well! Tonight I’m having my first solo exhibition at The Old Bar with my LIFE TIME SUPPLY OF WORK. It feels like anyway…
DD: It’s looking beautiful up here.
CT: Thanks Ed.
DD: So tell me Chelsea how did you come up with the name of the show tonight, “Choose Your Own Adventure Tuesdays?”
CT: “Choose Your Own Adventure Tuesdays?”
CT: That’s not what it’s called.
DD: Well… Uh.. what’s your beef with Tuesdays anyway?
CT: Oh mate! I actually one day Chelsea Tuesday came from me sitting in a dark room one day, I had a sick day from work and I just had all this art that I wanted to sell and I kinda wanted to just make I guess a business identity of some sort. So I was writing on this piece of paper with my name and doing all these other words that I… just liked.
DD: Just any words?
CT: Yeah like “Bones” and like “Flowers…”
DD: ~CHELSEA BONES~
CT: Haha yeah! And I was like nah that’s a bit too hectic I dunno I’m not like that. Then Chelsea Tuesday, I don’t even know where it came from… I think it’s like the alliteration kiiiiind of? “CH-elsea CH-uesday, CH-elsea CH-uesday.”
DD: Uh, sort of…
CT: Nah “CH, CH,” it works.
DD: Haha nah absolutely
CT: It just kinda flowed from there, I mean everyone’s always kinda like “ohhh like Ruby Tuesday…” and I’m like noooo
DD: Yeah well that’s what I was like, like “Stones for sure,” especially with all the Zeppelin and Elvis in your work I was like maybe this is the ultimate classic rock chica?
CT: Well I didn’t reeeeally know so… I thought about changing it but I was like nah it just kinda works and everyone eventually started to go, “ohhhhh that’s so nice” instead of getting hate for it.
DD: Oh that’s a really nice origins story.
CT: And then I got an ABN and it became so official!
DD: Oh so you’re legit?
CT: Yeah Chelsea Tuesday is my business mate, since day dot.
DD: Fucking. Oath.
CT: Way back in 2014… it all kind of began? Which isn’t that long ago. But it feels like it. Like it’s literally when I started doing all this properly like with some kind of purpose as well. Back when I was living in Sydney…
DD: Well I mean it’s longer than I’ve known you… and that’s my whole life, really. My life started when I met you.
CT: Haha did it?
DD: Well, I mean…
CT: Stop it!
CT: That’s so beautiful.
Atmosphere: *is lovely for a bit*
DD: So back in Sydney is where it all began?
CT: YEP, back in Sydney, Surrey Hills, sittin’ in my… actually I was in my kitchen, which had a checker board floor, which was my favourite part of the place and yeah that was where the Tuesday in Chelsea Tuesday was conceived.
DD: Well okay cool and cool so we know what brought me here but what brought you here?
DD: Haha I mean this point in your artistic career! Not just like what tram line you’re on or your mates car.
CT: Well I actually got an Uber!
DD: Uber drivers are your mates!
CT: They certainly are…
DD: So collages?
CT: YES. Well my Dad is actually a painter SLASH drawer…
DD: Is this the renowned “Phil?”
CT: Yep here he is over here!
DD: The man!
CT: Yeah and my Mum’s a real hands-on-kinda-dream-catchery-maker kind of person, just like… every other person in my family does like painting and stuff and I’m just like ugh I can’t fuckin’ do that shit, like all life like… I mean I can do cartoons and shit but like… Actually I’ve always loved, and like I’ve always collected old books and magazines and stuff from op shops and I always felt bad for them but at the same time that I was making my name (Chelsea Tuesday), same location (Surrey Hills, on the floor), I just started cut and pasting one day, and I loved it! Then I put it on Instagram and someone wanted to buy it almost immediately and I was like “woah I could do this shit!”
DD: So just like that, huh?
CT: Yep that’s it.
DD: I love it! And was it always this kinda far out I mean looking around the room now I’d say your work is incredibly psychedelic… What are some of your biggest influences? Visual and otherwi…
DD: Music is obviously the big one, everyone knows that.
CT: Yeah and my Dad actually, Father Phil introduced me to all the music that I love I mean Led Zeppelin, I credit him to that… And I kind of have to have an album cranking while I’m making. And I think that’s why I always ask people to send me links to shit and always share their music…
DD: That’s the thing as well is I always see you out at every gig imaginable, like your taste knows no bounds, you just drink it up.
CT: Yeah, fuck yeah hahaha, it’s so much fun! That’s just how I meet a lot of people too. Also I go for a lot of walks outside in the world all the time just to see the colours and the cars and all the humans as much as I HATE humans… WOAH no I don’t hate ’em, hate is a strong word haha.
DD: I’ve noticed that a lot on your Instagram too is like “daily colour pics” where you go for a walk and just pick the colours that you like.
CT: Yeah, yeah! I do have a recurring “today’s colour feels” which is just like y’know… feels of the day…
DD: I wanna see you bring back… uh Chelsea’s Choices? Chelsea Chooses?
CT: CHEPIC CHOICE.
DD: CHEPIC CHOICE THAT’S THE ONE.
CT: Yeah where I pick the records ah man I’ve been so consumed in like other shit recently that I just haven’t had the time to buy records. I actually don’t have a record player right now.
DD: Yeah mine’s just gone cactus as well, so mine are just collecting dust at the moment.
CT: BUT. I do have a new job starting tomorrow so… ~woooo~
DD: Hahaha, ahh working for the man’s alright if you use your money for good.
DD: I think.
CT: Buying records.
DD: Buying beers for your friends.
CT: Oh, fuck yeah.
DD: Fuck yeah.
CT: Not for me but for my friends?
DD: Well you’ve gotta learn to put yourself first, you know.
DD: Okay time for some serious Chelsea philosophy. Riddle me this Chels.
CT: Hit me with it.
DD: How would you say different forms of art inspire each other?
CT: Oh man. Well I’d say it’s just the different ways that people can express themselves you know? Like it’s kind of inspiring to see how another person can hone in on an aspect and filter their world through that lens. Like I can’t play guitar. I wish I could! I wish I could write a song and all that but I can’t so I guess cutting and pasting is my way of writing a song you know? I mean I call it getting overwhelmed with colours and sounds and then I just have to get it out.
DD: Yeah like over stimulation and you’ve just gotta get it right back out!
CT: Yeah and it just like fucks my brain!
DD: Yeah, Yeah.
CT: I call it banana brain, I have a playlist called banana brain that just soothes me down and I can just get it out. Oh man you’re really learning a lot about me!
DD: Well that’s what this is all about! That’s interesting though because I operate in an opposite way like I have this really vivid image in my brain I can only get it out through non-visual formats like word and sound.
CT: And I normally just have everything there like pre-cut with no ideas about what it’s going to look like or anything then I just do what I call “puzzle-piecing” where I just go layer, layer, layer until the piece is together. And when it works I’m just like yep cool stick it down, bang, done. Sometimes I make like 20 collages a day and I’m just like, “yep. That felt good.”
DD: Haha just at the end of the day light up a cigarette like “Ahhhhhh that was good… yeah I’ll call ya” to the pile of collages.
CT: Hahahahahaha… yeah.
DD: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaalright I love it!
DD: Well would you say it’s that same love of music and cross over of inspiration that means you naturally gravitate towards musicians so much? I’d have to say if someone hasn’t seen your work with a local band they’re not really from Melbourne are they? Not like from Melbourne I mean like “from from” Melbourne you know? Like a semi-conscious vessel occupying the geographical space of Melbourne?
CT: Yeah. Wait what are you asking me? No, I’m definitely not from here.
DD: No, you’re not. What am I asking you? OH. Is that why you gravitate towards musicians so much? The love of music?
CT: Oh, fuck yeah! It’s really cool, I guess we kind of gravitate towards each other. I will be out there watching them play, I will meet them you know introduce myself and they don’t really know what I’m doing and they don’t really know what I do at first but then I’ll show them or sometimes then it’ll click that I’m Chelsea Tuesday and then it just follows naturally after that that work partnership like after they see that I’ve done other work for bands. Like me and the Pseudo boys obviously that was amazing like…
DD: You’re pretty much their creative visual director at this point, hey?
CT: I know and I feel kind of bad about it I’m like “you guys CAN reach out to other people” and they just go “NO. YOU ARE IT.”
DD: You’re like their brand now hey? I mean they’re your brand uhhh which way does it go?
CT: Oh, I don’t know, we’re all in cahoots and I love it.
DD: Yeah it’s sick.
CT: We’re just this big family. It’s something that I just never would have gotten in Sydney. I don’t know what it is, Sydney just wasn’t happy and lovely like that, you know it’s not as focused on sharing and being nice.
DD: There’s a big familial scene in Melbourne, hey?
CT: I’m just so stoked you know to be a little bit a part of it.
DD: Do you think there was always an inherent part of you that was always a bit ‘Melbourne?’ Like what is it about this city that makes you stay? I guess to ask you to reiterate what you basically just said?
CT: Yep, music, art, people, everything about it. Honestly, living in Sydney was great but say like I had my people I grew up with which was lovely but I’d often go to the city three times a week and just go see bands. NONE of them liked doing that. So I was just solo which don’t get me wrong I was happy to be, I was loving it I was experiencing it. But it gets to the point where you know I was at The Metro and the photographer came up to me and was like “oh my god it’s you, it’s The Metro girl!” Just because I’m always there alone you know. I guess I came to Melbourne for one weekend and I just knew I wanted to move here. Like in the street it just had this vibe of like ‘yeahhhhh.’ And I mean I’ve had people tell me that I look like I belong here which is like it seems something shallow to say that but I think there is a reason someone looks the way they do at least. And now Sydney is just like ‘going home’ in a way like I love it but it’s not where I belong.
DD: Yeah I mean I know a lot of people who move to Melbourne and they just can’t hack it. They find it a bit over stimulating you know all the actions but then there’s cats like you and I who just walk down the street and really feel it like the sense that there’s something happening, yeah.
CT: Well so much has happened, I mean at least art-wise, since moving to Melbourne I just can’t believe it.
DD: The way you said that sounds very juicy. I won’t ask you to reveal all your secrets to the people.
CT: All will become clear in time, Ed.
DD: Would you say there’s anything about your hometown that inspires your work? Because I’ve been to Carlton North and there’s not that many mountain ranges or like desert space-scapes.
CT: Okay so Avalon, where my fam live (not Surrey Hills), is by the beach, I used to surf for a while and we also had a farm for some time… I guess I have a fascination with wide, open spaces for that reason. That farm was like my Terabithia, it was just my favourite place in the world like it had all the hillside and the pastures and all that shit. But I’ve never been to the mountains.
DD: Oh well hopefully with the money you raise tonight you can afford yourself a trip to some mountains?
DD: I wanna ask you about the materials and everything that you use, I mean I obviously don’t want you to give away any of your secret spices or anything…
CT: PSSHHHHTT what like glue stick??
DD: Hahaha. Well before you get into it I’ve actually brought a pair of scissors with me today and I uh…
DD: … Chelsea I’d just wanna know what you’d rate them on a scale from umm blunt cunts to um maybe Chelsea’s choice, Chelsea’s Choosedays uhhh…
CT: Holy shit! Well these look like they’re kinda uhhhh kitchen scissors… They um… I mean… Nup, I don’t think they’d work.
CT: I mean they’re comfortable, but these are too fat, these blades. Can you feel that little stutter at the end there?
CT: That would cause for like fuckin’ bumps in the lines. I’m sorry I’ve actually trialled a pair like this before and they were shocking. I mean these would be good for maybe if you were cutting in a straight line the whole time like maybe wrapping paper?
CT: Yeah nah sorry I mean the colour? It’s a good lookin’ pair of scissors but nah kitchen scissors.
DD: Kitchen scissors? Is that your rating?
CT: Am I giving it like a number or something?
DD: I don’t know what the rating system is, but we’ll go with kitchen scissors out of um them being good.
CT: Haha, alright.
DD: Well that’s a shame. But I guess that’s why I’m doing this and not collages?
DD: So do you have any rituals or methods like are there any particular tunes that lower you into a state or do you get a good fuckin’ curry on the pot and let the aromas take you away?
CT: Ah nothing to do with food really I kinda forget about food when I’m making shit. Usually it gets to the end of the day and I’m like “FUCK I’m hungry,” and I’ll hoe into whatever. BUT music playing, I have days where I go out to op shops to find the ingredients (books, magazines, even like old record sleeves, knitting books) then I’ll just cut all the pages out while I’ve got the telly on (recently it’s been Would I Lie To You, watch it, it’s on YouTube, it’s the best show ever). When it comes to the actual making of the collages I will just have music cranking like I make plenty of CDs and just have ’em blaring through my stereo. I pick a room and then just scatter everything around on the floor and just get hunched over it and it’s kinda manic like stacks of paper everywhere it’s kinda mental.
DD: So that’s kinda your creative womb, spread out over it all just letting the ideas flow?
CT: Yeah! It’s cool. Some people say I should get a table but I like being over it all you know.
DD: Those folks, they don’t understand freeform creativity, man.
CT: Yeah, man. Hahahaha.
DD: Hahaha ALRIGHT. Well, that just about brings us to an end but before I let you go and revel in the exuberance of your night, I’ve just got a few questions here, a few hot little Qs fresh off the IN-FI griddle, ahhh they’re so hot… Little… uh… Qs.. ARE YOU READY?
CT: haha yeah.
DD: Okay so number 1: What’s your favourite t-shirt ever, GO!
CT: UM, I have a King Gizzard one and I bought it the first time I ever saw them and The Living Eyes supported and it’s an Oddments one and it’s just fuckin’ sick. AND, it’s also special. Love my boys.
DD: Oath, alrighty, number 2: what’s the best smell?
CT: Ooh, freshly… Nope, actually. I love lemongrass.
DD: Aw man yeah lemongrass is very much up there. OKAY, best scene from any movie ever?
CT: OH, The Party, with Peter Sellers. He’s trying to… NO, he cuts into his little spatchcock at the dinner table and it flips up into the lady’s wig and he’s got to take it off.
DD: Hahaha yes! Okay, best song from any scene from any movie? Like every time you hear that song you can’t help but think of that scene.
CT: OKAY ah I can’t do the party again can I?
DD: you literally can do anything you want.
CT: Nah, nah, nah, okay. It would be Ted Nugent doing Stranglehold. It’s in two movies, actually. In Almost Famous and fuckin’… SUPERBAD. When they’re at the party they’re not invited to and he gets the dishwashing liquid full of beer. Haha! Stranglehold!
DD: Stranglehold! Alright Chels you’ve been great, thanks so much for playing.
CT: Thanks for having me, Ed.
DD: Are you ready for the final question?
CT: *deep breath* Yes.
DD: You’re fording some unknown waters, you’re running low on supplies and you see a pair of headlands up ahead that seem to be inhabited. You decide to pull the boat up to shore but as you approach the heads you happen to notice a pair of gates, very much larger than life itself, spanning the distance between the heads. They slowly begind to groan open as you approach to slowly reveal the giant head of one Ambrose Kenny-Smith, you’ve arrived at the Gates of Ambronath! What do you do?
CT: Hahahahahahaha oh my god. Looking like that?
DD: He looks a little scared, doesn’t he?
CT: He does! Um, fuck! I’d continue on! And see if he’s okay, I’d be like hey… what’s up?
DD: I’d maybe feel the urge to just turn and leave as if I hadn’t seen anything.
CT: Nah I’d go say g’day, it’s bloody Ambrose.
DD: Well Chels I’m excited for the rest of the night and I can’t congratulate you enough and I look forward to whatever you pull out of the hat next!
CT: Thanks Ed.