Michelle Pressley's The Wall Project at Manning Regional Art Gallery

Fun and fanciful: Michelle Pressley has carved foam to create a collection of cute and crazy characters that reflect her childhood. She holds a frog and a circus dog that remembers her beloved dog Vincent. Photo: Scott Calvin.
Fun and fanciful: Michelle Pressley has carved foam to create a collection of cute and crazy characters that reflect her childhood. She holds a frog and a circus dog that remembers her beloved dog Vincent. Photo: Scott Calvin.

A barrel of monkeys, Tubby the Tuba and small clowns flying kites.

They’re all part of the fun in Michelle Pressley’s contribution to the Manning Regional Art Gallery’s The Wall Project.

Titled Within the Wall, the multimedia artist, puppeteer and sculptor said she has let her imagination run a “little wild”. 

“It’s all about what lives within the wall”.

Her “residency” at the gallery has been underway since the start of August and finishes up this Sunday, August 27.

Michelle works with carved foam and over the course of the exhibition has been bringing to life the “fun, frivolous and fanciful characters of a happy childhood memory”.

A multi-skilled artist, she said her focus is on fun. 

“I can do painting and went from painting really realistic paintings to fun. I just want to have fun. I try not to take life too seriously anymore, it gets me down.”

She said foam is easy and cheap to work with and she has a simple toolkit of scissors, Stanley knife and craft glue (and a few other bits and pieces) to produce her creations.

“You can pick up foam for next to nothing. I upcycle anything. I’m a great believer in using what’s available. 

“I look at stuff and think, ‘man, that would be so cool to make something out of’.”

Once she has her idea, she’ll take her foam, carve it down to make the general shape and then do the refining.

Within the Wall is a reflection on her childhood and she invites visitors to “reflect on their own childhood, the fun they had and the cool memories”.

“My favourite of the pieces is the kites. I used to fly kites with my grandfather.”

She also explores the memory of laying in bed and thinking about things and the question about the cute and crazy creatures that might be hiding in the wall.

Visitors to her exhibition have also played a part in what is on the wall, with a featured snake the idea of a group of children keen to see it included.

A former student of hers (Michelle is a sculpture teacher at Great Lakes TAFE) also called in and sat down with her and carved some foam with her.

Michelle, who lives in a 1966 Bedford bus, had her start in foam carving when she created a puppet for a travelling show.

“I started carving foam when I made the Wonky Donkey, from the story. 

“I wrote away to the publishers to ask to make the Wonky Donkey and the bird to do a puppet show – and they said yes.”

Michelle thoroughly enjoys the process of creating art. “I love it. It’s just brilliant, bringing something to life.”

The Manning Regional Art Gallery, located in Macquarie Street, Taree, is open 10am to 4pm Wednesdays to Saturdays and 1pm to 4pm on Sundays.