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Love In The First Degree


Ozlem Esen Mell interviews art power couple Ted O’Donnell and Vicki Lee. Portait: Tim Ashton.

I first met Ted when he was the bass player in my band in 2012. He had a knack for music and was conscious of the planet and organic food way before it became hip. I knew Vicky from my early days in Bondi from the babe that worked at the local café to the chic girl who ran her own clothing label.

Never did I think an impromptu jam on the grassy knoll where I introduced them would lead to this incredible collaboration that is Ted and Vicky, a power couple making waves on the art scene with their unique pieces combining photography of nature with a twist of underwater flair. It’s not often in this art-saturated world that I want each and every piece from an artists’ collection.

When you see their work and find yourself lost, staring into each piece trying to work out how it came to life… I caught up with Vicky and Ted in their beautiful Sydney home to find out about their combination of love, babies and art.

How did the idea for your work come about? When did you start it?

We were walking home from a date in the early days of our relationship in 2011 and saw some huge and quite grotesque Gymea lilies in the middle of the road. We stole one and took it home and poured tahini and flour mixed with water all over it and took pictures. It sounds so twisted but it was the beginning of an obsession that carries on years later, essentially exactly the same.


What are your roles within the art you make? Is it a total collaboration or do you have different roles within the pieces?

There is definitely a part of our process that is done together. Reaching a unified vision is essential to our creative process but generally we have a very complimentary skillset so our roles are quite defined as well. Ted is focused on the technical element to attaining the perfect version of our ideas and my place is developing the story through colour, form, texture and the feeling we are looking to provoke.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

Movement and inspiration are synonymous to us. Both external and internal. Travelling, a run or even just feeling your blood pumping through your veins while you are still. Feel the buzz in any way you can.

What’s the definition of a true artist to you?

Vicki: To allow yourself to see, smell, hear, touch and be beauty.

Ted: Someone who gets inspired by life, and responds, however that might be.


I know you have probably been asked this before, but our readers would love to know what inspires you in art and life?

Vicki: For me, being inspired is an internal experience. When I’m “there”, everything I experience is the ultimate inspiration. People you meet, the smell of freshly shampooed hair when you pass the bus stop in the mornings, the dead tree on the side of the street, the way the road bends all the way up the hill. Anything. Everything.

Ted: When things are right, you feel it. It’s not really something you can put into words, but that experience of being connected/tapped in.

What’s next for you individually and together?

We are working towards a new exhibition where we’ve crossed some new boundaries, which is exciting. We’re both constantly working on our personal projects and we’re expecting our second baby early next year.

Is there anything else the both of you do creatively?

Vicki: Cooking! It’s the ultimate space to create because you get to eat it all at the end.

Ted: We try and make everything a bit more interesting.


What is your personal favorite piece?

Vicki: I’ll always love our first series because it really is where we fell in love. The memories held in those flowers will be there always and that’s so special. There’s something so raw and awkward about some of them, exactly like young love.

Ted: For me it’s more about the series; I’m interested to see what comes out of it next because it’s always evolving.

Who is an up and coming artist you currently like?

Vicki: There are so many I’m in awe of. I love Indonesian artist I Wayan Yansen. He is definitely a favourite.


What are your joys in life at the moment?

Vicki: Yokie, my baby, takes the cake. She is so bright, open and delicious.

Ted: Yep, Yokie is a constantly changing, shifting, morphing unknown quantity that makes life completely magic.

What is the process of your work?

The idea comes, we develop it over weeks, months even. Then we have a few fights about our differences of opinion and vision, and then we shoot and make up. Repeat.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Vicki: “There will be an answer. Let it Be” ¬– The Beatles.

Ted: I hate advice.


When is your next show?

Hopefully we will squeeze it into 2016.

Dali or Pollock?

Vicki:  Pollock takes us into the most raw and even aggressive human emotional space. Dali takes us to the ethereal and sub conscious world … I’ll take a dream over reality any day. Dali wins for me.

Ted: Pollock for me. I like the unhinged process.