Q&A with Minna Gilligan

Minna GilliganYou’re lovely, but it’s not for sure, 2016, acrylic and collage on found image, 18 x 13 cm. Courtesy the artist and Daine Singer Gallery. Image commissioned for the cover of the Imprint winter 2016 (Vol. 51 No. 2) and produced as an unsigned and unnumbered edition of 100 A3 posters. Posters available for purchase for $15 each through the PCA website.

‘My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.’ 

Artist Minna Gilligan lives and works in Melbourne. Photograph by Selina Ou for Gallery NGV Magazine.

Congratulations on being awarded the 2016 Nillumbik Prize recently! Can you tell us about some of the moments/encounters that have informed your path to becoming an artist?

Thank you! It was lovely to gain some recognition in my hometown for my art practice.

I wouldn’t be able to define a specific moment that has informed my path to becoming an artist, but I would say it is due to the broader environment I was raised in. My Dad is a garden designer and my Mum is a florist, and I was brought up thinking aesthetically and critically of my surroundings and chosen projects. My Grandfather was a watercolour artist, and, although he passed away before I was born, his paintings have adorned every room in every house of all my family members for as long as I remember. I grew up being very used to looking at art, looking beyond what was right in front of me and into framed portals.

How would you define contemporary printmaking and where do you think your work would fit within this?

I suppose contemporary printmaking sits within a digital realm now. I would go as far as to define saturated reproduction of images on platforms like Instagram and Tumblr as a means of creating a duplication, as a means of extending the original – which is where I see printmaking existing. I think the definition is wider, now. My art exists on the aforementioned digital platforms and is reproduced there. It is also reproduced in digital prints on fabric and paper. I see scanning also as a vital element to contemporary printmaking. It gives you so much control over scale and quality.

How did you approach the winter 2016 cover commission for Imprint?

I wanted to make something that was positive and playful. I struggle with winter as a season and dread the lack of light and the negativity associated. I thought it would be fun to make a painting/collage that is the complete contradiction of the season.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite artworks and where their power lies for you?

My favourite artworks are very disparate, varying from Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World to the work of Yayoi Kusama, Helen Frankenthaler and Matisse. In more contemporary spheres I love the work of Keltie Ferris, Katherine Bernhardt and K8 Hardy. As of this weekend, a specific body of work I saw in the flesh was Paul Yore’s exhibition at Neon Parc. The power in this work lies in the unapologetic generosity of his cornucopias.

What do you hope people will get from engaging with your artwork?

When people look at my work I want them to feel joy, magic and maybe a slight sense of uneasiness. I don’t want to project an entirely utopic realm but I do want what is projected to be optimistic. I enjoy people projecting their own struggles, exhalations, etc., onto the work, too, and I enjoy it when people tell me those thoughts.

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

The only advice I ever really can rely on is to work really hard. I repeat that to everyone who ever asks for advice, which is a little contradictory considering at the moment I’m trying to take a step back from my work for a short period of time, just to consolidate and reflect on what I’ve achieved over a non-stop period of four years since graduating.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m in the final six months of my residency at Gertrude Contemporary, and as I don’t have any specific exhibitions scheduled for the rest of this year, I’m revelling in being able to make work without an end point in mind. I am also beginning work on an artist book with a publisher in Canada, which will be a compilation of collages that I’ve made over the past 6­–7 years. Other than that, I’m taking my first holiday since 2012 in July and I’m going to Japan. I can’t wait!

www.minnagilligan.com