It’s not everyday that you meet someone like Minna Gilligan, but when you do, you can’t help but take notice. An emerging style icon, writer and artist, her creations are a bright, psychedelic world filled with longing protagonists floating in a space between now and then. Her work is atemporal and ranges across a number of mediums including collage, painting and illustration. Casting herself as a new protagonist everyday, her constant approach to creativity is both astounding and admirable.
You’ve described your art as speaking “largely of fleeting, personal encounters with the past and the present, manifesting in a tumultuous reconciliation of both.” Does that still hold true?
Yeah definitely. I think a lot of my work is trying to grasp onto things that I’m not entirely sure are real, or exist, or did exist. I have a lot of interest in the past—like the 60s and 70s—and how everything is rose-tinted through retrospect. I take these weird memories that I have of a time that I didn’t live and filter them through contemporary modern day stuff, I’m trying to come up with these hybrid spaces that are not entirely real but at the same time are very familiar.
How does it make you feel when people describe your work as nostalgic? Do you think that really encapsulates what you’re doing or does it miss the mark?
I’m not against it as such but it is a very simplistic way to access my work, though in some ways that’s fine and people do get that from it—which can be a good thing. But I think for me it’s more about a displacement, and a not entirely right sense of nostalgia. My work is this hybrid of the past and the present; it’s not true nostalgia, it’s not taking something and then re-presenting it with the integrity that it originally had because it’s been filtered through a more digital realm. But I’m okay with people reading that nostalgia in my work, especially if they are older and lived through that time.
Colour obviously plays a huge part in your work, can you explain your relationship with it?
For some reason I’ve just always been attracted to colour and I’ve always wanted to adorn myself in it since I was very young. It just came very naturally, so it’s hard to say why I like to present this aesthetic that is so psychedelic and relies so heavily on jarring combinations of colour. It’s just what appeals to me and has always appealed to me. It’s a way to really inhabit a space or inhabit a work fully. It’s a bit inexplicable though.
Fashion was the thematic grounding of your first book, Time After Time. How does your style interplay with your art?
I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately. I think I like to present myself as a person on the same kind of plane that I present my art. Some artists enjoy existing perhaps in the shadows … But I enjoy being out there with my art and in a sense it makes sense because I think everything I do [with myself] is some sort of expression similar to putting together a collage—it’s just this curation that creates a really interesting narrative. I think of dressing as a lot like being a protagonist and you can kind of be the main character in your day. I like to incorporate protagonists in my works as well, particularly my collage works—having this main character that exists in this eerie playground of colour. I like that you can become something or someone and that you can enter a narrative with the way that you dress, similarly to the way that the protagonists in my work do.
Do you feel that that self-curation comes naturally to you? Like with your Instagram or Tumblr?
I think it does come quite naturally. I think it has become sort of a currency online because it’s very addictive to continue to present these different versions of yourself and you can be who you want to be—it’s all very idealistic, which I enjoy. But to me getting up in the morning and wanting to be a certain something, or wanting to be a certain nothing, sometimes documenting that comes really easily. It’s harks back to that idea of being a main character … I enjoy that self expression I think because I’m a very introverted extrovert, like I have a lot to say and a lot I want to present but I don’t want to get up on a stage to do it—I’m getting better at it though.
You’ve mentioned before about having to walk a line between commercial art and fine art, can you expand on that?
I think that there’s this really big misconception that fine artist can’t operate in a commercial space at the same time. In art school, at VCA, there was this sort of back-turn to anything that was remotely commercial or something that was considered a compromise—like working for a client. And when I was there I started doing illustrations for Rookie Magazine and there was a lot of negative reactions but it just was so normal to me. I felt like I enjoyed it, I was making some money and it was getting my other work exposure. So I’m really not into this idea that they have to be very distinct, and that to be a real artist you can’t subscribe to any of that commercial stuff. I’ve had a lot of criticism from people who I thought got it and understood that you don’t have to be this picture of a starving, authentic artist. I like that hunger to be able to do both and be respected in both worlds. We’re in a whole new world right now, so many boundaries are being broken down and it’s just this really old idea that young and progressive thinkers won’t let go of.
You play in a band called Pamela and music is a really large part of your life, how does that play into your art?
This was a band that we started in art school with John Campbell, who was my lecturer at the time, and my friend Georgie. John is a musician and artist, so we sort of just did all his songs—It was really fun. We’re sort of on hiatus at the moment because Georgie moved to Gippsland. But it was great, I had never been a performer and it was this really low maintenance thing. I guess my relationship with music is really intense. I always like to have music when I work, and it’s always this sort of thing where the melodies retain in your mind and somehow filter into what I’m creating.
You’ve got a second book in the works, an anthology called So Far, how did that come about?
So these people, Bywater Bros. Editions, who are this couple that run a publishing company as a passion project and go to all the art book fairs around the world contacted me and said “we love your work, and we’d really like to make something with you.” And I’d had this idea in my head for a while of doing an anthology of all my collage work and calling it So Far—because so far this is what I’ve done. But also it’s got that really open, abstract vibe. So it’s a collection of 60 or so of my collage works and it’s going to be launched at Printed Matter’s New York Art Book Fair at MOMA in September. Its really exciting.
- Photography: Ryan Cookson