An interview with Bridie Gillman

· Tuesday September 6, 2016

Bridie Gillman’s practice negotiates cross-cultural experiences. She approaches these with an examining eye - looking at the interesting details of these experiences through her own childhood in Indonesia, current life in Australia, and all the travel bits in-between. One of her later projects included a series of postcards quoting tourists she observed in Malaysia. Cards that read “I’ve made friends with the locals” or “I come here quite a bit. So I speak a bit of the local lingo.” Her work has a simple, gently humorous understanding of the world, and a sensitivity to culture and the exact moments in which cultures are awkwardly reconciled.

When I ask Bridie what she does she silently thinks, then laughs. She’s one of those women that just seems to be able to do it all. You may have spotted her sculptural work and photography at Metro Arts or The Hold, or her paintings at her open studio earlier this year. Apart from being an artistic all-rounder, you’ll find her around her house cooking for people, sipping wine at local exhibitions, or watching ABC24.

You seem to navigate a few different mediums. What exactly do you do?

My art practice encompasses photography, installation with found objects and more recently painting.
I studied painting but stepped away from it because I wanted to create and explore more conceptually critical work. I’ve since decided to embrace it - it’s something I kind of just love.

Are there themes that exist across all of those?

Place is very important in my work. My paintings are drawn from particular places or a memory of a place. They’re abstract, expressive colour explorations of a place.

How does that process happen?

When painting, I usually do them by thinking of a place, or I’ll start with a colour and a place will come to mind. I want to put the memory of that place onto canvas. Colour’s actually really important across all mediums, because it triggers place. A particular yellow I see somewhere might take me back to Indonesia, for instance.

I draw from my experience living in Indonesia when I was younger. A lot of my earlier work was about that, and now it’s mores about new experiences with the unknown and awkwardness that happens in a new place. Most of my work attempts to articulate those experiences, whether through awkward lines in paintings or photographing these moments.

Your photographic work seems to be completely absent of people - more like little still lifes. Is that a conscious choice?

I shoot on a medium format camera. There’s something about the act of looking down that changes the process to making a photograph, instead of taking it. Taking vs making is how I see it. Cameras also have a tendency to feel like a weapon. That’s why I don’t take photographs of people I don’t know.

In places that aren’t conventionally beautiful and there’s so much happening around you, it’s about finding the moments of silence and beauty in the everyday. I was in New Zealand recently and my Aunty said ‘Look, there’s a Bridie photo!’ about some rubbish on the ground. They said when they first saw my work they didn’t quite get it but now they see things everywhere that could be a part of my work. I think if people can start to see their surroundings with more interest that’d be great.

Tell us about the Cut Thumb exhibition you’ve got coming up.

It’s a complete departure from my other work in terms of it being so autobiographical and about my family. It’s called “You and I, we’ve got the same blood running through us.” It was something my uncle said when I saw him one afternoon in Christchurch. It struck me as a weird thing to say. There’s some footage I collected in 2012, and objects I collected from my Grandfather’s shed in New Zealand. The Cut Thumb space reminds me of my Grandad's space so it seemed fitting.