We love showcasing the work of local artists in our Australian Art Series, and we’re excited to have Lisa Madigan as our newest featured artist. She describes her Reverencia collection as being about “the serene, the divine, the broad, the subtle”, and the highly textured works are painted in oils on round board, and beautifully framed in copper by Lisa and her husband. We talked to Lisa about her love of nature and texture, and about her complementary work as a florist and stylist. Lisa also has a very enticing Instagram feed (follow her @lisamadigan), from which most of these images were drawn.
Tell us about your creative journey, and how you came to painting?
I’ve painted forever. It’s always been something that has been absolutely natural to me. I grew up in galleries so I was always around opening nights and exhibitions, meeting artists and seeing their studios. I was often with a brush or a pen in my hand but equally being wide eyed and observant, gulping up new adventure and exploring different avenues of expression. There has always been a lot of contemplation in my life, memories have always been vivid and experience deep set.
I had a natural draw and determination to be, essentially who I am, an artist, I’ve always felt I’ve known my calling from a very early age and painting, communicating creatively and providing experience is very much home to me.
I studied art at school – I had an experience where an art teacher threw out a series of my paintings, so I ended up changing to a school where my creativity and the arts were encouraged and supported, in tandem with a strong academic drive, which I loved. After school I studied design and there have been plenty of other experiences weaving throughout my creative path, always leading to and from my studio, my constant. Everything is connected.
Where do you do your best work – tell us about your studio or painting space?
I have a working studio at The Cottage in Kangaroo Valley where I have worked and lived for the past 8 years. My husband and I have just moved back up to the northern beaches so I’m currently setting up a new studio space here too. Clarity is so important for me whilst I work, so white walls and good natural light are very much staples, along with fresh air and a sense of calm.
I would have to describe my studio as an ordered chaos, a neat mess. I’m in such a focused space while I’m working that it’s important that I know where everything is and have it just an arm’s length away. I work quite a lot on the floor too so there are always tubes and tins and rags at ground level. It’s raw and open and such an incredibly special place for me of solace and momentum.
I’ve always been quite private in my practice. I like to shut myself completely away from any distraction. To me, painting is an incredibly personal and private process, it’s quiet and meditative, even in the moments of fierce motion, there’s always a sense of ease and flow whilst still propelling the work forward.
How would you describe this collection?
My work always stems from an element of nature, that both within and without, experiences we collect and also absorb from our surrounds and internal whispers, then of course my filter and interpretation of such. My works are always grounded but also ethereal. It’s about dancing between those two notions of being earthed and also being part of what’s beyond. Sensory, considered, raw and gritty, open and free.
The titles always give an insight into something a little more personal in the pieces, a hint at the greater nuances and personalities of the works, but they’re of course always open to what an audience sees in them and feels from them too.
This particular collection is titled REVERENCIA and is very much about diving into that which we revere. The serene, the divine, the broad, the subtle. Moments of rich luxury, moments of open clarity. Elevating the momentary to the grand and the grand to but a moment of connected pleasure and passion. Fleeting but forever.
How do you hope people will feel when they look at your work?
Because my paintings are so tactile, often the first response is that people want to touch my work, or they describe it as delicious. There is very much an element of ‘scrumptiousness’ and that’s important to me. I always want to create works that are raw and real and beautiful, so that ‘yummy’ quality is important but the depth of subject and substance and timelessness is equally as important.
Tell us about your creative process.
I am constantly collecting moments and sensations, making notes and writing, observing and projecting. My writing is like the germination process where I start to crystallise the work before I pick up a brush. It might be somewhere I’ve travelled that sparks a concept or sensation that I feel the need to capture, a particular glint of light, or a shift in the seasons.
Inspiration is constantly with me and that flow of always being sensitive to space and time and experience, being who I am and having that constant drive to create is not something that can be switched off.
I then refine and distill and develop the thread and narrative of each individual collection and of course each individual piece as it comes to fruition in the studio. There’s always a free fall moment when time ceases to exist in the actual creation, that’s the focus and where the magic happens, like setting sail and steering my own course then allowing the wind to fill my sails.
Your Kangaroo Valley cottage (now available to rent) is a play on neutrals and texture. Is this a theme for your creativity generally?
This has always been an enticing palette for me and texture is something I’ve been drawn to instinctively and intuitively. I base myself in nature and I’m comfortable around raw, elemental things. Ultimately I’m working with the elements when I’m painting so it’s working with that alchemy and majesty and beauty.
It’s always been important to me to have a balance of things that are luxurious and impeccably well crafted, sharp and shiny, delicate or fine and things that are raw and stunning and created by nature. That play and contrast is a beautiful thing, the soft and the strong, the hard edged and the gentle.
The cottage itself has always had an ever shifting form, evolving with the seasons and new discoveries, still very much in line with my aesthetic, but I love for it to be fluid and adaptable, to weather, breathe and keep engaging in an ever slightly new light.
Your works are paintings in oils on circular pieces of timber. What do you like about this medium, and shape?
I have wanted to work in a round format for a long time, but it was hard to get my hands on the right frames until recently. The circle is such a universal symbol and it’s a beautiful way to work because there is no edge and no end. Of course I equally love working on linen and timber frames, ultimately each piece is always a new story and diving into these, whatever the format, is home.
I do a lot of knife work on my paintings and build a lot of texture. Often the process in the studio itself happens quite quickly so I’ll be working wet on wet with oil paints. I usually work on a single piece at a time, and build a collection that way. They stand on their own but there is always a common thread throughout each series.
How did you come to decide on the copper frame, and how is this applied?
My husband and I make the copper frames ourselves. I wanted something with an elemental aspect that would finish off the works beautifully. The frame can patina over time or you can buff it up to have a high shine.
What is your approach to colour?
My palette is quite broad and I’m equally happy working with soft and strong colours, and finding that balance between the two. The neutrals are very much a signature for me but it really depends on each collection and where the inspiration is coming from as to how the colour comes through.
This series revels in something a little bit deeper and there are some rich tones but there is the lift of the lighter works too. Again there’s very much this dance of light and dark, the ever shifting aspect of balance and harmony.
How does your art practice relate to your other creative work as a stylist / florist? Which way do you find the inspiration flows?
Coming back to that knowing, that calling and unstoppable drive to create, to make the world a more beautiful place, everything stems from the same place. My environment work comes from the same realm, there has to be substance, palpable, delectable substance.
It’s beautiful for me to create spaces and experiences for people, through floristry and weaving stories through settings and having the vision to tie an event or a place or a moment together. Creating our Sydney Kinfolk dinners is always a treat as is working with beautiful clients who are after something unique. Bringing a broader vision to life is almost like welcoming people to walk into one of my paintings, it’s multidimensional and transient and experiential and I love that.
How do you feel when your work goes out into the world?
I love my work going out into people’s homes and public spaces. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s quite humbling. It’s always a delight for me to share my works and it’s incredibly special when it connects.
Visit Lisa’s website, where you can sign up for regular updates about upcoming exhibitions, or follow her on Instagram @lisamadigan
Browse our online gallery of Lisa Madigan’s work.