‘I never set out to be an abstract painter,’ says Brisbane artist, Bridie Gillman. ‘I tried representational painting at University, but it didn’t go down so well!’ Following her Fine Art degree, Bridie travelled, returning for an Honours year that veered into sculpture, installation, and video. Then, after four years away from painting, she decided to explore it again. For the last two years, Bridie has focused on abstract painting and photography to express her diverse experiences of place.
The results are quietly disarming, and often culturally provocative. ‘Drawing from my time growing up in Indonesia, my work is an abstract response to negotiating cross-cultural experiences’ the artist explains. Recent residencies in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Penang, Malaysia, have been integral in developing her practice.
Bridie currently works from her home studio in an old, character-filled Queenslander, which she shares with her partner, two dogs and a spritely cockatiel. Here, it’s not unusual for large canvases to spill out of her studio into the living area. Bridie works predominantly with colour to translate her experiences: ‘I decide which place and memory I want to draw from, then I think about these in relation to colour. I choose the palette I’ll use to convey that memory, and from there it’s very intuitive’ she explains. After time spent in Asia, Bridie produced a series of vibrant works, while her latest paintings consider subject-matter closer to home, exploring darker, more fundamental territory.
‘With my ‘After’ paintings I began looking to the Australian landscape, and attempting to navigate my uneasy relationship with it, as a non-Indigenous Australian. Some compositions are based on memories of travelling through rural Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and my experiences of night-time or dusk – the unknown that comes with darkness. In contrast, other compositions reflect an immediate response to my studio surroundings in urban Brisbane.’ Bridie completed these works during the months following her Uncle’s death. ‘I see the series as a dark contemplation on the Australian landscape during my period of grief,’ she explains.
Bridie also recently launched a new artist-run exhibition space called STABLE underneath her house. ‘I’m hoping STABLE will be a positive contribution to the community that has given me so much.’