Creative People

Interview · Miranda Skoczek

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
12th of October 2012
Miranda Skoczek in her St Kilda studio. Photo - Brooke Holm.
The St Kilda studio of Miranda Skoczek. Photo - Brooke Holm.
Studio details.  Photos - Brooke Holm.
MAGIC BEAR IN PINK by Miranda Skozcek, 2012, oil, acrylic and enamel on linen, 122 x 91 cm.  From Miranda's new show opening next week at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane.
TROPHY 2 by Miranda Skoczek, 2012, oil, acrylic and enamel on canvas, 153 x 137 cm. From Miranda's new show opening next week at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane.
I actually truly cannot believe I haven't interviewed Melbourne artist Miranda Skoczek before now!  Major oversight!  I have long admired Miranda's vivid paintings, which draw reference from a myriad of sources - including travel, nature, textiles, traditional dress from various cultures, folk art, modernist design and architecture. Clearly, Miranda has an incredible way with colour - evident in her everyday surroundings as much as her work.  In person Miranda is incredibly stylish in the most inspired, eclectic way (though also endearingly self deprecating).  She loves fashion, has an unhealthy appetite for glossy magazines, and can often be spotted wearing colour and pattern to rival the hues on even her brightest canvases.  On the day we visited she looked truly resplendent in that amazing Matthew Williamson knit - though she ummed and ahhed the whole time about changing into a neon yellow jumper she had brought along, giving careful consideration to which outfit would best complement the works in her studio that day.  (We convinced her to stick with the orange / blue knit - seriously, how fab is it?). What is perhaps most engaging about Miranda's work, is her unapologetic focus on the aesthetic.  Expertly partnering vivid abstract fields of colour with figurative and graphic elements, Miranda really is interested first and foremost in the simple act of creating something beautiful.  She stubbornly rejects the 'inpenetrability' of much contemporary art, believing fine art should be accessable to all. 'I think it is so important... that the average Joe (or Joanne) engages with art' she says. Miranda has spent the past few months working towards her solo exhibition opening next week at Edwina Corlette gallery in Brisbane!  Entitled Spirit Garden, the works in this show bring together a menagerie of wild animals and birds, a constant theme in Miranda's work. In Melbourne you can find Miranda's work at Fenton and Fenton, and we're thrilled that Miranda will also be making a handful of new works for The Design Files Open House! Spirit Garden - New Paintings by Miranda Skoczek Edwina Corlette Gallery 16th Oct - 3rd Nov 2012 Artists reception - Friday 19th of Oct 6.00pm
Tell us a little about your background – What path led you to becoming a fine artist, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?
Well I know it’s a cliché, but for as long as I can remember I’ve always been making and creating. Drawing, painting, and a desire to make my surroundings beautiful, has always been my preoccupation. Mum always ensured my brother and I were exposed to art and culture, and so my innate love for the visual was encouraged from a young age. After high school I studied graphic design for three years, which at the time I seldom enjoyed (probably as I am technically challenged – computers are not my friend) however, in retrospect, it’s definitely responsible for my ability to understand composition, and affords my work a graphic element. From there I travelled through Europe for twelve months, and ignited a love for exploring and engaging with different cultures. It was this experience that made me realise I had to go back and study Fine Arts, as sitting at a desk and working on the creative briefs of others just wasn’t going to cut it. I then did a Visual Arts diploma at Victoria University of Technology, and went on to do a Fine Arts degree at the Victorian College of the Arts. My dedication to the pure aesthetics of painting made me somewhat unpopular with my teachers, but being a stubborn Aquarian, and with an obsessive love of beauty, I stuck to my guns and painted pictures intended to inspire and delight. I resent much of contemporary art's impenetrability – I think it is so important for society’s advancement, that the average Joe (or Joanne) engages with art.
How would you describe your work?
As a combination of abstraction and representation, I believe I’m a formalist first and foremost, and I delight in the exploration of the paint’s physicality, in the act of ‘doing’. It’s a practice based on collection, sampling and assembly. Colour field abstraction is overlaid with forms from the natural world, and decorative iconography sourced from the beginning of image making to today. I have a fascination with the natural world, and animals are used in my work allegorically, but just as importantly because, quite simply, I revere them. My painterly, built up surfaces are always coupled with graphic elements, where I suppose I mimic a machine made, hard edged, not of the hand etc etc look! It’s most important to me that the viewer’s eye traverses myriad surfaces, and so I like to convey cloth like, organic finishes, with shiny unnatural ones. It is these contrasts that allow me to create the element of surprise, and most importantly, to enable the picture reveal something new with each new gaze. My paintings are explorations of unrestrained fantasy, a bon vivant with no fixed narrative, a space to enjoy the exotic and escape the harsh realities we are bombarded with daily.
 Road to Goodness by Miranda Skoczek, 2009, Oil and acrylic on canvas.
What can we expect to see in your new exhibition 'Spirit Garden' at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane? What has inspired this body of work?
My latest exhibition Spirit Garden at Edwina Corlette Gallery carries on from my show Unicorns and Alchemy earlier in the year. Once again totem animals allow for a re-engagement with childhood fantasies, and also loosely explore the spirit world and a shamanic connection to nature. I’m very drawn to ancient cultures that celebrate the relationship between humans and animals, and I often lament at how marginalised they have become. For many, animals are just spectacle, and I want to remind them that they are something to be protected and cherished, they enhance and colour our world like nothing else.
Can you give us a little insight into your process? What materials do you use? Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? Do you work on multiple canvases at one time? And how long does each work take to complete?
A friend once likened my process to that of a chef’s, in that my pictures are derived from discovery and collection - I borrow from many different sources, mix it all together and then (unlike a chef) I edit out the bits that don’t work. But it’s often those ‘bits’ that give my canvases a sense of history – the layering of paint, thick and thin, textured and flat, I hope make the viewer wonder what lies beneath. My painting process is one that embraces accident and uncertainty, a capricious application of paint is then resolved with more concrete and purposeful ones. I use the traditional materials of stretched linen or canvas, oils and acrylics, and then biro, spray paint and enamel. I’m also hoping to incorporate other media such as collage into my canvases, which I have touched on before. I never plan a picture, when standing before a fresh canvas I approach it very automatically and spontaneously. To begin with they are lying on the floor, and I will pour or throw thinned down paint onto the surface, and then start working into the paint, wet on wet, I put paint down, and then I take it away, it’s a constant process of on/off, yes/no. As the painting progresses in this most organic fashion, I start to consider what animals and motifs I will use, often they can be the most disparate of images, but I enjoy the challenge of making them work together. Creating harmony between personal experiences and sheer fantasy. I work on as many canvases as my studio will allow (which struggles with more than 12 – definitely need a bigger space) as it’s important that if one piece is being difficult, I can move onto the next. Also, as well as working wet on wet, I do need the layers to dry before starting the next. ‘How long does each work take’ is the most frequently asked question, and one I find impossible to answer.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Nothing too typical from day to day, but since having my little boy two years ago I’ve been forced to be more routine focused, and when I’m not being a Mum I literally spend every spare moment in the studio. I harbour grand ideas of being super organised, but unfortunately, as someone who pretty much survives using just the right side of my brain, I’m always racing around like a chook without a head! When it’s a studio day, time is of the essence as I don’t get into the studio until about 10 (okay, 11.00ish) and it's straight to work, even if the juices aren’t necessarily flowing. Painting is a pretty solitary existence, but I have great studio buddies and if I need to bounce ideas off someone, it’s good to have the option.
THE BLESSED BRANCH by Miranda Skoczek, 2012, oil, acrylic and enamel on linen.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
Well I have a confession to make, I was seriously hooked on Instagram for a while, but have been so busy of late I hardly even look at it.  When I do, it’s great to get an insight into the lives and work of people who I admire. I have a voracious appetite for glossy mags, most notably The World of Interiors, Architectural Digest (Spanish version) and French Vogue. Love a good blog, and I’m not just saying it, but TDF is read daily. I read Australian Art Collector and Artist Profile, and when I’m in a slump my huge collection of art and design books give me the boost I need, my most thumbed being any of my Cy Twombly books.
Left - Cosmic Encounters by Miranda Skoczek, mixed media on paper, perspex frame. Right - Diamond Eyes by Miranda Skoczek, 2012, mixed media on paper, perspex frame.
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Most recently, David McAllister and the Australian Ballet’s traditional production of Swan Lake, I saw it two Saturday night’s ago, and it took my breath away – what a feast! Also loving the work of fellow artist, and old uni buddy Emily Ferretti.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
The fact that people enjoy my work always gives me a buzz! So I won’t lie, having my first sell out show was a highlight.
What would be your dream project?
Oh so many! I’d be pretty chuffed to design a range of textiles for one of my favourite fashion designers or design the interior of a boutique hotel (yes I’d be guilty of painting all over the walls!). My brother Simon is planning to bring great architecture to the masses, so a collab with him one day would be great.
What are you looking forward to?
This next show, being involved with the upcoming The Design Files Open House, and a collaboration with Third Drawer Down.  Also the opening of The Little Black Jacket Chanel exhibition!
 The Hugh Sunlight Flamed like a Monstrous Dahlia with Petals of File - Miranda Skoczek, 2009, oil and acrylic on canvas.


Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
I’m a North side wannabe, but too comfortable and lazy to move across the river (at the moment). I always enjoy having a wander around Fitzroy.
Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools of your trade?
St Kilda Art Supplies – have been buying from Fiona for years, she’s great! So is Kez at St Luke, and Chapman & Bailey for framing when I buy other people’s work.
Studio details. Photos - Brooke Holm.
Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Well it’s depressing to say, it was at least two months ago at Golden Fields – it’s consistently good. Depressing because, as a busy working Mum eating out is something I don’t often do anymore.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Oh I’m boring… with vacuum in hand, and then working in the studio.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Gone are the days of me being abreast of all things new and undiscovered, so I’ve got nothin’. Sorry people.
Miranda Skoczek studio details. Photo - Brooke Holm.

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