BY Gemma Anderson

Gemma Anderson chatted with Sydney based artist Emily Galicek about her upcoming exhibition at Kudos Gallery, Gilding The Lily.

This exhibition features a series of paintings Galicek created for her Master of Fine Arts, recently completed at UNSW Art & Design which respond to the way that online image networks have leaked into everyday lived experience and communication.

GA: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your artistic background

EG: I grew up in Sydney, and towards the end of my high school years decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the visual arts. I did my undergraduate training at UTS in Photography and Situated Media, where I did an Honours year as well. After completing Honours, I felt that there was more to be resolved in my research and practice, which led to me enrolling in the MFA program at UNSW Art & Design.

Throughout my years of study, I have also worked casually for various museums and galleries, and completed a few volunteer-based internships.

GA: Having completed your undergraduate degree in Photography and Situated Media, how did you come to arrive at painting?

EG: Painting was something I arrived at while completing my Honours year at UTS in 2016 as a break from my research project, and I started with absolutely no experience. It was really more of an artistic side hobby that became a main focus after I finished Honours. 

I was later hired as an artist assistant to Dr. Natalya Hughes, to whom I am grateful for recognising some kind of potential in me! Natalya taught me most of the technical painting skills that I now have. Everything else was learned through trial and error, and of course the humble YouTube tutorial.

GA: I love that you are pursuing what was once a creative side hobby. It is very inspiring to those of us who do one thing for work or at university, yet dabble in a different creative passion on the side, indeed something we may not necessarily have the confidence to fully pursue. What is it about painting that you love or really interests you?

EG: Painting has a really interesting position in contemporary art, in that it is discussed by some as experimental and dynamic, and by others as dead and outdated. The possibilities for the medium that arise out of this paradox are what have continued to fascinate me. It can keep one foot in tradition while simultaneously exploring the possibilities of new approaches, particularly when it intersects with digital technologies.

In a similar sense, there is no longer such a prescriptive need to be able to draw or paint from life. I really like that I am not limited by technical factors and can have fun with painting, which is not necessarily how I felt with photography before.

GA: Yes, it can be so liberating and exciting when you have the opportunity to play within a new medium. I’d like to hear more about your creative process, can you tell me a little bit about what that involves?

EG: All of my works are conglomerations of image and cultural reference points, intended to reflect the way that online and image cultures pervade every aspect of lived reality and communication today.

My process involves a lot of Google searching and a lot of looking at books of other artists’ work. Usually I decide on a ‘theme’ or a core image around which the painting will be based, and create compositions with layers of reference images using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I then project the composition onto the canvas, draw it up and paint it. For smaller works, I will use carbon paper to trace the work out. 

GA: Tell me about the works that feature in Gilding The Lily. And more broadly, what your MFA research examines?

EG: The pieces that feature in this exhibition all respond to the way that online image networks have leaked into everyday lived experience and communication. Though they are thematically and visually different, they all seek to examine where painting can be situated in an increasingly digitised world.

In a nutshell, my MFA research questions how contemporary artists can use painting to respond to the cultural conditions of the post-digital (or, more simply, the conditions of the current moment). It particularly looks at how parody can be used as a specific painting strategy within this.

GA: And how did you arrive at the exhibition's title ‘Gilding The Lily’

EG: The title of this exhibition came, like my paintings from extensive Google searching, and is actually originally derived from Shakespeare. To ‘gild the lily’ is to unnecessarily adorn or embellish something that is already beautiful or perfect. So it’s a bit tongue in cheek.

GA: Perfectly suited. Have you enjoyed undertaking your MFA?

EG: I have loved undertaking an MFA, as it provided me with the time and space to research what I was truly passionate about. The project that I initially proposed ended up being very different to the one that I am now presenting – in the beginning, it was never going to be about painting at all!

GA: How fantastic! And what has the MFA process involved for you

EG: I think apart from the obvious points of the MFA degree involving self-directed research, writing and artmaking, it has also involved a lot of openness. One has to be open to feedback, to changes in direction and to criticism at every stage. Without an openness to changing the direction of my research I would definitely not have had as good of an experience.

GA: I think that is phenomenal advice to anyone looking to undertake a self-directed project, being open to and able to respond to feedback, changes, and criticism is invaluable. Do you have any further advice for someone looking to undertake an MFA

EG: My advice to anyone looking to undertake an MFA is to really make sure you are proposing a project that you can have a sustained interest in for two years. There is no point in researching something that you are not fascinated by or do not believe in.

GA: What about for someone wanting to pursue painting? Particularly if they feel they don’t have the ‘correct’ training to do so?

EG: In terms of advice to people wanting to pursue painting, I stress the importance of letting go of one’s inhibitions around being a ‘good’ painter or doing things the ‘correct’ way. Try different materials, brushes and surfaces until you find something you like, and just practice whenever you can.

GA: And finally, what are your plans now? Do you have any other exhibitions lined up or are you planning on taking it easy for the rest of the year?

EG: I am involved in a couple more group exhibitions in both Sydney and Melbourne in the remainder of the year, but apart from that I will be catching up on all the life admin I have been neglecting and going on holiday!

GA: A very well deserved holiday! Congratulations on the completion of your MFA and thank you so much for chatting with me. I can’t wait for the opening of ‘Gilding The Lily’

'Gilding with Lily' by Emily Galicek will be showing at Kudos Gallery from 4-21 September 2019 in space one.
Image Credits: Emily Galicek, Internet Painting I (2019), acrylic on canvas, 914 x 1016mm

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