If one were to piece together a biography of you based on the many interviews you have done, they would realize that your multiracial background and formative years in Australia grant you a unique frame of the world. With this being said, how do you think your ethnicities enter into your artistic style?
While growing up in the Philippines, the first artworks I was exposed to were either in churches or the drawings made by my cousins, which tended to resemble murals the likes of those made famous by Diego Rivera. I did not begin to draw until I emigrated to Australia and by that time, had already been exposed to the kind of art that my father favoured, namely neoclassical and 19th century realism as well as the Serbia Orthodox iconography painted by his brother, my uncle. It wasn’t until I had been painting for a few years that I realised how deeply ingrained this mishmash of imagery really shaped my aesthetic sense and becoming more attuned to this has really enabled me to really clarify my vision and the kind of visual language I like to tell my stories in.
Having won many prizes and completed acclaimed solo and group exhibitions, what do you find missing in the art world, and seek to add to it that it lacks?
I think the art world is still reeling from the 20th century and all of its efforts to unmake the traditions built up before that time. What we are seeking these days is often a balance in the innovations and ‘freedom’ that the 20th century offers artists and a firm understanding of tradition and how invaluable this is in the quality of work that can be produced. I think, to some degree, art that is made today tends to lack nuance and to be very overt in terms of political message whereas I feel that the art that most inspires me is where you have to dig for the message, and as such, is more timeless.
In interviews you have mentioned your love of film and literature, speaking of horror specifically. Your works have a dark side and tread the same paths of Bacon and Schiele in how they masterfully twisted the ordinary into something emotionally questionable. Can you explain what it is about the dark side of beauty that serves as a motivating force?
I suppose the answer to this goes back to my childhood once again where I have come to understand where the most fundamental aspects of my identity and values come from. Being attracted to dark things is a way of dealing with difficult or traumatic experiences and in confronting this darkness in some way I am able to understand it and if not heal, at least make use of it. Even when I try to escape it, I seem to be inexorably drawn to the kinds of imagery that tangentially relate to my own personal experiences. Since meeting my husband, his personal experiences have become enmeshed with my own way of perceiving the world and as such, his stories have become entangled with my own and appear regularly in the imagery of my work. Not to mention, he is also a horror aficionado and has introduced me to the world of Gialli films, which combine many of my most loved aesthetic elements.
Our world faced many concerns, from unwanted environmental changes to the rise of algocratic rule (control through algorithms), how does your work speak to contemporary issues, or, do they exist in an indifferent realm where the changing state of contemporary life holds no importance?
The idea of art speaking directly to contemporary issues is something that I’ve grappled with since attending art school, where this was such a strong focus of our education. What I’ve discovered is that the best works, at least for me, come from a more indirect approach in which I focus on my personal experience and through that, inevitably my engagement with contemporary issues comes through in a far more organic and genuine way. I am not an activist although I am passionate about and deeply affected by the kinds of unprecedented changes that are happening to our world and this compels me to keep making my work through my own eyes in the only way I know-how.
People often ask questions about inspiration. Can you give us a small list of must experience films, music, literature, or museum exhibitions that have given you pleasure or challenged you in important ways?
I’ll begin with a very recent experience at the Art Gallery of NSW’s Japan Supernatural exhibition which showcased a wide range of traditional and contemporary Japanese artists. Never had I seen such a unique and confronting blend of macabre, erotic and transcendent imagery. In terms of films, my favourite film of all time always changes but one that seems to be a perennial constant is the Triplets of Belleville, which is a masterpiece of skill and storytelling. Additionally, Jan Swankmajer’s Alice, the dystopian and disturbing Beyond the Black Rainbow as well as Noroi by Kōji Shiraishi. As for books, my immediate favourite is The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald (this also includes everything written by Sebald), the collected works of Paul Celan, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, which in my opinion, is a completely underrated masterwork – just because it’s been designated for children doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones who should read it. Music: Messiaen. When I am in need of musical inspiration, my go-to is Olivier Messian’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus. Also, anything by Radiohead and Shostakovitch’s String Quartet number 8.
If art as a visual language exists to express concepts we can understand as if vocal discourse, what do you find yourself often saying to your viewers in your work that they really need to understand?
I think my ‘message,’ if I have one is similar to what the Abstract Expressionists were trying to say, which is closely related to the concept of play and of the release of the unconscious and placing trust in the process.
Do you think you will ever enter into new mediums, such as video art, 3d, AR, or virtual reality? How do you feel about these forms and their place in our aesthetic economy as new media generally?
I definitely dream about branching out into a variety of different mediums. While at university, my best work was in sculpture and conceptual mixed-media installations, so perhaps one day I will be able to return to these. I am very optimistic about art’s capacity to regenerate itself, especially in a period in which we are regularly reminded that ‘everything has been done.’
Please leave us with some words that you would like to be remembered by.
When in doubt, what would my 5-year-old self do?
All images with courtesy of Loribelle Spirovski