Collage as an art form is often relegated to primary school art projects, invoking images of thin A4 pieces of paper buckling under too much glue.
For artist Minna Gilligan, it offers portals into new realms and narratives between characters that might otherwise not have seen the light of day.
Growing up, with the internet emerging and fascinated with the ability to access images at the touch of a button, Minna printed things out to stick onto school books.
“From there it turned into a penchant for collecting vintage imagery from op shops – old books and magazines that became materials I liked to utilise in my work,” she says.
“Collage allows us to give new life to imagery that may end up otherwise being shut up in a book for many years.
“It’s also the idea of accessing imagery from past decades. It gives me the ability to patchwork and time travel through time periods I didn’t necessarily experience myself and represent them in my own abstract, colourful realms.”
With a decade of experience practising in Melbourne and showing nationally and internationally, and extensive teaching experience under her belt, the Victorian College of the Arts graduate is now headed to the Canberra National Portrait Gallery to run workshops titled Minna Gilligan: Collage and Colour.
Working primarily in painting, collage and drawing as well as combinations of those mediums, Minna’s collages are recognisable by her largely abstract colour-based aesthetic, with collaged imagery adding elements of realism.
Her works are described as “eerie playgrounds of colour, usually inhabited by lone protagonists trapped in states of longing, sadness or exhalation”.
“I like bringing things from the past into those more contemporary realms. And when you pair collage with the artist’s hand, it increases the juxtaposition between old and new and the idea I’m bringing those images into a different world,” she says.
Minna says like portraiture, collage is often seen in a fairly limited light. But even though collage artists work with existing materials, collage is as susceptible to changes in society and the evolution of an artist as any other genre.
“I think many of us have memories from school of creating compositions from a pile of New Idea magazines,” she says.
“What I like about pursuing collage professionally is how it opened up my source materials.
“I hope in my workshops with the National Portrait Gallery, participants see how invigorating it is to make art with scissors, pencils and paper.”
At the Minna Gilligan: Collage and Colour workshops, participants are invited to hear about Minna’s practice before creating their own narrative portrait focusing on composition, collage, mood and identity.
Minna says zero experience is required to take part, and the hope is participants will discover the storytelling powers of this sometimes misunderstood medium.
“I like to think upon leaving, they’ll have a new-found interest in creating collage and experience what a relaxing and meditative way it is to create art,” she says.
“And sometimes, it’s a low-pressure way of making art because you’re not bogged down by preconceived notions of how something should look. Instead, you can concentrate on composition, storytelling and how something makes you feel without the pressure to create a masterpiece.”
Minna Gilligan: Collage and Colour runs on Saturday, 25 February, with one in-person session at the National Portrait Gallery from 10:30 am to 12 pm and one virtual session from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
Access to the in-person session costs $20 for adults, $15 for NPG Circle of Friends members and $10 for people under 18 years – book here.
The online session via Zoom is free – book here.