DONNA GORDGE

Donna, how did you get involved in art?

From a really young age, I wanted to have a creative career, but I didn’t have much confidence in my ability. In high school, I had two really inspiring art teachers who saw something in what I was creating, and nurtured my love of art.

Growing up in country Victoria, we were pretty isolated from any kind of “arts scene” but we had frequent excursions to Melbourne, and always visited obscure galleries as well as the mainstream ones. We had our own life drawing classes, and weekend sleepovers at school where we stayed up most of the night dyeing and printing and painting in a creative wonderland!

Was the plan to always be an artist? If not, what was the plan? If it was, how did you know that that was your path?

Deep down, being an artist was my dream, but my parents were very pragmatic and believed I needed a qualification that I could “at least make a living from my artistic tendencies” so I became an art and textiles teacher. I turned down a gold and silver-smithing course to study teaching, and have regretted it often!

The need to be an artist has remained, though, and despite having a fulltime teaching job for most of my working life, I have always made time and space in my life for art.

At the end of this year, I am leaving teaching to study contemporary art, having come to the realisation that if I don’t, it will eat away at me forever!

Does your upbringing influence your art? If yes, in what way? Where do you get the inspiration for your art?

I grew up surrounded by lots of creative women – my mum always had sewing and knitting projects on the go, and my grannies would encourage me to get crafty with them when we spent time together. I was always known in our family as the ‘arty’ one, and was encouraged to pursue my love of art.

A lot of my art is inspired by memories, experiences, and artefacts from throughout my life. For example, birds feature in some of my paintings. A few are pets, others have symbolic significance, as they are a connection to my dad, who loved and kept birds throughout my childhood.

Further inspiration for my art comes from the ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’. Tiny houses sometimes appear in my paintings, and also often as sculptures filled with significant images or objects; I love exploring these concepts.

Just because you aren’t creating what you see in your head, doesn’t mean it’s terrible!

Were you encouraged or supported to be an artist? Who supported you and how?

My family have always supported me in my art, even more now that I am taking it beyond just a hobby. My husband is incredibly encouraging, even agreeing to my brother building a studio for me in our tiny backyard recently.

Equally strong in their support and inspiration are my fellow teachers and artists, Niccy and Cheryl. Three years ago, we formed Duck n Weave Artist Collective and exhibit twice a year, during the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the South Australian Living Artist (SALA) Festival. But best of all are our monthly get-togethers, which really help me to be accountable and keep on making.

Tell us about your challenges to pursuing your goal to be an artist and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenges to having a consistent art practise have been time and self-confidence. Being part of our collective has helped a lot with the way I see myself as an artist, and to quieten my inner critic. Working on your own all the time really restricts your understanding of what good art can be.

Just because you aren’t creating what you see in your head, doesn’t mean it’s terrible! At times, you need the perspective of others to appreciate your own strengths.

How would you describe your art? How do you hope others experience your art?

My work is multidisciplinary, eclectic and prolific! I have a constant need to respond creatively to the world and my life.

My recent work has included large acrylic and tiny watercolour paintings inspired by a trip earlier in the year to Morocco; small sculptures made from pipe-cleaners with the fluff burnt off, plaster, paper, and sticks; and a series of 30 collages about domestic relationships which I worked on for 12 months.

My titles often come first, (I have lists of them everywhere!) so it is important to me that people get to interact with my work in an unhurried way, a reflective way. Others often seem to have emotional connections to my work. Some relate to my work on a personal level as they interpret their own experience through mine. Silly as it might seem, this is one of the most unexpected things that came from sharing my art, but one of the most precious.

What is a typical day in your studio like, how do you start your day, do you have music on, or do you like quiet, tell us about your studio and work flow?

While I am still teaching, I try to spend a few hours every afternoon and most of the weekend in my studio. This often means getting up at 6:30am and taking my coffee and toast out there in my PJs. I do my best work in pyjamas!

I need music while I work, and have had Gordi on repeat for the last few months. First of all, I like to have a tidy up, as things can get a bit crazy when I have a collage and some painting going at the same time.

I find it easier at the start of the day as I remember where I put things!

In my studio, I have spaces for analogue and digital work, a painting area, and a comfy chair for guests. When I paint, I get lost in what I am doing for up to an hour at a time, but then I need to walk away from it and get a fresh perspective.

I find that taking progressive photos helps me see the work more objectively – I notice the good and not-so-good bits in the photo, but don’t necessarily see them in the actual painting. Collages and sculptures are different, though… I can sit working on them for hours without a break.

If you could have dinner with any artist in the world, who would it be and why?

The recently departed Mirka Mora opened my graduate textiles exhibition on completion of my teaching degree. She came to meet us before it, but I was 22 and painfully introverted, and she was this larger-than-life legend of an ARTIST. I had adored her work for years, but was much too intimidated to speak to her – one of the few regrets I have!

To share a meal with her would be incredible. Her work is so beautiful and emotive, and the stories she would be able to tell…

I find it easier at the start of the day as I remember where I put things!

In my studio, I have spaces for analogue and digital work, a painting area, and a comfy chair for guests. When I paint, I get lost in what I am doing for up to an hour at a time, but then I need to walk away from it and get a fresh perspective.

I find that taking progressive photos helps me see the work more objectively – I notice the good and not-so-good bits in the photo, but don’t necessarily see them in the actual painting. Collages and sculptures are different, though… I can sit working on them for hours without a break.

How did you become involved in RAW gallery?

My work was spotted on Instagram, and I was asked if I’d like to participate in the next Adelaide RAW event, Oasis, which is being held in November.