Gemma O’Brien is a designer, illustrator and artist based in Sydney, Australia.
You may have heard of her, and you’ve almost definitely seen her work; she does a lot murals and stuff. Very cool. Gemma has a solo show opening tonight, so I thought it’d be nice to do an interview with her and find out what the new work is all about. Also, she told me she’d mess with my toothbrush if I didn’t.
Gemma is my girlfriend.
Hello, partner-in-life, I understand you have a new solo exhibition? Wow. What’s that all about?
Hi Jason! I’m having a solo show at China Heights Gallery in Sydney, opening tonight (February the 15th) at 6pm.
What’s in the show, sculptures of fish you made with wire, mud and feathers?
Pretty much, no feathers though.
Come on, nerd, talk about your art.
It’s actually a collection of seven pieces. No mural this time, which is a little different for me. The works are paintings on birch panels. I experimented with a new technique using silkscreen printing for the base layers then hand painting and layering details on top.
You think you’re pretty cool, don’t you.
How long have you been working on these pieces, he asked even though he already knew the answer?
I’ve been thinking about them for a year and working on them pretty solidly for six months. And neglecting my boyfriend.
He’s fine. I’ve been giving him hand-jobs.
What’s the show called? And also, how weird is this conversation where I’m pretending to not know about you and your work?
I know, right? The name of the show is Rest Less Soul.
You’re talking weird.
You’re in interview mode with me.
Sorry baby, I can’t help it.
You’ve integrated text into the paintings, phrases; can you give some examples and also explain what they mean, why you chose them?
I usually start with the phrases. I have a collection of post-it notes and sketch books filled with options. Some of the ones in my show include ‘Turn On Your Mind’, ‘Modern Woman Seeks Purity’, ‘Rest Less Soul’ and ‘Fate/Will’. I chose them based on how they work visually and how the meaning resonates with me. ‘Rest Less Soul’ describes my state this year. A feeling of seeking something more but not knowing what that might be. ‘Fate/Will’ is inspired by that Echo and the Bunnymen song (‘Killing Moon’), but I also like thinking about the idea of free will in general. Do I sound like a wanker?
No, you sound cool and smart. Which is your favourite piece?
My favourite is ‘Turn On Your Mind’ because it could be about switching on or intentionally trying to break away from particular thought patterns. Generally, I choose phrases that resonate with me in a particular moment in time.
Interesting. Hey, remember that time you thought Led Zeppelin was a person?
Hahaha! Yes, it’s true, everyone.
Everyone? You can’t address the readership like that, you can’t break the 4th wall. Who are you, Bob Hope?
Remember that time you didn’t know who Childish Gambino was?
Please. I always knew who Chilly Gamble-ding-dong was.
Who’s Bob Hope? Kidding.
Okay, last question: where exactly is this show gonna be? Full details.
The show opens tonight (Friday the 15th of February) at 6pm at China Heights Gallery. Then continues 12-5pm Saturday and Sunday, then12-5pm Thursday – Saturday. Tell your friends! Catalogue of works available through China Heights.