Meeting the Alter Egos of Minna Leunig February 27 2018

Minna Leunig is a Melbourne-based artist who tends to use black and white pigments to create imagery inspired by the natural world. Her work often features darkly playful creatures, and has a lyrical quality. Minna's love for animals and the botanical are apparent in her artwork, which displays a reverence for the strength of nature.

Minna's show, Alter Egos, focuses on her favourite subject matter – plants and animals. She also recently started exploring colour in her work, and will be displaying pieces created with a more experimental approach.

We spoke with Minna about her adventures during childhood, her visual identity evolution, and her perfect creative space.

Could you tell us about growing up in a richly creative family?

My brother and I were always encouraged to follow our creative interests, whatever they may be – so we spent a lot of time drawing, making comics about our dogs and wandering around the garden coming up with extraordinarily involved stories about the imaginary creatures that lived there. My brother went through a phase of making ‘violins’ out of scrap pieces of wood, wool and nails, and I was completely obsessed with horses for a long time, so created a magazine called Horse Lovers. I had about 12 subscribers and took it all pretty seriously. I'd also spend a lot of time out in the paddock, constructing horse jump courses out of rocks and branches and whatever else I could find. I’d spend countless hours on that kind of thing. I think we were just given a lot of freedom as kids to explore whatever we were interested in, there wasn’t much adult interference.

Are there any artists in particular that inspire you? Who are some of your favourite fine artists and musicians?

I’m constantly inspired by my friends and people around me in my every day life – whether they be painters or musicians or gardeners or whatever else. I think I'm just inspired by people with passion and sensitivity, people who work hard but maintain a light touch. At the moment I’m really liking artwork by Zoe Irving, Michael Mitsas, Rona Green, Mirka Mora and my brothers Gus and Felix Leunig. I’ve been listening to a lot of RVG, Terry, Kurt Vile (always), The Drones, Total Control and Angel Olsen.

You have a very strong visual identity and style. Has it been a laborious journey or is it something that came quite naturally?

It’s come naturally over time. I’ve been drawing ever since I was very small, and I think if you do anything for long enough you just naturally develop your own distinctive way of doing things. I think that’s kind of inevitable, regardless of what it is you’re doing. That isn't to say that I don't labour over my work at times – I definitely have creative blocks where I just detest everything that I make! But that's just part of the process. 

Could you tell us a bit about your creative space? What environment or process suits you best?

I need a lot of peace and quiet and solitude to get into a headspace where I feel like I can or even want to make pictures. I generally find I work best at the kitchen table or at the desk in my room – just comfortable home spaces where I can listen to music and podcasts and feel like I'm in my own little world. Once I'm in the zone, I don't want to break it – and find that something as simple as a coffee date can completely interrupt my flow. I need to retreat if I want to get anything done.

Your artwork brings both animals and the natural world into a surreal yet darker light. Would you tell us the philosophies behind these creatures and their mystifying lands?

I grew up on a big property in North-East Victoria, and animals both native and introduced played a big part in my life during those childhood and teenage years. My dogs and horses were some of my best friends, and I spent countless hours exploring the dry sclerophyll bushland that backed onto our paddocks, familiarising myself with the unique plant and animal species of the area. I guess I just really love, admire and am fascinated by animals. They are so raw and honest, and I enjoy illustrating them as strong and distinctive personalities in a world that so often commodifies, devalues or destroys them. It’s true that I tend to depict these creatures in a somewhat darker or deranged light, perhaps because that’s how I feel sometimes… when I draw these creatures, I'm also drawing a part of myself.

You have an upcoming show at Outré on 2 March 2018. Have you been painting specifically to cater to this show? Is there a unifying theme or concept in the works we’re about to see?

All the works in the upcoming exhibition have been painted specifically for Outre. I suppose what unifies these works is the subject matter – plants and animals (of course). But creating work for this show has also been a bit of a creative exploration – I’ve only recently started using colour, so I suppose a lot of the works I’ll be exhibiting are experiments in a way.

Kicking off with your first exhibition is a great start to the year! What are some unexplored roads that you would like to go down in the future?

I’d really like to take a month off to do a residency somewhere. Like I mentioned earlier, I need a lot of peace and quiet and solitude to get into the creative zone, so it'd be great to break away from my everyday routine, forget about work and everyday responsibilities and just get completely absorbed in painting for an entire month. Other than that... I’d like to paint some more murals. I like working on a larger scale, I like the physicality of it. 

Thank you for your time, Minna. 


Alter Egos by Minna Leunig
Friday, 2 March 2018
Outré Gallery 
Drinks provided by Feral Brewing
Facebook Event