Walking Amongst Creatures with Minna Leunig May 12 2019

Minna Leunig is an artist who lives and works in Melbourne. She primarily depicts animals and plants full of rhythm and life. Her creatures have a playful quality about them, at times forming patterns and landscapes. 

Minna exhibited as part of our Small Wall Project series in 2018. Her solo show Alter Egos featured a series of ink paintings of her signature plants and animals.

We recently caught up with Minna to talk about her current exhibition at Outré Gallery Fitzroy, moving to full time art-making, and how much has changed since we last spoke to her.

Interview by Airiel Flevell. Photography by Peter Kelk.

It’s been just over a year since your first exhibition with us at Outré. What are some big things that have happened over the last year in your personal and artistic life?

The past year has been busy. I had my first solo show at Outré about this time last year, went on residency at Q Bank Gallery in Tasmania, had my Q Bank solo show at Juddy Roller soon after getting back, worked on a number of mural projects (like the Preston market) and collaborated with Melbourne-based clothing label Kuwaii to create a fabric print for Spring/Summer of 2019. Personally, I’ve been focusing on my physical and mental health a lot more, and making it a priority even when I’m busy.

You’ve recently dropped your job to dedicate all your time to painting. What made you take the leap and tell us how it’s going as a full time artist?

I quit my job about a year ago because I was finding it too hard to juggle what had essentially become two jobs – my day job in conservation and my art. I definitely wasn’t completely ready to take the leap, but I also figured I probably wouldn’t ever be completely ready. So I may as well just have a go and see what I could make of it. It’s definitely not easy – it’s quite stressful at times and I find myself working long hours and through most weekends - but I do feel like it’s starting to pay off. It’s all heading in the right direction and my gut instinct is that it’s the right thing.

With so many creative avenues popping up, what are some of your favourite kinds of projects to work on?

I like keeping things varied. I split my time between large scale murals, painting for exhibitions, working on select commission pieces and the occasional collaboration (like Kuwaii). I find that keeping things varied helps me to appreciate each job more fully. It’s always changing and I enjoy that.

You mentioned last time that you need a lot of quiet and space to be productive. How are you finding the balance between your social and artistic life?

I’m very dedicated to my art and have a tendency to go into lockdown mode when I’m working on a project. It can be a little isolating, so I have to keep reminding myself to prioritise people and fun. I have a number of close friends who I try to see as often as I can, although I still find that if I’m working on something like an exhibition I can end up going weeks barely seeing anyone at all. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Then summer rolls around and I’ll be with people every day. The natural ebb and flow.

When you’re not working and painting, what do you like to do in your free time?

I like getting out of the city as much as possible – back to my childhood home in the Strathbogie Ranges or camping with friends. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the surf coast (Anglesea) recently too and I’m getting tempted to move down that way. I like hiking and surfing and beaching and just relaxing with friends - drinking wine and chit-chatting and cooking up big feasts.

You currently have an exhibition with us at our Fitzroy gallery. Tell us a little bit about your preparation and process for your upcoming exhibition Creatures We Walk With?

I don’t really have a process other than paint, paint, paint – and just see what emerges. There’s generally always a period of pretty intense panic before a show where I find that despite my best efforts nothing seems to work – and it’s usually only when I relax, and let my hand do whatever it wants without trying to control it, that I make new discoveries.

This year is far from over. What does the rest of 2019 have in store for you?

I’m about to start a residency at Wesley College. I’ll be working with a group of year 8s and 9s on a mural project which will be totally new for me. I’ve never done any sort of teaching and I have to say I’m a little bit daunted. I’ve also got a big mural lined up for later this month in Bendigo. And another solo show opening at Backwoods Gallery in Collingwood in September. All of that will keep me fairly busy for the next couple of months – who knows about the rest of the year! Play it by ear, follow my nose.

Thanks so much for your time, Minna! So good to speak to you again. 

Creatures We Walk With by Minna Leunig
Outré Gallery, 319 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Exhibition runs until 17 May 2019 
View artwork