Season One – Bridie Gillman

Bridie Gillman

Season 1 – Episode 6

Instagram handle @bridiegillman

State Library of Queensland
Stable Art Space


Kiera Brew Kurec 0:00
I’m Kiera Brew Kurec

Nick Breedon 0:10
and I’m Nick Breedon,

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:13
and you’re listening to Pro Prac a podcast where we explore the professional practice of artists and hear their story.

Nick Breedon 0:21
Hi everyone. Thanks so much for listening to Pro Prac today. Today we come to you from Brisbane where we are out of the recording studio again and visiting the home of Bridie Gillman.

Kiera Brew Kurec 0:31
We’re joined by herself and some birds and dogs so to hear some background noise that is dot and a crow that’s fallen out of the tree. Bridie Gillman is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice spans painting, photography, sculpture and video. drawing from her childhood spent in Indonesia, ideas of placed our experience and memories of a place underpin her work. Bridie is an emerging artist based in Brisbane, who completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts with honours at Queensland College of Art in 2013. Since graduating, she’s conducted residences and exhibited in Indonesia and Malaysia as well as domestically throughout Australia. In addition to her practice Bridie, he is the co-director of STABLE, which is a contemporary art space in Brisbane. She is also the international community engagement officer of BEAUT, which is the Brisbane and Elsewhere Art Un Triennial, which will be happening in April 2019. And Bridie is also represented by Edwina Corlette gallery here in Brisbane. Thanks so much for having us here today

Bridie Gillman 1:39
Thanks for coming.

Kiera Brew Kurec 1:42
So we will kick off with a question that we asked all of our guests. How did you get to where you are today? And that can be as broad or as direct as you want it to be.

Bridie Gillman 1:55
Yes, as you said, I spent my early childhood in Indonesia, lived over there with my Mum. And then we came, became back when I was seven. So my first memories are from there and yeah, that continues to form my practice quite strongly. Just those early experiences. Yeah. And so I’ve always, like I said, moved to Brisbane, did school and all that. And I’ve always been creative. But I wouldn’t say like I always wanted to be an artist. At school did all the fashion, film, art subjects and stuff. But I couldn’t really decide that what area what specific area I wanted to go in. It was actually my Mum who suggested fine art. Because it’s a good broad background for any creative field. Yeah. So yeah, so I did a fine art degree and I was saying either one of the starving artists or anything.

Kiera Brew Kurec 3:00
did you go straight from high school?

Bridie Gillman 3:03
Ah no, I had a year of like, business and creative industries like a double degreed. And I hated it really hated it (Laughter). But I thought I’d try that path.

Nick Breedon 3:21
Do you find any part of that, that you actually use kind of now as if it was all just very brief and short lived?

Bridie Gillman 3:30
I mean, I guess like business and economics is like not totally foreign to me. I kind of grew up in a household that was more in that side. But yeah, I realized how unhappy I was in that type of area and that type of big uni as well. And then I started fine art at QCA, and it was like, I found my people. People who thought like me, and it was small and you just meet people by running into them in the stairway. And it was so lovely. And, you know, I wanted to move away from Brisbane and stuff before that. But now now here, I’m still in Brisbane because I think because of that community that I’ve built through university, it so amazing.

Kiera Brew Kurec 4:18
And you are such a huge part of the community to hear having your space as well that it seems like not only are you participating, you’re really facilitating as well within the community, which is really, I think, an amazing thing for people to be giving back as well.

Bridie Gillman 4:23
Yeah thank you. I don’t know if I am a huge part but like, yeah, it was definitely felt like I’ve shown and the community has given me so much and artist run spaces are a really big part of the art scene in Brisbane and yeah, I just wanted to contribute to that, I suppose we had the space, so it is underneath my house for those who I don’t know.

Kiera Brew Kurec 5:07
I love that about Brisbane! Something that we don’t have in Melbourne. And it’s just it’s so great.

Bridie Gillman 5:13
We just use what we have got kind of thing.

Nick Breedon 5:16
For those who don’t know, I think that’s a fairly common kind of thing in Brisbane. Is that right?

Bridie Gillman 5:21
Yeah, yeah artist run spaces in sheds at the back of homes. And I suppose I think the architecture of Brisbane really helps that. The Classic Queenslander style, you know, often share houses and stuff are lifted up, and there’s often a really big space underneath the house, which can be turned into often they are people studios or or, yeah, it can be turned into an art space. And we just don’t have that many spaces in Brisbane. But they’re an integral part. Especially just emerging and straight after uni and in beyond the way or when you want to show you something bit more experimental that you cant elsewhere it is great place.

Kiera Brew Kurec 6:09
So when you were at uni, was the kind of themes that you work with now of kind of place and belonging and memory. were they already kind of developing within your practice, then? And were you kind of already exploring those notions of where your practices situated, as well? Or was that something that came after you finished uni? In terms of traveling back to Indonesia and to Malaysia to create new bodies of work.

Bridie Gillman 6:44
Yeah, my it came through probably my third year. So I majored in painting. And my work was made objects, child objects and things that I collected when I travelled , so it was very mixed media base sculpture and video projected onto paintings and stuff like that.

Nick Breedon 7:04
So we know that you travel quite a lot. What do you do you take a lot of things with you when you travel and do residencies or do you kind of like work with what you find.

Bridie Gillman 7:16
In the past, my practice was a lot more found object based. So definitely is collecting objects in wherever I was. or finding house paints in Indonesia, and using those types of objects and stuff like that. Towards the end of this year, I’ve got a residency in Bali, actually, which I’m really excited about, but it will be the first residency since I’ve been painting a lot more. So I’m trying to figure out that type of thing like do I bring unstretched a roll of unstretched Canvas with me

Kiera Brew Kurec 7:56
Where abouts in Bali?

Bridie Gillman 7:58
Near Ubud

Kiera Brew Kurec 8:00
So jealous, And how long will you be going for?

Bridie Gillman 8:05
It’s a month and I’m excited about that.

Nick Breedon 8:10
Yeah, there’s quite a lot of challenges with traveling and you know, your materials and everything. Like we know someone who sent I think he said he’s oil paints, and they arrived, like he had to send them via boat because he couldn’t take him on the airline. And they arrived something like three months later, or six months later, after he’d already completed residency. Yeah, so just like didn’t, totally didn’t work out. So I hope that’s not your experience.

Kiera Brew Kurec 8:34
Has there been any challenges that you’ve really needed to overcome to continue your practice or anything that’s kind of presented as a spanner in the works that you’ve really had to work around?

Bridie Gillman 8:54
I mean, there is little things, but I think one of the biggest challenges, which has, and continues to be is mental. And just yeah, having the self-belief or confidence to keep doing it, even though no one’s asking you to do it. I know. I’m so lucky to be able to be pursuing something that I love, but doesn’t mean that there’s no challenges in that. Yeah, like especially at those times when you’ve gotten rejection after rejection, and you’re doing a bunch of work for no money and maybe you haven’t gotten income from your art for a while. It’s um, then you look at your peers who you went to school with and they have got a steady job and they’re buying a house and you are like shit what the fuck am I doing. (Laughter)

Nick Breedon 9:52
Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that, you know, taking care of your mental health as an artist I think is something that is becoming more talked about, I think, a really positive kind of outcome that’s happening. But yeah, it’s definitely something that’s needs to be talked about more, I think

Bridie Gillman 10:10
I fall down that hole every time I get a rejection. But especially if you spent two days writing a proposal, and it just keeps happening and you just think. But yeah, I think, hopefully, I’m getting stronger. And I think I need to if I am going to keep doing it.

Kiera Brew Kurec 10:32
Yeah. There is also the opposite of like, post show blues, and you come off such a high of producing work and working to a deadline and showing it and then just feeling that emptiness or directionlessness, after a show that can be really crushing as well. And people, I think, around you, especially people outside of the arts might think that like, Why on earth would you be feeling like that you’ve just had a successful show, or you seem really busy. And it’s, it’s really hard to balance that out after such a high production period as well. So it’s kind of really, I think, important to be checking in with yourself all the time. Both in the busy periods, and the desolate rejection letter periods of your practice,

Bridie Gillman 11:06
it’s really hard, like, I think you get used to, if you’ve had lots of things coming up, it’s really like a question that I always asked and get asked. Oh, what are you working on and what’s coming up, and It’s really easy when I’m like oh yeah I am working with this I’ve got this coming up, and it’s like gives you a sense of worth and value. And when you don’t have anything locked in, it’s hard, you feel like you’re failing or something. But I think those times are really important, because it’s when you have time to maybe be more experimental with your practice and stuff.

Nick Breedon 12:08
Yeah. So that dovetails nicely into our next question, which is, what does being a successful practicing artist mean to you?

Bridie Gillman 12:19
Yeah, I suppose having a reliable income from my practice and being able to spend all my time doing it. Yeah, that’s pretty important to me, even though it’s quite difficult. And also, yeah, it’s getting to a point where I can share all aspects of my work together. So my paintings alongside my photography, video, and sculpture, because it does all come from the same place. But I feel like at the moment, there’s still quite separate, like, I have an audience for my paintings, which are a bit more commercially viable, I suppose. And then one for the other things I do. So I’m really trying to work on bringing them together. Because that’s, that’s the type of practice I envision in the future where it all fits together.

Kiera Brew Kurec 13:19
What does a day or a week in the life of Bridie Gillman look like in terms of your practice? Are you someone that goes to the studio every day? Or do you use a cafe to work out of what’s your process?

Bridie Gillman 13:37
it’s really pretty varied It’s a mix of in the studio painting. It could be at home doing computer work, like writing an application or something.

Kiera Brew Kurec 13:56
Do you keep computer work separate from the studio.

Bridie Gillman 13:59
Yeah, I do. I try and do computer work at home in the mornings. You know, wake up, have coffee do emails or wherever you are meant to do . And then go to the studio. I’m a bit more of a later studio person, I will work until eight or something. Afternoon is a good studio time for me. So if that fits in well, yeah.

Kiera Brew Kurec 14:26
Is your studio located far from where you live?

Bridie Gillman 14:30
It’s about 15 minutes’ drive. But I was going to start riding this year I just reveal one of my new year’s resolutions. Yeah, but yeah, I don’t take my computer to the studio. Trying to separate that.

Nick Breedon 14:52
Yeah, yeah. Do you find Do you find computer like, admin work kind of encroaching on your studio time? Or are you quite good at keeping them separate? Like, do you set a time limit or like a time that you’re like, Okay, I’ve got to stop and go to the studio, or do you sort of naturally get through what you’ve got to get through?

Bridie Gillman 15:10
Yes. Whatever I have to do, it does encroach because I feel like getting back to the emails and things I feel like it’s more important which is a bit shitty.

Kiera Brew Kurec 15:28
Do you share your studio with other artists?

Bridie Gillman 15:31
There’s a couple of other artists out there in a separate building, but they’re not there very often, unfortunately. That’s something that I really miss from Uni, is being in a shared studio environment. Yeah, it’s like in this little pocket of bush. So it’s really isolated and quiet. And it’s been really great.

Kiera Brew Kurec 15:56
And how long have you been at that studio for?

Bridie Gillman 16:01
About a year

Nick Breedon 16:03
Yeah. Have you always had a separate studio if you were to home?

Bridie Gillman 16:08
I’ve worked at home a lot. Yeah. It’s only recently that I have I guess, been able to afford to branch out and realized how important it is to me.

Nick Breedon 16:19
do you find you’re happier having your studio kind of separate from your home?

Bridie Gillman 16:24
Yeah, I think it’s really important to separate work from home. Especially, it’s just there was a point last year where we had the gallery downstairs, I had my studio here, my partner, Ruben had his workshop downstairs, we’ve always got friends coming around, and just felt like everything was happening out just a small house and the animals! And now we’ve both got our workspaces at separate locations, and it’s just a lot better. I think mentally. You go and you work, rather than always feeling like you need to work.

Nick Breedon 17:05
So is there anything that you kind of do on the side that you would like to discuss just like, you know, jobs just for the additional income, anything like that?

Bridie Gillman 17:14
Yeah, so I do a bit of like, install work at the power house, and any other random jobs. A big one for me has been like, I take Santa photos, every year I’ve done it for the last 12 years. It’s surprisingly good income for the amount of time and stuff. So that’s been a really big help.

Kiera Brew Kurec 17:41
Before we knew that you took Santa photos I think we were going for a walk one day, and then you’re like, Oh, it’s blah, blah, blah, there is Santa, I just need to go over and say hi. and we were like Who is Bridie talking about? (Laughter) and She was like that is my old Santa.

Bridie Gillman 17:57
JOHN He’s amazing. Or was amazing (Laughing).

Kiera Brew Kurec 18:00
And that’s all we discovered that you take Santa photos and I was amazed.

Bridie Gillman 18:05
Yeah, so it is a big part of my life every Christmas.

Nick Breedon 18:09
Yeah, I feel like I’m always I’m always find artists always have the most interesting kind of side hustles that are quite, you know, like, make her really great stories. So that’s definitely up there.

Bridie Gillman 18:24
Yeah. So is that stuff what else I could be doing stuff STABLE, which is the art space on my house. So installing a show there meeting artists here, editing documentation, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, but it feels like the all the time gets filled up very quickly. I used to work quite unstructured kind of, you know, have a day off in the middle of the week work over the weekend whenever, But as I said before, I felt like it just led to always feeling like you had to work. I should be working. And so I am trying to enforce a weekend or at least a Sunday. Now Sunday is a break because I think otherwise it’s pretty unsustainable.

Nick Breedon 19:22
You have to be so like militant about defending that day off you have as well. It is so easy to let it kind of oh I will just do fewer emails or whatever.

Kiera Brew Kurec 19:37
I think so many people as well and you’re working in jobs that might even you know, you might work on your practice all week, but then have to work a job on the weekend. And so then you feel like he should take a day off during the week. But because it’s a weekday, it still doesn’t allow for you to maybe catch up with friends or family and you’re kind of always just like, scraping to get a little bit of time for yourself for a data actually recharge. So I think that’s such an important thing to learn how to do is to block out a weekend date for you to take and actually be a person in the world.

Nick Breedon 20:18
what has been one of the biggest resources that have that has assisted your practice?

Bridie Gillman 20:24
I think people, like having some key people around you is the most important thing for me. I’ve got a couple of friends who are artists. And I really trust to get feedback. And yeah, just recently desperate for some feedback on some work and got some to come to the studio because you just, I missed that from uni, having peers and teachers, to give critiques and stuff. It’s hard to actually get critical feedback I think. You have a show and it’s just, this is great and this is great which is a good thing It’s good to hear. But I actually, it doesn’t actually help you move forward. Yeah. So I think just having your close friends that you can trust for good critical feedback. Like I said, key mentors, which also come through uni. You know older established artists that you can ask for advice on things. Another resource I’ve recently discovered, rediscovered the State Library here. It’s amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t been there for so long. It’s like opened up my world.

Nick Breedon 21:45
Books. It’s like you forget they exist.

Bridie Gillman 21:47
Their online database and all videos, you can access documentaries online, like it’s incredible.

Nick Breedon 21:54
I actually frequently find when I’m looking up a book or like, particularly like something quite obscure, like a, you know, a VHS tape for you know, like, from something that’s really out of the way it’ll always be in Queensland at like University Library here or like in the state library , and I am always like why so far so unfair.

Bridie Gillman 22:18
Yeah, but like at uni you have access to all those journal articles and stuff. And I’ve tried doing research since, I don’t know the internet (Laughter) Google Books and stuff drives me nuts.

Kiera Brew Kurec 22:31
Do you any advice that you wish that you had received when you were starting out?

Bridie Gillman 22:38
I feel like I’m such a baby. So I’m not sure if I’m really in a position to be giving advice. I have learned some things. You know, the importance of documentation. I just didn’t care about that stuff when I was younger. Now it’s like all about the documentation. And having presenting on a good website and everything. Yeah, I guess they didn’t at uni, they didn’t really tell you that essentially, you’re running your own business. You know, you’ve got to be the photographer, the finance person, the social media person the writer the maker the speaker like and it’s really difficult like somewhere within it all you have to find time to actually make the work that he’s trying to spruik.

Nick Breedon 23:42
so true

Bridie Gillman 23:46
And I suppose just the whole like getting used to rejections, growing a thick skin. I recently heard a well-established artist talking about rejections and I was like, Oh, you get them too ohh great! (Laugher) It made me feel a lot better.

Nick Breedon 24:08
it’s really interesting the things that people yeah, I think about or you know, maybe that they missed it and wish they had have been kind of aware of I think it’s quite telling a think.

Bridie Gillman 24:20
Yeah well I kind of, I’m constantly saying shit they didn’t teach me that in uni. Especially more since I’ve been since I’ve been dealing with commercial galleries and stuff. It’s a big unknown there. And but I also think if there was like a subject at Uni that was talking more commercially, I’m not sure if I would have listened because back then I thought, well, I’m not going to sell commercially like screw that.

Nick Breedon 24:51
Or just business. Like so many other industries like architecture and whatever like they There is there is a sort of natural mentorship program that happens when you start working. You see those process of negotiations, you know, happening. So you learn as you go along. But like I think artists are quite frequently just thrown in the deep end.

Bridie Gillman 25:14
Yeah, exactly.

Nick Breedon 25:15
They’ve got no one to, you know, people can be really lucky and you managed to get those kind of contacts and mentors that they can ask questions, but I think quite often, it is it is sort of part of the kind of arts education in Australia that is kind of sorely lacking. Just how to how to run how to run, you know, the business of being an artist.

Bridie Gillman 25:40
Yeah. And I’ve made so many mistakes. And I found myself, thinking Oh, shit, sorry, like, I didn’t mean to, I was just naive. And I didn’t know. And then sadly, I think some people aren’t mindful of that. But you know, there’s no handbook.

Kiera Brew Kurec 26:01
And really practical things as well, like, how did you your tax? That is something and maybe it’s not for the university, but maybe it’s for different institutions to provide public workshops for people to learn how to, yeah, how to manage yourself as a small business, how to do your taxation, in terms of kind of the logistics of how to, you know, document how many kilometres you travel to, those kind or really simple..

Nick Breedon 26:30
Negotiating contracts.

Kiera Brew Kurec 26:32
like, when you’re working for an organization or doing a project for someone, how do you document that so that you can get over that information so that you actually get, like, compensated for your time and your labour? there’s so many little things that it’s, we need to make a package.

Nick Breedon 26:54
We’re gonna write that book dammit. (Laughter)

Bridie Gillman 26:57
You should, yeah as I said, I hadn’t a class called professional practices or Pro Prac. And it touched on things, and it was helpful. But yeah, I need there needs to be more, I think, but then as I said, maybe you wouldn’t have listened. I’m not sure if I would have listened. One of those things that you only learned because you fuck up

Nick Breedon 27:25
have to go and do an MBA directly after doing undergrad degree.

Kiera Brew Kurec 27:35
Is there anything that is going to be kind of coming up on the horizon for you, project wise, our exhibition wise? Obviously, it can be doing very residency.

Bridie Gillman 27:52
well as the time this is probably a probably would have already happened. But at the moment, I’m working towards a solo show of paintings up here in Brisbane. And then also, yeah, I’ve got a group exhibition coming up at Casula Powerhouse with five other artists who we’ve found a collective called Woven. And we, yeah, we all have a connection to Indonesia. And we’ve shown this is our second exhibition now. And yeah, it’s been really wonderful working with them. They’re all Sydney based. But yeah, wonderful to work alongside and just have conversations with inspiring women with things that we can talk about, like in common.

Kiera Brew Kurec 28:47
thanks so much, Bridie. That was really fantastic. And I think there’s a lot in there for people to go through and unpack about from you’re checking in with your mental state how to structure your day in different ways to be most effective. So I hope everyone’s enjoyed listening to today. Thank you so much for being with us.

Bridie Gillman 29:08
Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m really humbled.

Kiera Brew Kurec 29:16
So for those listening, where is the best place for them to view your work if they’re not able to go and see a show?

Bridie Gillman 29:26
Probably at my website, which is just nice and easy.

Kiera Brew Kurec 29:32
Okay, and are you on Instagram as well?

Bridie Gillman 29:34
Yep also Bridie Gillman

Kiera Brew Kurec 29:36

Nick Breedon 29:38
Thank you.

Awesome. Thanks very much, guys.

We acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera people as traditional owners of the land on which this podcast was recorded. We pay our respects to elder’s past, present and emerging

Kiera Brew Kurec 29:59
thanks Listening to Pro Prac you can listen to other episodes and subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can stay up to date with what we’re up to on Instagram @propracpodcast, or send us an email at