Northern Beaches artist Madi Luschwitz makes art that is as colourful as it is expressive, combining textiles, drawing, painting, film and collage in pieces that pop. A National Art School alumni, Madi uses her art to explore everything from domesticity to the natural world, and is currently running a series of creative workshops out of her Avalon studio. I sat down with Madi to have a chat about risk, art school inhibitions, and Patti Smith.
So give me a run down! When did you first start making art?
Well I studied at NAS, the National Art School. My mum is an artist, so I grew up kind of always creating. Like all through primary school, all through high school, whether or not I was going to make a job out of it, it was always that one thing I stuck with. Y’know when you’re younger and you go to galleries and you go ‘one day my work could be up there!’? That was me. It isn’t like when I went to study that’s when I started creating, which I think is kinda cool.
What was studying at NAS like, and how do you think it influenced your work?
I went to NAS when I was first year out of high school, and I think it helped my art practice a LOT. Just being that age and going from the beaches, which are so sheltered, to being exposed to everything that’s going on in the city, I think it gave me permission to let my freak flag fly. I almost think being in the city influenced my art more than NAS itself. But also when I went to NAS I couldn’t even draw the human form properly. I always loved colour, I loved really gestural sort of scribbling around, but when it came to technical things I would get frustrated and pull back. So NAS definitely helped with technical. The art theory there was also out of this world. Being exposed to artists and learning about the ones that maybe I’d see a piece before, or I’d never heard of them before, I now draw upon them all the time when I’m creating. I think I’ve got a really strong respect for art history, whenever I go to a gallery I get really charged up.
What else gets you charged up to create?
Well Patti Smith is my main girl. Where do I start with Patti… I found her when I was in my first year of art school. I was at a point where I was so inspired by lots of male people, I think because in high school I was never exposed to many female creatives. But her music… I saw her for the first time in Chicago, and I’m not kidding, when she came on I just started crying. It was the most crazy experience. You know when someone inspires you so much it can trigger a reaction like that? I didn’t expect that. I really get inspired by her because she’s that really cool balance between masculine and feminine. I definitely love seeing women step into that masculine a lot, it’s so gritty and raw. Not striving for perfection, but instead being ugly and embracing that ugly as beautiful. I love it.
That comes through a lot in your art, because it’s so high energy and almost messy. How did you develop that style?
When I was at NAS I was doing these monoprints where I was thinking of the composition, getting it just right. The feeling at art school is that you want to do it RIGHT, and you want to do it THIS WAY. But then when I got out I just ripped up all my art works and started putting them back together in collage. In a way I actually found my style when I finished art school. It was always there, but I gave myself permission to let loose with it. So I think that colour and that messiness came through me figuring out that technique. Cause I’ll do a drawing and I won’t really be happy with it, but when I start ripping up little bits, there could be a scrap of paper with a touch of fluoro and a couple of dots and it could be my favourite bit of paper.
I love that you continually remake your work!
Yeah, me too! It makes me feel so comfortable to take risks with it because you can always rip something up, cover that bit. rip that up, cover that bit. Or paint over that, and then stick a big bit of paper on it. There’s so many layers of different drawings underneath.
Where do you think risk comes into you work?
When I was in art school I was so hard on myself, because you study all these great artists and you’re so… ‘oh they’re amazing I could never create anything that would be as good as them’. Then obviously you’re a small fish in a big pool of AMAZING artists. I loved being there, and I love being amongst it, but I think my art was really held back by those energies and being so hard on myself. So I guess rick came into it when I left art school and just started ripping up my artworks and putting them back together and I didn’t really give a shit because no one was going to mark it, or maybe I wouldn’t even show it to anyone. The whole time I was making them I kind of knew in my gut that this was right.
On top of collage and illustration you do a lot of textile work. When did you learn to embroider?
I’ve always loved anything with embroidery! I used to work in Arcade Vintage so things would come in there and I would be like *gasp* ‘it’s so beautiful, so cool, embroidery’. I’ve always been good with my hands by looking at something and then making it. So I looked at the clothes and thought ‘oh so they’ve gone in there, and then they’ve done those kind of stitches, and then they’ve knotted it there’. And I could stitch at work, so I started embroidering there, and doing friends’ clothes and stuff. I love layering over it and making it feel sort of like an abstract painting.
You also run an embroidery workshop, String Painting! What does that involve?
So I run String Painting and another kinda more general workshop called Creativity Flow. String Painting takes 5 hours because embroidery takes so long! I lay out all the cotton, get everyone the hoops, the linen, the needles, and then they might draw something out. I guess I try to explain to people it’s not a strict form and when you start loosening up you can find your own style. It’s so fun, basically whenever I’ve run those workshops I just need to trigger people to get started and get over that initial nervousness, then they’re like ‘go away, don’t talk to me’. I just run around grabbing tea.
So what’s next for you?
This year’s a big one because this is the first year I’ve really cut back on work to give myself more time for art. I’ve actually been getting into writing blogs of everything that’s inspiring me. I did one on Patti Smith. I’m going to Europe in a couple of months, but I want to do a solo show at the end of the year. I’m working on a portrait to try and enter into the Archibald. It’s of my aunty, who’s a really great actress. I thought about it because you go ‘but only famous people get in’, but it’s actually like… what’s the harm in just making an artwork anyway.