Lisa Madigan is a creative visionary who seamlessly works across various disciplines. In addition to her fine arts practice, Lisa blends her styling & floristry skills for events, environments and photo shoots, and is also a writer and photographer. Her irrepressible creative spirit and vision are apparent in everything she does.
Lisa had her first solo exhibition at just nineteen years old and tonight Flora Nox, her latest collection opens at The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney. Lisa describes Flora Nox as a ‘multidisciplinary showcase and experiential endeavour’. It will encompass the release of a new photographic series, an environmental installation, and her beautiful oil paintings.
So it seems like perfect timing to visit Lisa in her studio and talk about her creative practices.
Where do you live?
We live in an old white house on Sydney’s northern beaches, overlooking Pittwater and surrounded by a bounty of green. We’re nestled into the landscape with loads of natural light. The house itself has so much inherent charm, rough around the edges with a little polish & plenty of salt spray. Big old frangipanis and big views.
I live with my husband Rob and our two dalmatians Oberon & Mia. We moved back up to Sydney over a year and a half ago after launching The Cottage Kangaroo Valley and leaving our stint of life in the country. I grew up on the beaches, so it has such a deep connection, being so close to the water and surrounded by so much natural beauty is daily inspiration. I do love to mix it up though, definitely in need of my big cities of the world in equal measure. I believe everything is about balance and finding what makes you tick, what brings you to life, what resonates, I love a good spectrum.
Where do you create?
I paint in my studio. I write wherever I am. I create environments and style events in varying locations, each space unique and each endeavour a new story to unfold. It’s all one great adventure.
When do you create? Is it a full time job?
Always and absolutely, it’s who I am. As a creative it’s not something you can turn off nor would I ever want to. It’s been a momentous journey to get to where I am now. What I do, what I create, my work is completely interwoven with who I am and how I live, so in that respect, it’s not a job, but a way of life. For my work to connect and unfold with others across incredible platforms, I am eternally grateful.
What path led you to this creative place?
I knew from an incredibly early age that this was where I was heading, the vision has always been crystal and knowing in my heart of hearts who I am. To see it unfold in various forms, to see my work reach and touch people & to have that audience grow is pure and wonderful. It’s a little like the image of the squiggly line, mine’s like a flurry of a sketch and channels and paths and pieces, things to pay the bills, things of passion, all things that connect back up to my work and my purpose even though they may have been in different fields at times, actually, it’s more like an arterial system, always leading back to the heart and the truth of my work and my creative output.
Everything in life of course informs who we are and I’m a firm believer in enabling your own life and your own vision. We’re only ever here and now, so we may as well truly make the most of each and every experience. I believe in being active and creative and inventive rather than being knocked around by circumstances or dragged down by them, even though we all have our low points. Moments have taught me patience and persistence, grace and gratitude, everything happens when it is meant to and I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by people who love and care for me throughout my life.
How would you describe yourself in six words?
Sensitive and strong. Real and contemplative. Discerning and intuitive.
Where do you find inspiration and motivation?
There’s certainly a force beyond me that drives much of the work, inspiration through nature, through transition, through evolution of life and of the mind and of the heart. A curiosity and adventurous spirit that strives to create strikingly beautiful moments of substance and meaning.
I’m in the business of giving, it’s not about serving my own desires, it’s about creating experiences for others, touching people, allowing people space and time to engage and reflect. To soak up something beautiful. To bring light to the world. To contribute something of substance to the fabric of the here and now. As an artist, all you can hope for is that your work connects, that in some way it touches people, the work is always more than who we are and it truly becomes it’s own entity once it engages with others, it then becomes their story, something they can choose to treasure or simply brush past.
Inspiration and motivation is always there, even in the quiet moments, sometimes doing nothing, is doing the greatest thing, giving yourself space and time, you need the balance to find the flow.
What are the essential items in your workspace?
White walls, lots of light and all of my knives, brushes, paints and materials.
Do you have a favourite tool that’s essential to your work?
I certainly have favourite knives that I use over others, but honestly it’s like a symphony, each piece has their part to play and everything is vital. Saying that, if you put me in a room with some sticks and ink I’d still be able to happily work away. I think it’s always about developing your own language and no matter what the materials are, that language should shine through.
What do you love the most about your creative space?
That it is raw and pure and open and true. It’s certainly a sanctuary for me.
Is there something you don’t like, or would like to change?
A little more space – or a lot more space – would be amazing. Dreaming of that allusive warehouse studio with walls as far as the eye can see, but for the moment this sweet studio absolutely has my heart, it’s seen me create a lot of work & there’s certainly a good resonance to it now.
Do you listen to anything while you work?
I do work to music, but it soon blurs into a background rhythm once my focus shifts onto the paint.
If I’m writing and musing, it’s often silence or the hum and buzz of a public space, there’s something quite soothing in it.
Favourite work-time snack (or beverage)?
I’m usually too absorbed to remember to eat or drink once I’m in the studio or out on an installation, sometimes it’s a serious coffee or guzzling a gallon of water, a slither of super dark chocolate if it’s getting late.
What would be your dream job or collaboration?
I’m living it. I’m also dreaming of what’s next.
Who or what are your biggest creative influences?
Nature is the great provider for me, every day is filled with such poise and motion and grandeur. Light & transition. Our relation to our surrounds and what touches us as human beings. What opens our hearts and enables us to feel something beyond the tangible. There’s just so much, so much depth, bounty, texture, history and substance to behold everywhere, in our surrounds and stories, in quiet contemplation, in the history of times gone by and visions for the future.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
I have a feeling like I’ve faced a lot of the tough questions and the hard times, things get so much easier with time and when true dedication starts to fruit. One such challenge was allowing myself to say ‘I’m an artist’ out loud to others, I said it in my actions, in my work, but bringing that into the fore of contemporary culture in a social or professional setting raises a lot of eyebrows in certain circles. Now, never being ashamed of the title, but it’s something you also need to earn, I feel like I have a right to it now, even though it’s been with me since birth.
How do you work out the financial aspects of your business? What resources, tips and tools would you recommend?
Budgeting is a major factor always and I quite enjoy the financial dynamics of it all. Don’t fear the number crunching and be smart. Spending less doesn’t always mean spending less, quality materials are so vital & sourcing from the right places.
What advice do you have for aspiring creatives?
Work harder than you think you have to. Be open. Be gracious. Be true in what you create and always dive deeper than what you think you are capable of as that’s where the magic begins to happen.
Do you have a dream that you’d love to fulfill?
I’m most certainly a dreamer, so I have many. I also believe it’s so important to be present in where we are now, each moment is so precious, so dare to live the dream daily.
Photos by Lisa Tilse for We Are Scout, unless otherwise captioned.
I really enjoyed meeting Lisa and visiting her charming home and studio, and I’m so inspired by this honest and insightful interview. I hope you feel the same!
Lisa’s paintings are incredibly textural and nuanced when you see them in real life, so if you’re in Sydney this month don’t miss Flora Nox at the Old Clare Hotel. Lisa will be there on Saturdays throughout June hosting a floral market as part of her multi disciplinary residency.
You can also find The Cottage on Airbnb.
If you’d like to take a look into a whole range of other artists’ and creatives’ lives and studios, visit our Space to Create archives.