Wattle trees in full bloom line the roadside on the drive to Mirranda’s home studio in Melbourne’s north east.
Mirranda is a visual artist who tells stories with printmaking, animation and graphic novels. She meets me by the gate and welcomes me into the compact house which has been her home and studio space for the past three years. The small home was once a worker’s hut used as accommodation during the construction of the West Gate bridge. After the bridge’s completion, the renovated fibro cottage was transported to the Nutfield property, where it sits amongst twenty acres of bushland.
Mirranda’s making space
A curved brick path leads to the entrance of Mirranda’s home. It is a sheltered spot facing views of wattles, gum trees and a broad expanse of bushland. Birds fly through the scrub, calling out to each other and frogs can be heard croaking from the nearby dam. The small home is immersed in the landscape, filled with the scents and sounds of the Australian bush.
A mix between 1970’s simplicity and light Scandinavian style, Mirranda’s space is filled with treasures she has gathered over the years. She has made the space her own, as a home and a studio. ‘It’s been a real gift for finding out who I am as an artist,’ said Mirranda.
A large marimba sits quietly in the corner of the room, a reminder of Mirranda’s abilities as a musician who also plays mandolin and piano. The wintery Melbourne sun gently streams through the north facing windows, creating moving patterns and shadows on the Persian rug.
A pin board displays carefully placed items which provide inspiration for Mirranda’s graphic novel; a large map, a picture of a wombat, an image of iconic sixties black framed glasses. A lightbox is on hand for tracing work. The expanse between the two windows features large bookcases filled with books. Mirranda’s favourites include Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Nick Hayes and Sarah Glidden. The Russian expressionists, German printmakers and woodcut artists have also influenced her work.
Treasured LP’s including David Bowie’s Heroes and Duke Ellington’s Jump for Joy sit ready to be played in front of the turntable. Mirranda is inspired by something that Bowie once said in an interview, ‘When you’re in a slightly uncomfortable place in your creative practice, you’re actually in a very exciting place to discover and to make something really interesting,’ said Mirranda. ‘It comes back to that notion of life beginning outside your comfort zone.’
Printmaking as a response to the native environment
Mirranda’s latest linocut series has been created as a direct response to her immediate environment and her place in it. Using the fox as metaphor, she examines the notion of humans being an introduced species in the native Australian environment, drawing parallels through her art to examine the conflicts and impacts. ‘I feel like it’s an opportunity to self-reflect even more about our own impact’
The fox linocut series was developed during her recent two-year artist residency at Dunmoochin. ‘Dunmoochin was a huge turning point for me in my art practice and it was a point in my life where I really decided to fully commit to my art practice as best as I could,’ she said. Turning forty and being in a creative environment with other artists helped propel Mirranda. ‘It was time to really do the work that I’ve truly believed in.’
Mirranda’s printmaking work focuses on crisp black and white lino prints. She works on her designs in her studio, cutting the lino on her brightly lit desk and then prints the work at Baldessin Press. ‘I’m particularly fussy about getting very strong blacks and very strong whites in my prints.’
Mirranda is currently working on her graphic novel, which is due for publication with Allen and Unwin in three years’s time.
A recent trip to Vietnam provided Mirranda with research material for her graphic novel. It explores historical events around conscription in Australia during the time of the Vietnam war and includes stories which she has gathered by interviewing people in Australia and Vietnam. The novel will include ink illustrations that capture the style and fashions of Melbourne in the 1960’s. A wombat also plays a major part in the story.
Connecting with other artists
‘I love working on my own, but I’m always connecting with people in the area who are also practising artists.’ There is strong community of artists making graphic novels and comics in Melbourne. ‘I feel like a have a very supportive network around me.’
In October 2017, Mirranda will take part in the Melbourne Comics Workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with a group of comic artists to work on their projects. As a result of previous workshops, published work has been produced by group participants. ‘Because we’re all working in very solitary spaces to create what we do, it’s very exciting when we come together and sort of fuel each other in our work.’
Sustaining a creative practice
Mirranda works in roles that nurture creativity in the community. Balancing her creative practice with other work, Mirranda also facilitates an art program at a local disability support service. Together with artists Ixia Black and Melissa Haslam, she is also one of the founders of Cube Z art gallery that has recently exhibited the work of artist Sam Beke who attends her facilitated art group.
In addition to working on her lino prints and graphic novels, Mirranda also freelances as an animator and an illustrator, undertaking residencies in schools and teaching workshops. ‘I’m doing quite a number of things to help support my art practice,’ said Mirranda.
On pursuing creativity, Mirranda said, ‘Being creative can be a really challenging thing. Sometimes we’re really daunted by the prospect of being creative, but embrace the discomfort and I think, wonderful things happen.’
Jenni Mazaraki is an artist, designer, writer and podcaster who helps women tell their stories. She is particularly interested in the ways that women make time and space for creativity. You can see more of Jenni’s work at www.localstoryspace.com or on Instagram @localstoryspace or Facebook.
Photos and video production by Jenni Mazaraki