We spoke with Melbourne artist Morgana Celeste about her creative journey and the inspirations behind her upcoming exhibition 'Things That Keep Me Up At Night', showing at pépite from Oct 1st - Oct 15th as part of Craft Contemporary festival.
Click here to access the viewing room for 'Things That Keep Me Up At Night'.
1. Morgana, we are so excited to show your upcoming exhibition ‘Things That Keep Me Up At Night’. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an artist?
Thanks so much! I’m excited too! My journey towards art has been a bit of a roundabout one, I worked as a florist at a business that operated from a warehouse and had art studios in the back half. You had to walk past them to get to the bathroom and I was always fascinated by the mysterious things that would be sitting in those studios. Every week you could see new ideas forming themselves around wood and metal and paint. It made me look at art and its creation differently. I could tell the works were saying something even if I wasn’t exactly sure what it was; I got a sense of the intentions.
I find I have a creative urge, but it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing. If there’s more floristry on my plate, the urge for art moves into the background a little and vice versa.
2. Does your background in floristry influence your work as an artist? Do you see these as separate creative practices or do they function to inform one another?
Definitely. I think everything I’ve ever done influences my artwork. But absolutely floristry has influenced my confidence in and use of colour. With flowers there are so many different combinations going on and you can throw something together and see if it works and if it doesn’t you can add something else in to round out the palette. When I started a floral studio with my friend Meg we probably took on jobs based on a colour palette more than a few times. Though now I’m going into more three dimensional territory, I can imagine a project with flowers that is informed by sculpture.
3. Since branching into your art based creative practice in 2018, what has been your largest influence and inspiration?
My work tends to be an ever-evolving visual scrapbook of things I love. Concepts can be aspirational or experienced. I’m not a very complex person and I think the things I love are pretty universal which makes them emotionally accessible to people who feel the same way. A sense of wonder is what I love to try and impart the most.
4. Your use of unconventional materials to create captivating, rendered surfaces are a distinct feature in your work. Could you tell us a bit about your process to creating such tactile and vibrant work?
I’m so happy I decided to use these materials all together. It’s a culmination of many moments in my life that lead to their combination. Mainly, I love paper. At textile school we did a unit on paper making and I enjoyed taking something, scrambling it up and making a new piece of work just one step to the side of what it was. It’s the same with flowers, they’re still the same thing, but at the end, there’s a piece of your own creativity and gesture left in them. I’m appreciative of these materials because they brought out a different element of my creativity. It’s hard to control too much so it allows me to be less concerned about making something good, and more focused on making something enjoyable.
5. Have you always worked primarily with this medium or has your practice developed over time?
Initially my creativity was more traditional, either figurative painting with gouache or watercolour or weaving fabric as part of my textile practice and then I was also working creatively with flowers. So it’s definitely developed over time. I’m looking forward to seeing what developments come next!
6. The use of colour in your work imbues it with feeling and emotion. What is your relationship with colour and have you always felt comfortable using it as a way to express yourself?
I think I have, but it’s become more nuanced. Sometimes when people think of colour I think they imagine it being loud and garish and that makes people uncomfortable but colour can also be soft. I love exploring this push and pull, how you can use heaps of pink and it’s almost sickly sweet, but adding a tiny splotch of mustard or sienna completely changes the visual balance of a piece. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of trying new combinations, though I do definitely have my favourites! Before I worked with flowers, I was really interested in fashion and textiles. All my clothes came from the second hand markets in Camberwell. You can buy a dress or a coat or whatever for $4 so it made me get really playful with my wardrobe, choices were super accessible to me financially and I got to explore colour that way too.
7. Creating during the covid-19 pandemic is challenging. Your previous exhibition ‘Memory Palace’ was created entirely under lockdown as a way to escape the present reality. The theme of your upcoming exhibition is ‘Things That Keep Me Up At Night’ - has Covid-19 and the continual lockdowns experienced in Melbourne affected your dreams and the things that do keep you up at night currently?
I’m a perennial optimist, so I’d have to say no. I’ve always had big, if simple dreams. Dreams are what keep me going, especially during lockdown. I always have hope that things will eventually change, and that they’ll be even better when they do, or at least they’ll be more than what they were. I try to process things as though I'm way out in space and they aren’t good or bad, they’re vehicles of growth. On the flip side of that, the embarrassing things that keep me up at night are also an evolving carousel of cringe too! There are a few highlights that have stuck around for some years now, but I’m always doing something new and stupid that can keep me up at night.
8. Your work appears very playful and light-hearted, is this something that’s important to you?
I think light-hearted emotions can be equally profound as heavy ideas. Joy and tenderness are really huge and vulnerable feelings that deserve nurturing and attention. Anything that can bring out someone’s inner humour or sense of wonder is valuable and important to me. Being joyful in the face of adversity can be a form of rebellion too.
Practically, because my work is decorative, and usually hangs in my home pre-show I prefer to surround myself with humour and softness rather than hang my insecurities up in the hallway! I respect art that is a driver for change in the world and think it’s really important. For a long time I didn’t make anything because I struggled to fit into the mould of the tortured artist.
9. Have the events of the last year and a half changed your professional trajectory and allowed you to do or make in a way you previously might not have been able to?
I’ve definitely got more spare time to explore ideas now that we’re all inside. The resounding support and positive response of everyone to these artworks has given me confidence to keep exploring! Sticking with this medium over an extended period of time has been great because I can watch it develop and grow in my practice.
10. What’s next for your creative practice? Do you have any new ideas you’re looking forward to exploring?
YES! Next is more three dimensional pieces. I made some vessels for opening night of my show, ‘Velvet Afternoon’ in March and they were so loved that I’ll probably explore that a little more. I’ve also been enjoying making work that is more amorphous but can still be hung on walls, so I’ll be looking to push that boundary down the track. In terms of ideas, I’ve got a big dream of a show all about treats and cake. It involves a little performance where I’ll be dressing as a giant pavlova so stay tuned for that!