Words by Jesse Thompson

Elisa's works are rich and sinuous marriages of gentle colour with Indigenous pattern.
But even this description seems reductive; not only because of the vast palette of hues throughout her portfolio, but also the vast and multi-dimensional ways in which she applies them.

The artist draws from her Indigenous background and meshes it with modernity to create culturally and visually rich work. Consistent to most is an embodiment of the physical environment, a motif that Elisa carried with her throughout her travels across the globe.

We're lucky to have her back in Brisbane. Some of her latest work will be showing in The Box Gallery alongside the likes of Luke Kidd, Lucinda Wolber and gallery co-ordinator Ellie Anderson. Bloody Oath! officially opens tomorrow night from 6pm. Meanwhile, have a look at some of Elisa's earlier work, and catch up with her in an interview below!

To start us off, tell me a bit about your work as a visual artist.

Basically I do contemporary Indigenous artwork, and the majority of it is based on the environments around me, and the flora of Stradbroke Island where I come from. I also do artwork on my Grandma’s writings as well.

Mostly in painting?

I mix it up. The majority of my work is paintings ,but recently I’ve also been working on paper, and making paper/sculptural pieces. I’ve also been doing sculptures as well with fabrics.

How do you find the different mediums in terms of accommodating the messages you want to get across through your artwork?

I don’t think it comes across any different to painting. The difference is that with paintings and drawings, people are more inclined to purchase them as opposed to sculptural pieces, I find . But I personally like to work in different media band change it around a bit because I get bored. Especially if I’ve been doing too many paintings.

How did you first get into visual art?

Just in high school. I didn’t really go through too many classes apart from art. Then I studied fine arts at QCA and I finished in 2008. Then I went traveling and worked as an artist overseas for a bit.

I saw you went to London. What kind of projects did you get involved with over there?

I was living in London for a while, and I had my first solo show over there, so that was nice. I’ve been doing a lot with Paul Smith, a UK designer. I’ve got a show up in his Melbourne store at the moment. I’m also doing some projects with the Queensland Museum, where I’m working with children at the Indigenous kindergarten, and so I’m doing a series of work with some four-year-olds, and they’re going to be auctioned off at NAIDOC week at the Museum. I’m also doing a week of workshops at the museum to coincide with NAIDOC.

I’ve also got a residency with UQ coming up in July.

At the art museum?

I'm actually going on a biology excursion. I’m going out into the field with them for a week, and documenting the plants out there.

Your heritage informs a lot of what you do. What other influences do you draw from when you create?

It’s just generally the natural environment around me. That inspires me. I’ve made bodies of work in different parts of the world, but they’ve al been about my heritage and upbringing. But they’ve also been inspired by… like when I was in India, I made a body of work there. And I drew a lot of inspiration from the beaches and the very colourful environment.

When you make a body of work do you tend to plan according to how it will look in the end, or do you focus on content and what the piece will say?

When I’m working I generally have no idea what I’m gonna do. It just comes. Like I know what the meaning is behind the artwork, but I tend to make it up as I go along.

And what’s the most rewarding part of that creative process?

Just coming up with something that you had no idea you were going to come up with, and watching the work evolve.

What’s next in terms of professional development and challenging yourself?

I’m looking forward to this residency with UQ. And then I do have a couple of exciting projects that may potentially be coming up at the end of the year. I don’t really want to say too much at the moment!

How do you find Brisbane in terms of accommodating independent artists?

I actually think that it’s definitely changed over the past few years. I guess I’ve kind of been off and on traveling in for three years, but I’ve seen a lot of change. And it’s definitely improved, and there are lots of opportunities. I’m really surprised about how many little things I’ve picked up since I’ve come home.

Can you give us a hint about what you have in store for Bloody Oath?

I’ve got eleven kind of small works. They’re all made from different mediums. So there’s watercolour, paper works that are cut out pictures, a couple of canvases, and some ink drawings which are like paper weavings. There’s a little installation box as well.

Bloody Oath! opening night is on Thursday, June 13th from 6pm-9pm. If you can't make it then the exhibition will remain open until Sunday the 16th.

See you then.