Nestled in the back of a garden overlooking the water is Lisa Madigan’s humble studio. Inside, the painter crouches over a canvas on the floor. She’s surrounded by discarded tubes of paint and has several palate knives in her hand. “It’s definitely a sanctuary. I try to be in here as much as I can,” says Madigan.
The studio itself is quite plain, a blank canvas. The walls are painted white and the room is strewn with vases of flowers – some freshly picked, others not so much. The afternoon light casts window shapes on the artworks resting against the wall. “I’m always quite drawn to transitional times of day. Those certain lights and environments that give off that beautiful sense of space, calm and mystery,” says Madigan.
Madigan has been painting ever since she could hold a brush. Growing up around art galleries, painters’ and photographers’ studios, it’s not a huge surprise she wanted to be an artist. Almost straight out of high school you could find Madigan tucked away in her studio, painting and selling works. “I think I was lucky to tap into that from quite a young age. When you work out who you’re going to be and what you’re going to do in the world, when that all aligns, it’s magic,” says Madigan. “I always knew I was a painter.”
She grew up on the Northern Beaches and was drawn back to the area after an eight-year stint in Kangaroo Valley. In the studio she looks like a walking artwork herself, her neutral-coloured boots and pants covered in the same lashes of paint that decorate the canvasses (perhaps that’s how her Dalmatians, Oberon and Mia got their spots too).
Working mostly with oil on linen and wood, there’s a distinct flavour to Madigan’s atmospheric abstracts. “Textural and luscious,” is how she describes her work, inspired by light, sensations, feelings and nature. “My process actually starts with a lot of writing before I get into the studio. Inspiration is not something you can turn off, so I’m forever collecting moments,” says Madigan.
Luckily, her commute to the studio isn’t far – her house is on the property, too. “I would struggle having my studio somewhere else,” says Madigan. “Having it where I live is very key to my practice. The idea of being restricted in any way turns me off – I think that a sense of freedom shows through in my work, too.”
Madigan creates beautiful environments as well. During her time in Kangaroo Valley, Madigan set up a boutique accommodation and events space called The Cottage, and she works on the floristry and art direction for all the Sydney Kinfolk dinners.
Madigan’s upcoming show, Vie, will be held at Saint Cloche in Paddington. It will be the artist’s 18th solo exhibition. “Vie in French means life, so it’s a celebration of life and a cultivation of that in a sensory realm,” says Madigan. The collection is textural, ethereal and slightly gritty. “There’s a lot of light in this series but there are some big, darker works, too.”
“It’s tapping into moving meditations – slipping into that space is quite ethereal. I love the presence [the paintings] have. It’s about people being able to sort of slip into them and find their own way and own journey through the works,” says Madigan.
Lisa Madigan’s exhibition Vie is showing at Saint Cloche from Thursday July 23 to Sunday August 2. To book the Dinner With The Artist event on Saturday July 25, email firstname.lastname@example.org