LA MASCARA // Bonnita Gillard

imageimageWhat is the fourth dimension of design? Can an object be imbued with spirit? These are the questions I asked myself in the lead up to this interview, the first post for 2017. 

First up is artist, researcher, DJ, sound therapist and favourite force, Bonnita Gillard. Her practice explores adornment, ritual and ceremony (she had me at adornment btw) and often I feel I’ve had a conversation and a succession of epiphanies just from contemplating her artworks and the ideas behind them. I love watching the process of products and concepts coming to life via Instagram – it’s as exciting as the end result. The daily practice does it for me! 

Bonnita’s masks are art form and mythology, created from intuition and it is this, her intuition that first drew me into her radical world and wanting to know more. Yes it’s powerful and an expression of nature, of her nature in fact. Deepest thoughts, ideas for self care and self love, for healing and for ritual. I feel connected to Bonnita through her art and concepts, as part of a powerful, loving and intuitive community of women here in Australia and worldwide and I very much look forward to communicating this community here this year.

“La Mascara”, a solo exhibition of masks by Bonnita Gillard is showing currently at The Nook Gallery Get to it. Bonnita answered some questions for us about her practice. Enjoy. X

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First up. What matters most? 

Personal health and your community matter most. Without both of these, life can be an uphill battle.

How would you describe your work and the influences behind it?

My work is bold, confronting, mystical and dynamic. I paint and sculpt images that are concerned with spirituality, sexuality, natural phenomena and the human psyche. I do what I do as I am called from source to do it. I have opened a channel that we all have access to, and I jump on the freeway and pay no tolls to be on it.

In the process of decoration and adornment, I’m interested in the idea that objects can be imbued with spirit and you too, I believe. It’s not a new concept; in fact it’s the oldest type of belief system in the world. What magic is within your masks?

I 100% agree with you and I believe that every time a new mask is made, I am interfering with the woods evolution and birthing a new spirit. It is a role I take very seriously and I will be handing this tradition down to whoever is interested in my family.

The magic in my masks is perceived differently for each viewer. My intention is put aside once the mask is displayed and it becomes a vehicle to engaged for whoever is willing to take part.

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You work as an artist, sound healer and DJ (phew) and there’s a sense of alchemy in all you do. Where does this transmutation of energy and self come from? Who inspired you to follow this path?

I have always been attuned to the alchemy that is abundantly available to everyone. My empathic ability has enforced that I follow a creative path. I always felt my energy drop so dramatically when I worked for people doing jobs that were not a vibrational match and I refused from a very young age to do anything that made me feel heavy.

I have really amazing parents who inspired me from a very young age to be wild and free, they are both very intuitive and the knowing force is strong from both sides.

My mother Patricia Gillard raised me to be health conscious which lead me to my path in Veganism and the healing arts. She is also an incredible artist in her own right. My father, Christo Gillard is a record collector, DJ and well-known Interior Designer. His influence has been very strong – he took me to an underground warehouse rave at 14, introduced me to the wild artists and bathed me in the creative force!

You have invested mind, body and spirit into “La Mascara”. Talk us through your favourite process//ritual when creating? Are you able to jump right into creativity?

The wood that I find is discarded fallen matter that is destined for the green waste bin. I am the woman who goes into people’s gardens, knocks on their doors and asks them if I can collect these unknown spirits for my creations. I have interrupted people’s house parties to get what I need, with entire audiences watching in wonder! I have favorite trees that I have to go to tremendous efforts to gather goods from and it can be a hilarious process to witness. It is a very time-consuming process bringing the spirit of the wood alive again and I have spent hours perfecting my craft, teaching myself how to shape wood, refining my medium, to displaying them. I get so excited once I start shaping, working from the principles of balance as I align with the natural raw material that is based in abstraction.

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We discussed very briefly working through creative blocks in the lead up to your exhibition – any light you can share on this?

My creative blocks are apparent only when I can’t concentrate and receive guidance from the mask. I have not had a private studio for this solo exhibition and I have been working finalizing my show in the lounge room during the school holidays with my kids going off! The funny thing is that this has been the most calm I have ever been following up to this solo exhibition. My partner supports me so well during my creative processes and it would be very difficult to do this without his commitment to the art form and me.

Mask making is an ancient practice, created for alchemy, disguise, ritual and ceremony. What was it about masks that attracted you? Tell us more about the masks – do they each have different guises, energies and properties? Did you set intentions with each mask or was it a more organic process?

I call my creations medicine masks. For a while now, I have been aware that each mask has a healing potential for its audience and myself. There is an alchemical exchange, rooted deep within the archetypes, natural phenomena, creating a connection within the atoms of cosmic dust. I have been wondering a lot lately about what my role is as mask maker and I know that it is an important one. For me, I am building tradition and a culture for my family and community to be apart of. We as a collective have been perceived to be so fragmented and have misplaced so many of these ancient practices of ritual and ceremony. I believe that a lot of the problems that we share both personally and as a collective are due to the loss of this tradition.

The next chapter of my journey is bringing these masks to life with people wearing them. I have only ever displayed them on the wall, but the time has now come to bring these babies to life with ritual dance and ceremony. The spirit of the mask is not born until it goes through a rite of passage and I am looking to collaborate with the right person to bring the magic alive.

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How do you balance motherhood and your practice?

It is a crazy ability but I do it!!! It has been an emotional roller coaster and I have been through the polarities of it all. I demanded my art career and made it very loud and clear that this is what I am and what I do.

It’s an exciting time to be alive//a creative. There is a global push for transformation…

The world been needs brave creative souls to unleash their visions for the future and guide us all towards a place that is heavily embellished with radical change!

Congratulations on starting out 2017 on a high note. What is next for you?

Collaborations, starting a record label and more travel.

Morning ritual? Yorkshire tea
Real life hero? Joseph Campbell
Food from the gods? Vegan Plant based goodness
Early bird or Night owl? Both extremes at different times.
Boss tunes? Check out my Soundcloud

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