MO.ARTIST otherwise known as Imogen Van Sebille is a collage artist extraordinaire and with just a few years on the scissors and a sell out exhibition already under her fashionable sleeves. Mo was a fashion designer/buyer in Melbourne in her past life but after ten years in the biz, gave it all away and dove into “the abyss”, her sharp eye and editing skills still serving her very well it seems. Self taught with vinyl adhesive as her medium and her hands as messengers, MO got to work after a night around the kitchen table showing friends what she’d been up to.. to their rave reviews. Mine included, not that I’m an art critic but I know what I like when I see it. As did many of Australia’s most notable interior designers when they laid their eyes upon her work as part of the Curated X collaboration I curated last year at Totem Road. MO’s black box-framed Samuarai from her “Ghost” series were a chic standout. “The Visitors” a solo show is what’s next for the artist, based on Paracas textiles and the ability to be hung in multiple directions in the same way you would view a rug design from multiple angles. See below for an exclusive teaser! Read and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.. MO.ARTIST answered some questions for us. Enjoy. X
What matters most?
LOVE (of course!)
What do you do and why do you do it?
I’m an artist, because I’m a masochist and I love poverty.
You studied photography. How did you break into collage and having your first solo and sell out exhibition?
I did a fine arts degree in photography when I was in my early 20’s. It probably was just the wrong medium for me, it was based on new technologies to make art and I’m a bit of tech-tard. I do not find computers inspiring whatsoever. Because the creative process didn’t really click for me back then, I kinda freaked out after art school and got a job working as a buyer/designer for a fashion label for 10 years. When I decided to leave that job I had no idea what I was going to do, I had some money saved and just sort of dove off into the abyss. I actually started collaging out of boredom because I had gone from being very busy to having all this time on my hands.
Who gave you your first break?/ How did you start out?
It all unfolded very organically really, I had a group of friends over for dinner and they happened upon some collages I had been playing around with. They are all very creative, and we share similar tastes and interests so their positive response gave me a huge boost of confidence. They encouraged me to think about having an exhibition which made me look at them in a different light, I never would have had a show if that night hadn’t happened. A couple of weeks later my friend Andy was over who was setting up a new gallery space. He specialises in screen printing and invited me to show my original collages alongside some screen prints he made of my work to open the space.
Tell us about your process. How do your collages come to life?
I guess I just sort of set the parameters, but how the collage comes to life is still a bit of a magical mystery to me. In terms of the technique I still feel like I’m learning so I often have a reference picture to work from, this pushes me to expand what I can do in the medium. I look at the image and think about what element I want to draw from or how I can translate it into the collage. The actual process is very time-consuming and meditative, it’s definitely not for everyone. Probably the most common question I get asked is “how long did it take to make?” but I think that is one of the reasons people respond to them. These days technology has made everything so perfect and I think people crave seeing things made by hand, we miss it.
Real life hero? Who inspired you on this creative path?
This list could be extensive.. but I’ve narrowed it down to a couple..
My parents: Both my parents worked in creative fields so you could say I was well nourished creatively from a young age. They obviously had no money for a babysitter so I spent a lot of my youth being dragged to openings or falling asleep under the dinner party table on my mum’s handbag. In retrospect, this is where it all began. Their love of art, music and theatre and the people they surrounded themselves with had tremendous influence in shaping my future interests
David McDiarmid: I think as an artist you can track back to moments where great creative leaps occur. I’m crediting David McDiarmid for my “epiphany moment’ as it was viewing one of his mosaic works made from contact paper that first gave me the idea to start working with it as a medium. I wish he was alive today because I would definitely send him one of my pieces as a thank you!
How do you work through rough spots, anxiety or blockages in your creative practice?
This is probably the greatest challenge of being an artist, or working in any creative field. You are constantly battling with your ego and insecurities. Sometimes you have to just sit down and force yourself to get started. I try to treat it like a job and make sure I spend a certain amount of time a week just making. You have to accept that not everything is going to be some masterpiece, there are always going to be some bum steers along the way. Another way I tackle this is to take myself to a gallery, sometimes you have to get outside of your own head and just look at art. My ‘Ghost’ series started this way, it was by
accidentally stumbling into the Asian art collection at NGV and looking at samurai armour that inspired that body of work.
What has your practice taught you?
Listen to your gut. Making art caring about the audiences opinion is a real creative killer. I always think of the photographer Cindy Sherman and her successful first series ‘Film Stills’ . She was the toast of New York art scene and everyone wanted her to keep taking these beautiful black and white film noir photos that would look great up on their apartment wall. She stuck her finger up at them all and started doing all these really gross photos with prosthetics and vomit and stuff. It turned out to be some of the most interesting stuff she ever made. Just imagine if she had tried to please them all, the world would have missed out on some amazing art.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
That everyone loves what I do even though I don’t care what they think, and that I can make enough of a living making art so that I never have to work full-time in the fashion industry ever again.