Painter, graphic designer and embroidery artist Toni Gill is the force behind our April artwork. Chances are high you know Toni or have seen her work first hand. She is actively involved in the local art scene holding current residencies at both Studio One Toi Tū and Karangahape’s Inky Palms, as well as working in-house as a graphic designer at Monster Valley.
Toni takes pride in depicting strong femmes through an aesthetically feministic outsider art inspired perspective. Her incredible signature style has led her to clothing collaborations with local skate brand ARCADE, mural work for Auckland’s Basement Theatre (with Monster Valley) and frequent group shows across Auckland.
You are a painter, graphic designer and embroidery artist, which a rare combination of styles and strengths. What came first?
Painting and drawing has always come first to me, I had a good hustle growing up trading other kids my drawings of wolves for their Roll-Ups and trading Microsoft Paint Bebo skins for Sprite. I was always hardcore into the darkroom, painting, filming, photoshop, illustration and anime, studied graphic design, all the while following my art practice.
You have established yourself heavily over the last year, across solo projects, groups shows and your work with Monster Valley and Inky Palms. How do you balance your in-house work with your solo collaborations and personal work?
Late nights painting, printing and stitching my solo works at Inky Palms, strictly working on my residency when at Studio One Toi Tū, and being extremely fortunate in my situation that the graphic design and MV Murals work I produce in-house at Monster Valley feeds into my personal practice, as well as everything else.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming exhibition in August; the Studio One Toi Tū residency exhibition?
Very excited and nervous, it’ll be from the 9th August – 13 September in the Studio One Toi Tū Gallery. I’m exhibiting a publication and a series of large-scale paintings embodied in fire, roughened unstretched canvas’, hung by chain and barbed wire. I’m currently investigating common motifs, female representation, cultural stories, legends, folklore, art practices, tribal tattoo and mediums used historically in the Philippines. I am yet to name it though, something along the lines of Kamatayan Gang, blood, fire and rage.
You have many consistent themes across all your work; the female force, flora & fauna, your Filipino background, contemporary Japanese art & film posters…etc. When did all these themes come together and form your style for you?
These are all interests and things that have been a part of my life for a long time. I guess it stemmed from growing up surrounded by so many strong and supportive women like my mama, my sister and teachers. Watching Filipino action films and Kill Bill for the first time, which led to battle royale and so on.
How would you describe your art at this point in your career?
Unstretched canvas, gouache paintings on of strong women, blood red, feministic counter-cultural movements, bootleg film posters, outsider art, death, violence, sukeban biker gangs, west, cougars, disco, all on fire.
Where do you hope to direct your work in 2018?
This year I’m focusing on learning from my residency, practising my painting because there’s always so much I need to learn, building my personal collection by hooning the heck out of my favourite themes, and aiming towards representation in galleries.
What has been your favourite project to date and why?
My favourite projects have been Acrylic Air Freshener, a tee for ARCADE, MV Murals and especially my “Kamatayan Gang”, a series of paintings translating to “Death Gang” in Tagalog. These works of mine are heavily inspired by strong protagonist and antagonists femmes featured in fantasy, Sci-Fi and action film. This project feeds into my residency, as well as circulating and tying in all of my favourite motifs.
Locally and internationally, what artists, designers and creatives do you admire?
There are so many artists I admire so much. To name only a few; Petra Collins is incredible, Chloe Wise is so humble, Sera Helen’s work has such a tough exterior, with incredibly beautiful and delicate linework, Frank Ocean does everything and Grace Jones is iconic
Gucci(!!!!!!!!) fk!! Let me paint flames and shit on power-suits.
Best thing you have seen on the internet this week?
Top five tracks to paint/draw to?
Three artists you would give anything to see perform live?
Sun Ra & his Arkestra
Parliament-Funkedelic/P-Funk to see the Mothership