If you’re into badass femininity blending into sweet splash-backs of pastel pop-art, Laura Callaghan’s illustrations of buxom women with full lips and IDGAF expressions are for you. Her latest exhibition, 'Aspirational', is full of tongue-in-cheek humour that plays on the rent-a-philosophy posts that are filling our feeds and acting as biblical backdrops on our journey to modern self-discovery. Each image is a riot of eye-popping colour, symbolic details and subtle innuendo's that draw you in, while her complex characters growl straight off the screen with their blazing glazes that just ooze attitude and leave you feeling slightly uneasy.
We chat with the ultra-feminist artist on her creative process and her obsession with 90's slasher-films that have leaked though to swell at the heart of her characters rather ominous attitudes.
PL: You have your first solo exhibition opening on the 1st of June, can you tell us a little bit about the new work which will be on display for the show?
LC: The show is called 'Aspirational' and it draws from the prevalence of inspirational quotes and copy and paste philosophy used on social media channels. Often these 'profound' phrases, which are intended to motivate and inspire are revealed to be meaningless when applied to real life. I'll have some original watercolours on show as well as some screen prints and printed textiles which were really fun to design - the pieces are colourful and tongue in cheek and have prevented me from socialising for the last few months!
PL: Oh wow that sounds awesome. I must admit that their prevalence on social media has given me a bit of an anti-affirmation attitude.
Your work has a distinctly late 80s-early 90s feel to it with the colour palette, the fashion and hair-dos. Growing up what TV shows, books and music really resonated with you which has influenced your style today?
LC: I'm not sure anything has had more impact on how I dress my characters as Pinterest has had. But as for the tone of my work, I think the kind of tv shows I liked when I was a kid were the slightly darker creepier ones, a lot of Round the Twist, Are you afraid of the dark and Eerie Indiana have instilled a desire to make my work more off beat!
PL: Haha I love that you watched Round The Twist - I didn't know that it was a thing outside of Australia. Such a rad TV show.
Can you tell us a bit about the mediums you work with on your illustrations? How long does a piece normally take you?
LC: It depends on the piece, when it comes to personal work I work with watercolour and pen. I like that I can get a richness of texture and really fine detail in there with brushwork. It takes a LONG time to complete a painting though, I'd say each of the pieces for this show probably took an average of 30-40 hours from start to finish. Obviously for commissioned work time is a factor so I tend to ink the illustrations by hand and then colour digitally. Working with photoshop also allows my to make any client changes easily, there's no cmd+z with watercolour work...unfortunately!
PL: You have an incredible talent for showing so much personality in each one of your girls, I feel like you know their agenda from just one glance - Of the girls you illustrate, do you have any recurring characters or are they all new for every new piece you do?
LC: No individual character is recurring, but I think the personalities and outlook of a lot of characters are the same certainly! That's an interesting thought actually, it never even occurred to me to use the same character twice!
PL: Your work is insanely detailed and has so many subtle references, have you ever put something in a piece you wouldn’t expect people to notice or do you always make them obvious enough for the viewer to find?
LC: Yes definitely, it's such an insular process that I think sometimes I forget a lot of things just do not translate. Many of the details and references are put in purely for my own amusement. There's one in particular that I included in a piece for Pick Me Up last year, I was making a series based on Dante's nine circles of Hell and this one (pictured below) was based on Limbo so it's supposed to represent the limbo between finishing your academic life and beginning your career. There's lots of things in there that point to the narrative of this recent graduate who is unable to get work; the certificate hanging off the wall, the lottery tickets to symbolise the 'lottery of life', a laptop open on a job search site, the smashed lightbulb to represent crushed ideas and dreams. All those things are relatable enough, but this piece was personal to my own experiences so I included the giant tiger poster on the wall, which was supposed to symbolise the crash of the Celtic Tiger in Ireland. I mean no one is going to get that!
PL: What was your favourite song to listen to whilst working on your new exhibition ‘Aspirational’?
LC: Beach House - Beyond Love. It doesn't have a hell of a lot to do with the exhibition theme but it's a great album!
PL: If you could own any artwork in the world what would it be?
LC: This painting by Anthony Fredrick Sandys, or any painting by Anthony Fredrick Sandys.
PL: If you had to eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
LC: There's a restaurant near our house that sells cuisine from the Xinjiang region and it is the most delicious food I've ever tasted. I would happily eat that until I die.
PL: What’s the weirdest thing you have in your home?
LC: You know I honestly can't think of anything, we have a very boring home evidently!
PL: What is your most treasured item of clothing you have?
LC: I don't have an emotional attachment to many items of clothing BUT if I ever lost this Cool Dog jumper by Mickey Zacchilli I'd be heartbroken.
PL: What movie do you know all the words to?
LC: Scream. I have never watched a film as many times as I've watched Scream.
PL: And finally, what clip never fails to make you burst out laughing?
You can check out Laura's latest exhibition, Aspriartion, which is now showing at the KK Outlet in London til July 2.