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In Conversation: Billie Justice Thomson

“Thomson is an observer and a humourist, she delights in the beauty of the everyday and reflects it imbued with her own unique wit.” The words of our director Amy Malin encapsulate the spirit of this show – and the energy of the artist – so perfectly!

We’ve delighted in having Billie Justice Thomson’s latest body of work, BIG SHOW, exhibiting in the showroom for the past week. The oversized bottles of Lillet and Montenegro alongside baguettes and Derwent pencils have enchanted and surprised at every turn. Read on to hear more from Billie about this undoubtedly fun and refreshing series of paintings.

With her latest collection of work, Billie memorialises common household objects, food and drink in her undoubtedly fun style.

BIG SHOW plays with scale in the most wonderful way, and you’ve mentioned that it’s about celebrating the small things – can you elaborate on this? 

I gave myself a brief at the very beginning of starting this show. I wanted to make a body of work that gave these overlooked objects a personality and a new life. I also wanted to challenge the format or preconceptions of paintings needing to be a certain size. The paintings go on to have a new life as a cherished object in someone’s home, unlike the original object that may be taken for granted. The big bottles of booze are a celebration more than anything. 

Billie wanted to create a body of work that gave these overlooked objects 'personality and a new life'.

Your process, which includes painting solid lines filled with blocks of colour on the back of Perspex, is very intriguing. Tell us how you discovered this and why you enjoy working this way. 

I stumbled across it when my dad had some old window frames he was getting rid of and I incorporated them into a project at school. I think I’ve also been quite resourceful; I don’t like things going to waste. The process grew as a way for me to make paintings in a similar way that someone draws, starting with black outlines and filling in the colours after. Then several years ago a framer suggested I work on Perspex instead and I haven’t looked back since. It’s so robust and shiny and I love working with it. 

Most of the works in BIG SHOW are tall - at around 800mm high - and narrow; Billie wanted to challenge the preconceptions surrounding the size of paintings.

How is BIG SHOW different to your previous work?  

It’s actually the first time I have moved away from square format. It’s also the most ambitious work I’ve made in terms of size. But I knew it had to be big because the opportunity to show at Modern Times is very special. Not only with the audience but also the size of the space itself. 

Can you take us back to the beginning of your painting career – how did it all begin for you?  

Like most artists, I’ve always drawn and painted. I went straight from school to art school and I had no intention of specialising in painting, but after 3 years, that’s where I ended up. At that time, I was experimenting with Japanese inks and drawing with calligraphy brushes and I was really enjoying painting on small glass tiles that my dad found in a junk shop. 

Several years ago a framer suggested I work on Perspex and I haven’t looked back since. It’s so robust and shiny and I love working with it. ”
— Billie Justice Thomson

What’s next for Billie Justice Thomson?

I’m going to work on lots of commissions for the next few months and spend a bit more time with my family. I’m hoping to have a small show in Japan next year but that’s still in the early stages. I’d also love to start getting into more public artworks and murals. 

'I went straight from school to art school and I had no intention of specialising in painting, but after 3 years, that’s where I ended up,' Billie says.

Quick-fire questions!

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? 

I’d say something in hospitality – maybe I’d own a sandwich shop. 

What are you listening to at the moment (music and/or podcast)?

I’ve been listening to the live NTS radio station which has 2 shows running concurrently from all over the world and it’s so so good. 

What’s your signature dish?

Ooofftttt this is tough. Probably crunchy Thai salad. That’s what I’m making a lot at the moment. It’ll be something different next month.

If you could purchase one thing for your home, and money was no object, what would it be?

It would be a painting. In recent years I’ve started buying art; usually if I sell a big one I’ll put some money aside to buy something and it’s brought so much love in to our home. 

Where to next on your travel destination wish list?

Well Japan is booked in for next year but Greece is on the wishlist for eating, drinking and relaxing by a pool. 

BIG SHOW will exhibit at Modern Times until October 27, 2019.

Photography by Sia Duff and Mitch Pinney.

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