Australian artist Esther Olsson channels her vibrant energy into equally vibrant artworks that play with colour and the rules. At just 23 she’s currently working as an assistant to Melbourne-based artists Kirra Jamison and Beci Orpin and has already completed an international collaboration with Diesel. Like the rest of her generation Esther has to navigate both the physical and the digital world in order to be successful—something she’s proven especially savvy at.
Tell me about your style.
It stems from when I was younger, my sisters and I had voice-activated diaries and we could break into each other’s. They’d tease me about my spelling so I started drawing my thoughts and emotions. It’s all derived from that—over the top thoughts and emotions. I started out by collaging things, moulding them together into a super love fest of my favourite shit. It felt selfish because it was about me and as an artist you’re always questioning yourself. It’s conflicting but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
So you always wanted to be an artist?
I used to tell people I was a painter and they would assume I painted houses. It’s the stigma of being an artist, feeling ashamed about not making money. There are so many moments where I’m standing in Coles with three dollars thinking, “How many vegetables can I buy with this?” Everyone needs to know that there’s so many moments where you’re gonna be broke. But it’s ok to be broke if you’re doing what you want.
You call your style dipping?
Cause you dip the brush… and it means sex.
Yeah, fuck it, dip is also sex, dip the dick.
You still call it dipping, even though your style is changing?
Yeah, I’m just dipping with the brush right now. I’m playing with things. I thought I didn’t love like renaissance paintings, I used to walk into galleries and think, “Fuck they’re boring.” But I’m moving away from my reflective style and I want to explore my depth.
A deep dip?
Yeah basically, I love a deep dip. This has somehow turned into a porno, “Esther loves it deep”. I’m exploring right now rather than creating for a show. I want to make things that are fluent and yes, dig deeper. I couldn’t imagine doing all this when I was drawing my little pictures as a child. Every time I get hit up for work I’m still shocked and I call my sisters like, “Guys I got money this week!”
How do you find paid work?
I guess people have seen me on social media. Instagram is totally a business platform. I have conversations with other creatives where we’re we might hate Instagram but we need it. I was never a person that was posting all the time but I’ve gotten more comfortable. I post what I want and it works better than when I was trying to be serious.
Why is it so important?
I’m the worst business person. On the Diesel job I struggled writing my invoice, I’m pretty sure I spelt invoice wrong on it. If Instagram didn’t exist I wouldn’t put myself out there as much. It gives creative people a platform to reach people we wouldn’t normally reach. If you’re posting things that you like there’s always gonna be a weird person out there that likes it too, and if there’s one person in Melbourne there’s probably 20 somewhere else.
So it’s a big part of your work?
I call it my photo album. I can see my transition over the past few years. Also you need that hit after you’ve been in the studio for weeks. Creating work is so anti-social. It’s backwards being creative because we live in such a fast paced world, then you go back to painting a layer of paint on top of another a layer. When people see your work they assume it’s been done quickly that’s why I like Instagram stories because people can follow your process and be like, “Oh you’ve been painting that thing for months” and it’s like yeah bitch, that’s not just one colour that’s seven layers right there.
Do you use social media to network?
I’ve never networked; I’ve been super lucky because it’s been a natural progression of meeting people. I think if you’re just a nice fucking human you’ll make connections. Just be friends with people, that’s my networking advice. Talk to people and go out go to clubs. I got a lot of followers doing that, being wasted and showing my ‘gram to strangers. I would never do that sober but then I’m out and people ask what I do—it’s easier to show them my work.
So just hit the clubs?
Just hit the clubs and you show one person your Instagram and they might show their friend and they might show their friend and that friend might show their aunty and she might buy your work because she has money.
Do you feel set where you are?
When I first started the reflective pattern was a good way for me to get past having an idea and not know how to produce it on a page. It was a way for me to play with space. Now I’m more confident to make what I want to make. You gotta take your insecurities off the table and be ok with fucking up. I don’t want my paintings to be perfect. They’re all a bit weird and not really normal because I’m weird and not really normal.
- Photography supplied by: Esther Olsson