LOLA KRAMER You recently participated in the Venice Biennale with a significant ensemble of thirteen paintings exhibited at the Giardini and the Arsenale. With a solo presentation at Art Basel in-between, you’ve just opened your first New York exhibition, “Fight-or-Flight,” at the Swiss Institute. It’s been a busy year! And yet somehow, each presentation feels different from the previous one.
JILL MULLEADY I try not to repeat myself, and I often play with genres. Initially, there was more of a Symbolist or Surrealist approach. Then I started focusing more on New Objectivity and Social Realism. The New York show is different from anything I’ve done before. I pushed more towards an allegorical narrative.
LK Can you tell me about the allegory?
JM There’s only one painting, and it’s of a more substantial scale, five-by-four meters. It’s called The Bird Watcher (2019). I’ve been looking at Bruegel’s The Land of Cockaigne (1567), and this theme of paradise on Earth that arose during the Renaissance. It’s this idea that in paradise, you’re not working or doing anything but merely indulging. I wanted to create a contemporary version of this. I started to paint this white giant laying on a private island, watching birds. He’s playing with a kind of financial app on an iPad next to him. There are seagulls and an eagle flying above. There’s something cinematographic in the painting, too; it’s a bit like this American entertainment fantasy of superheroes. The artists I’m inspired by, like Mike Kelley or Paul Thek, never played it safe. I’m thinking of how Kelley performed fantasy, how he dealt with Superman and reimagined the planet of Kantor.
LK I can see it. In your color palette, I detect Kryptonite green. And the figure does remind me of Thek’s dead hippie.
JM Whether consciously or not, those things are in my mind. These are artists who are touching on an unconscious pop culture that is in all of us.