Soulmates in life and in work, Sydney-based contemporary artists Gillie and Marc have combined a love of animals, art and travel into their 25-year-artistic collaborations. The result: two characters that have taken on lives of their own, Dogman and Rabbitgirl, which feature prolifically in every art medium they create, from sculptures and paintings to photography and jewellery. We love their work so much, we’re now featuring their Rabbitgirl and Dogman vases on our store.
Come and meet Gillie and Marc …
Please introduce yourselves and tell us how you’ve ended up where you are today.
We’re Gillie and Marc, award-winning contemporary artists who believe everything is made better through togetherness. Our journey began 25 years ago when we got married and started making art together.
Our iconic characters, Dogman and Rabbitgirl, reflect our incredible love story while celebrating the powerful bond between humans and animals. We paint, sculpt and photograph with the goal to create joyful, thought-provoking and interactive works that challenge the status quo.
How did the Dogman and Rabbitgirl theme begin?
We first got the idea on a family trip to Egypt. Theriocephaly (meaning beast head) is the ancient Egyptian art practice of putting an animal head on the body of a human or deity. It was believed the human would evoke the qualities of the animal. Whenever we were down we would look to our dog whose unconditional love and happiness is so infectious.
So we made a few sculptures and paintings of Dogman but after a while we felt like he deserved a partner so Dogman and Rabbitgirl became our alter egos.
In the wild, dogs hunt and kill rabbits, but in this world the rules are discarded and new possibilities open up. The dog and the rabbit become best friends and soulmates.
Tell us about your creative process – how do you like to work, who or what inspires you?
One thing we always do when we’re lacking a little inspiration or motivation is to read about all things art. There’s one author we always rely on to offer a fresh perspective and some serious motivation to get moving – Austin Kleon. He’s a US writer and illustrator who has written two books about being creative and getting your work out there, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! We’re huge fans of his sense of humour and no-nonsense attitude to art and creativity and we think every aspiring artist should flip through these two books.
We’re also passionate about animal conservation which is a recurring theme in our work. When we stop to consider the staggering amounts of magnificent creatures on the brink of extinction, this becomes a strong driver for us to create art that raises awareness to save these animals.
And of course, love inspires us constantly.
What’s been your proudest achievement or most challenging creation (or both)?
Last year we created Flying Fish for Sculpture by the Sea in Sydney’s Bondi. It’s five metres high and over three metres wide and also weighs about 200 kilograms which is pretty heavy. We were so excited that the fish could spin around in the wind. And then it was chosen for the Waverley Council Parks Staff Prize by Mayor Sally Betts and named a crowd favourite.
The idea behind this sculpture was to discuss the effect humans have on animals which is symbolised through the rope pulling the fish down and restricting its movement. We chose the flying fish because it’s an animal that has adapted to survive in the face of loss of habitat and changing temperatures. Still, the fact remains that we’re destroying their habitat and one day there could be nowhere left for them to fly to. Flying Fish challenges the idea of our relationships with animals by asking us to ponder if the fish is succeeding in the face of its challenges or is it about to be grappled to earth by the lasso?
Tell us about your art as therapy and the ‘Lost Dogs of Hope’ project?
Art should be used as a platform to help people, or give a voice to the voiceless. And what a powerful platform it is! We were so stunned by the response to our Lost Dogs of Hope Project.
Everyone will feel lost at some point in their lives. Our Lost Dog artworks represent the times we’ve felt lost. The concept began in 2013 when we placed 100 Lost Dog sculptures in various locations around Sydney. Within a month, all but three of the sculptures were stolen. The Lost Dogs received a cult following and can now be found all over the world.
Last month Gillie opened up to our Facebook fans about her struggles with motherhood. She spoke about being a first-time mother, isolated at home with a newborn, scared out of her mind. The video went viral and within a week received over 150,000 views. There were so many comments from people sharing their own experiences of feeling lost. The video was the first in a series, where in various short videos, celebrities discuss the times they’ve felt lost in order to raise awareness about speaking up. The celebs included: Leigh Campbell, Huffington Post Lifestyle Editor, Layne Beachley, 7 x Surfing World Champion and Neale Whitaker, Host from The Block, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Living.
We also received media coverage from publications and sites such as the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Huffington Post and Nine MSN. It was unbelievable just how much these stories resonated with people. We think it’s because feeling lost can make you feel like you’re failing. The Lost Dogs of Hope Project breaks the stigma, showing that feeling lost is normal and very human.
When you’ve given up on yourself, hope is the first step to finding yourself again. The Lost Dog of Hope Project arms people with the courage to begin their journey of self-love and self-acceptance.
Do you have any more such projects in the pipeline?
Funny you ask because today we started our new campaign, “Proud to be different”. It’s a celebration of what makes each one of us unique. We want to fight the daily bigotry, hatred, homophobia and misogyny in the world.
Dogman and Rabbitgirl are freaks. That’s the truth. They have animal heads and human bodies and they’re always naked. But, in spite of that they’ve been accepted all over Australia. They started out in Paddington on a Vespa and now they’re in Perth, in Federation Square in Melbourne, at Woolloomooloo Wharf, outside a hotel in Singapore, in Taronga Zoo, in the Sydney Children’s Hospital. They’re everywhere.
This new project will champion the crucial message of acceptance and diversity. As we see it the great battles for this generation are battles for the freedom to be yourself and be accepted. Dogman and Rabbitgirl symbolise the fight for marriage equality, the fight for every kid who’s different, the fight against bigots. If Australia can accept Dogman and Rabbitgirl, they can accept everyone. So stay tuned for #proudtobedifferent.
We’re currently working on …
Oh my goodness, so much. We love being busy with lots on the go.
Many people don’t know that we’re actually bestselling authors and illustrators and have published a collection of books for both adults and children. Even though the world is becoming more and more digital, nothing compares to flipping through the pages of a book. Our latest is the photography coffee table book Pup Art – a fun and playful celebration of what happens when pop art meets popular pooch, due out in October.
We’ve also got a selection of large-scale sculptures going into Shanghai Jing’an Sculpture Park. And our Paparazzi Dogs are about to be installed in the buzzing art district, DUMBO in New York.
What would be your dream project or have you already done it?
To make the biggest sculpture in the world … just kidding. Our dream project is to make amazing, thought-provoking art that helps people be true to themselves.
It’s not very cool, but we really like…
Getting into bed early with a cup of tea and watching House of Cards.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment? Explain.
Who’d have thought that a rabbit and dog could be such good friends?
Thanks Gillie and Marc for letting us in to your world!