Artists in (Semi Permanent) Residence

Ahead of Semi Permanent’s annual Festival for Vivid Sydney at Carriageworks (and the accompanying workshops held on our rooftop), we spoke with three of its celebrated speakers. Multihyphenate Samuel Leighton-Dore, 3D motion graphics artist Mikaela Stafford and illustrator-artist Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk are brilliant, insightful and talented creators – below they share their funeral songs, grounding rituals, and projects on the boil.


Jordy van den Nieuwendijk

Who are you?

I am a Dutch artist, focussing on Painting and Illustration. I grew up in The Netherlands and am living and working in Australia since 2020.

What has been your most exciting project to date?

My JordyTV series of animation and video projects is exciting me a lot lately as it’s quite out of my comfort zone.

In 2011, you held a funeral for your then alter-ego, ‘Superoboturbo’. Do you think about death often? What song would you like played at your funeral?

I do think about death a lot as I very much miss my dog. She passed away last year.
I wouldn’t mind the song ‘Far l’Amore – Club Mix – by Bob Sinclar and Raffaella Carra’ at the funeral!

Your art has been described as optimistic at heart – what practices help you stay hopeful?

I watch Notting Hill once a month—it’s like my comfort movie— perhaps this could be feeding the spirits a little.

Could you describe your Semi-Permanent Talk in three words?

“Between The Lines”


Samuel Leighton-Dore

Who are you?

My name’s Samuel Leighton-Dore and I’m a visual artist, screenwriter, and author based on the Gold Coast. I work primarily in ceramics, illustration, and animation, exploring themes of queerness, masculinity, and mental health through a heartfelt comedic lens. My new book Wow It’s All A Lot will be released through HarperCollins in July, and I’m currently developing a slate of animated series through Sad Man Studio, the company I started with my husband.

Your animation studio is celebrated for its heart and humour. Who makes you laugh?

So many people make me laugh. Some of my favourite comedians at the moment are Aaron Chen, Anne Edmunds, Becky Lucas, He Huang, Judith Lucy, and Sam Campbell. I think Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan are geniuses and I can’t wait to watch their new series Deadloch. Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers are wonderful on their podcast Las Culturistas. And recently, the cast of Jury Duty, specifically Edy Modica. The Other Two on Binge is also hilarious.

Your first book, How To Be A Big Strong Man, informed the conversation around masculinity and mental health. What does strength feel like to you?

It’s hard to answer this question without sounding a bit cliche, but for me, strength is anchored in vulnerability. I’m naturally a highly sensitive, conflict-averse person, so the act of making creative work and sharing it with the world, despite how scary I continue to find it, makes me feel strong. Going to therapy makes me feel strong. Investing in myself and producing work independently makes me feel strong. Being anxious about something but doing it anyway (like giving a presentation on stage) makes me feel strong.


How do you start a new project?

It normally begins with an idea jotted down in my Notes app. If the idea is for an exhibition, I might then do some sketches and start working on some smaller proof-of-concept works. If the idea is for an animation, I’ll write a short synopsis and send it to my husband, then have a little brainstorm and create a document of initial illustrations and references to give our animator. I’ve usually got a few projects simmering away at once and just move from one to the other, stirring them until they (hopefully) start to boil.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing at Semi-Permanent?

I’m honestly looking forward to hearing from everyone, but I would have to say I’m most excited for Sinéad Burke and Mona Chalabi, whose work I’ve admired from afar for a long time.


Mikaela Stafford

Who are you?

Hi, my name is Mikaela Stafford, I’m a self-taught 3D motion graphics/ visual artist based in Naarm/ Melbourne. My work is interested in exploring themes of hypothetical futures and the complex relationships between humans, technology, and nature. I’m intrigued by the intersections of these realms as I believe they can provide possible pathways for reconnecting to the natural world through the use of digital technologies. By exploring the opportunities and challenges of a cyber-physical future my work seeks to create a new sense of environmental engagement for audiences.

What inspired you to learn 3D motion graphics?

Before the pandemic, I was working as a full-time freelance stage designer and installation artist but when the lockdowns kicked in with no indication of when the world would return to normal, like many people, I decided it was time to turn digital. I treated upskilling and learning 3D as a full-time job during lockdowns as I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I should note, I had very little experience working with design software and it did not come intuitively to me at all. I spent at least 6 months crying over my keyboard watching youtube tutorial after youtube tutorial in my bedroom. Learning C4D and Adobe simultaneously was a huge undertaking and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to understand it but eventually, something clicked and I finally started to get my head around it.

The initial idea was to learn 3D so I could create more ambitious stage designs for local and international clients but after some time, I developed more of a personal artistic style that was really centered around the natural world. Creating hypothetical subaquatic worlds became my escape, it was a way to explore parts of my imagination I hadn’t had access to before. I was shocked by what I could now suddenly create. Not limited by site, gravity or material constraints of the real world – I was finally able to create experiences I always wanted to, or was at least getting closer to it.


Which project has been the most surprising?

I think the large scale sculptural project I did for PITCH Music + Arts last year presented me with the most unforeseeable surprises. Translating a digital sculpture of that scale (4x2x1.5m) into a physical reality by hand was a huge learning curve. Both in terms of the physical labor involved but also working with glass was a unique and challenging surprise. The reason is, I wanted to integrate large solid glass orbs into the sculpture similarly to the way I do in my animation work. However, I learned the hard way that sometimes working in IRL contexts is very different from creating something digitally. When I got the glass orbs on site for the festival, they were in direct sunlight and turned into giant magnifying glasses and consequently, started small fires on the nearby grass. So we had to adapt and sandblast the glass so the light was diffused and wouldn’t be a danger. Unexpected surprises like this come up often, but I think this was one I didn’t see coming.

Your work explores our relationship with the natural world – how do you stay grounded and connected?

One of my daily rituals is going on long walks. I often summon a lot of my creativity and mental clarity during this time. I like going on strolls through parks or along Merri Creek or I try to get out of Melbourne as much as possible with friends. I also really enjoy researching different ways scientists, artists, and engineers are developing different types of innovative technologies that share a harmonious relationship with nature. I find by doing this, it helps reassure my enthusiasm and hope for the future of the natural world and civilization.

What are you most looking forward to during Semi-Permanent?

As a digital artist interested in speculative futures, I’m really looking forward to Liam Young’s presentation. I first came across his work at the NGV Triennial and am excited to hear more about his process, prospects for the future, and approach to his work. Namila Benson and Wani Toaishara are also some of the other presenters I’m excited to listen to and hear about their unique experiences. The art and design fair will also be a highlight. I have some very talented friends and peers that will be showcasing their work and I’m excited to celebrate their work.

Semi Permanent 2023

Each year, Semi Permanent takes the opportunity to explore a universal idea that most aligns with the challenges and opportunities of the time. Head to Semi Permanent this week to catch Samuel, Michaela, and Jordy as they join visual data journalist Mona Chalabi,  filmmaker Liam Young and more to explore the concept of ‘REFORMATION’.

As a friend of the House, enjoy 30% discount on all tickets to Semi Permanent 2023- book using the code SPPARTNER30


Semi Permanent 2023

Check out Samuel’s Sad Man Studio

Check out Jordy’s studio 

Explore Mikaeala’s ‘biomorphic escapism’