Boundary-Free Art: Minu Freitag’s Crazy-Cute, Joy-Sparking Sprites

By Elizah Leigh


Minu Freitag Artist

Grappling with the heady existential contemplation of this thing called life, we can’t help but wonder if the amount of time that we’re allotted in this plane of existence really just is written in the stars.

Sure, some scientific studies suggest that an auspicious combination of favorable genetics, high quality nutrition, and exemplary physical fitness may very well be the holy longevity trinity, so…phew, something hopeful (albeit expensive and quite sweaty) to strive for! But what about all of the organically-oomphed 2% body fat human beings who boast a comparable biological age to that of a supremely spry 3-year-old?

Nature may theoretically be on their side, yet – due to seemingly random twists of fate – even some of them meet their maker well before it seems remotely comprehensible. The inescapable ephemerality of the human condition could be why Prince Rogers Nelson’s universally embraced single, “Let’s Go Crazy” – which captures the spirit of Minu Freitag’s daily creativity battle cry – still endures to this day:

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down?
Oh no, let’s go
Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts

The purple one’s rousing 1984 party anthem addresses the idea of choosing happiness - regardless of conspiring forces that may seem intent on derailing us - and always remaining focused on the goals that will deliver maximum personal fulfilment, a belief system that parallels Mini Freitag’s ‘all hands-on deck’ approach to art making.

Zeroing in on and achieving a high level of expertise in a single creative discipline may indeed be an absolutely delightful experience for some, but the Germany-born, New Zealand-based artist has an insatiable appetite for learning and exploring. As such, she has found that engaging in all of the art - writing, drawing, painting, illustration, printmaking and sculpture - all of the time (!!) eliminates the ‘what ifs’, instead enabling her to manifest imaginatively conceived, joy-sparking whimsies.

Viewing herself “as self-taught in many ways”, the multi-disciplinary talent - who received formal art training in college - has navigated a somewhat nomadic career path, steadfastly working in creative fields such as architecture, interior design, illustration, graphic/game design and multimedia production.

In recent years though, her desire to explore her personal artistic inclinations has resulted in a multi-prong approach to art making, one that is consistently steeped in curiosity and discovery. In addition to penning a political-post-apocalypse-alternate-reality-dystopian-fantasy-adventure series, Minu Freitag continues to create various utterly charming three-dimensional anthropomorphic beings (plush creatures, wall dolls and free-standing totems) as well as two-dimensional graphite, ink and paint pieces, all of her dreamy entities an extension of the kind and hopeful soul-elevating magic that she wants to see in the world.





Describing yourself as ‘the grey lady of utter chaos’ suggests that self-deprecating authenticity resonates with you far more than portraying yourself as a polished, ‘I’ve got it all figured out’ type of person. Are you comically exaggerating your propensity for kinetic turbulence, or is that really how you perceive yourself?

It took me ages to accept the fact that I am full of contradictions. I would dissolve into a raging storm if it weren’t for the fact that I harness my self-sabotaging, anxiety-ridden, highly driven perfectionist tendencies into something that enables me to function as a human entity.

Maybe that is why my art is so ‘controlled’. I always wanted to just throw paint at a canvas, but I fear that in that direction lies complete madness.



Strategically cultivating a favourable digital version of ourselves – which many creatives lament is both time consuming and unappealing – tends to go part and parcel with the social media experience. We’re all well aware that the looming punishment for failing to tap dance on command, though, is being enveloped in a shroud of invisibility, and yet you’ve chosen to go against the curve.

I know that these days, it’s not a good idea to stop posting updates on social media accounts, but as part of an experiment, I decided to take the plunge. I deleted all of the social media apps from my phone, apart from Pinterest. I initially meant to step away from my various accounts for one week, but I haven't reinstalled any of my social media apps since then.


Was that decision motivated by your introverted nature, or - far more strongly - by a desire to remain true to your artistic integrity?

In order to connect with others, you really have to be you, so yes, I choose to march to the beat of my own drum and dance in my art studio like no one is watching.



Do you believe that artists who have a keen interest in reaching their intended audience really don’t have to resort to selling their virtual soul to the social media devil?

I realise that creative individuals still need to maintain an online presence, so - when using social media - it’s wise to consider what you want to accomplish and ‘post with intent’. Sharing higher quality posts - less frequently! - works far more effectively than regurgitating, imitating, and getting hung up on trends and numbers.

In my case, I’m not interested in participating in the pointless social media rat race. My intention is to return to a grass roots approach by working with local galleries, markets and fairs.



Drawing, illustrating, painting, sculpting and writing are key aspects of your creative output, yet insight into the challenges of juggling so many balls at one time becomes apparent with your confession that you are afflicted with “how hard can it be?” syndrome. Is that unique to your creative career or has that been a lifelong predisposition?

I’m well aware that I should recognise and even celebrate my various creative achievements, but the notion that I can always do more is deeply engrained within my personality. Rather than being an artist in the conventional sense of the word, I consider myself more of a maker and explorer. Having a desire to constantly create is less a choice than it is a relentless drive to make, create, and push boundaries.



The Fragments - novel by Minu Freitag

Creatively speaking, is being a one-stop artistic shop a blessing or a curse?

I think it is both…or perhaps just a bit more of a curse.

Sticking with one creative discipline, such as writing – which I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember – requires confidence and courage (…maybe slightly more than I have?). You definitely need a kind of resilient self-belief to move past your incredibly awful first scribblings or paintings or sculptures so you can achieve even a basic level of mediocrity in your creative field.

I believe, however, that comparing yourself with other seemingly more successful contemporaries in your field - and feeling the fear or even despair of not measuring up - is an essential step toward navigating your own fearless journey.



Is it essential to your artistic identity that all of your creative output extends from one end of the spectrum to the other?

I don’t seem to have much control over the ‘spreading’ :) I definitely can’t seem to sit still - I just don’t know how to stop.



Does a person who suffers from “how hard can it be?” syndrome ever succumb to full creative burnout? How do you recharge your creative mojo?

I’ve encountered burnout in my commercial work, but not in my personal creative adventures. On occasion though, I’ve despaired while staring at a blank canvas or page, but I’ve found that just starting a project – even if it results in the worst sketch ever or the worst sentence ever – is the first step toward creative block liberation. As Margaret Atwood said: “The waste paper basket is your friend.”



Are you satisfied with being a drawer-illustrator-painter-sculptor-writer, or are there other creative pursuits that you intend to add to your artistic repertoire?

Oh skies, no – that’s quite enough!



People often romanticise their ‘someday’ plans for authorship. In your case, you’ll have three books under your belt by the end of 2024. What motivated you to take your writing hopes and dreams all the way to the finish line?

Storytelling is what makes us human, and writing – which I’ve wanted to do throughout my whole life – naturally flows into my creative pursuits. Despite the fact that it ended up taking me over 10 years to complete my first book, sitting down and getting it done felt far less intimidating and scary to me than having nothing to show for my efforts.

I knew that I’d have to challenge myself to complete my book series in a set period of time so that all of the very hard work that I poured into my project - along with parts of my soul - would amount to something tangible.



Growing Up by Minu

Given your literary aptitude for conjuring multi-dimensional characters, what rich backstory have you imagined for your ever-expanding tribe of sculptural creatures made with old book pages and cellulose paste?

I’ve always liked the idea of aimlessly moving through wild woodlands cast in perpetual twilight, and at the point when it’s time to locate a suitable resting place, finding warm and welcoming storytellers gathered around a fire.

That is the concept that brought forth my three-dimensional spiritual guardians (otherwise known as totems or talismans), each of whom keep fear, despair and darkness at bay.

They are all natives of that magical forest, each one uniquely imbued with an aspect of my mood, feeling or personal story.



At first glance, your sweet and innocent papier-mâché sprites seem like the creative embodiment of love and hope, projecting the sense that everything is going to be okay.

If we were to read between the lines, though, what surprising personality traits would reveal themselves?

My totems might look sweet, but they’re all very curious and a tiny bit mischievous.

They can occasionally be a bit silly, and a few of them never shut up! For the most part though, they are all very shy. I avoid making loud noises or doing anything to frighten them.

Occasionally - if I am very lucky - they practically manifest on their own. They’ve all earned a reputation for bringing a smile and a little bit of joy into the lives of those who adopt them.



In a somewhat similar vein, the feminine muses featured in your sketches and portraits might seem world-weary, but if we move past their melancholic demeanours, what might we learn about them?

I hope people find something in my creations that they can relate to on an emotional level. Perhaps the faces of my muses convey resilience in the face of adversity, of inner peace and maybe even a touch of remoteness. All art comes to life in the observer's eyes, so I try to leave as much open to interpretation as I can.



You consciously seek out lighter carbon footprint materials including repurposed Tetra Pak containers for your collagraph printmaking efforts, recycled plywood board canvases, display boxes made from recycled wood, and frames fashioned out of reclaimed 100-year-old Rimu skirting boards. Why does sustainability go hand in hand with your creative practice?

One simple way that I can avoid contributing to the desecration of our natural environment is to incorporate recycled, re-used and sustainable art mediums (like water-soluble paints and green sculpting materials) into my creative endeavours.

I also like to use lower carbon footprint office materials in the business side of my art practice.

Sculptural paper mâché is a great example of an affordable eco-art medium that can be endlessly reworked. The extra added bonus of using it in my art practice is that the natural properties of repurposed paper imbue each of my sculptures with even more character.



Social media users are often keen to share the enviable ways in which they are living their best life, resulting in creatively worded captions and glossy curation strategies that are actually deeply rooted in fiction. In the spirit of bucking that smoke and mirrors trend, would you describe one utterly imperfect creative day in the life of Minu Freitag?

Well, first…a legitimately perfect creative day in my life would entail exercising, having breakfast, and opening the door to my studio where all of my sprites would chime,

“Good morning, Heike! Let’s make some art or write that perfect sentence!”

Then we’d gather around my desk and engage in a highly productive brainstorming session. Creative chaos would ensue, giving birth to new creatures who would then join us for afternoon tea with honey toast.

But in reality, I have days where I sit in my silent studio and question my life choices, or I grapple with how time consuming a project is and why everybody else seems to have it all figured out – which of course, they don’t! - and why I suck so much at my art.



Heart Keeper by Minu

What sentiment **uttered by a newly adopted Minu Freitag totem to their human family** sums up what your work is all about?

‘You are safe tonight.’

As soon as the human who has added one of my sculpted spiritual guardians to their household hears those four words, I hope that a quiet, peaceful smile brightens up their faces.

It’s nice to imagine that the product of my creative endeavors – whether a three-dimensional forest talisman or a two-dimensional feminine muse – will secretly dance in their new homes along with their new adoptive families.

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