Kasey Thompson talks with Deena Lynch, brilliant mind behind musician Jaguar Jonze, visionary Instagram artist Spectator Jonze, photographer Dusky Jonze, and all around multi-talented powerhouse shedding light on mental illness through art.
To sum up the creative explosion that is Deena Lynch into a neat little elevator pitch would have even the most qualified of journalists in tears. She has her fingers in so many pies, but it’s never too much of a handful for the prolific Brisbane visionary. From being a sassy frontwoman, visual artist, content creator and photographer, to managing the careers of other artists, Deena just can’t sit still.
If you haven’t come across Deena’s spacey spaghetti western music project @jaguarjonze, stigma challenging illustration project around mental health issues @spectatorjonze or her monochromatic photography project @duskyjonze, which pierces the veil around masculinity and femininity, then allow me to introduce you properly to one of the most creatively brilliant minds in Australia.
After working on the careers of iconic bands like The Jungle Giants, Confidence Man, Orphans Orphans and Last Dinosaurs, Deena stepped away from full time artist management to focus on her art projects that elevate not only her own mental health, but the mental health of her subjects. There’s a unique lens and beauty that she brings to all of her various projects, but the Spectator Jonze project on Instagram in particular impacts and positively affects so many lives simply by sharing an accompanying message from the subject about their own mental health.
Deena even drew me, the author of this article, which speaking from personal experience, made this lil’ muppet feel a little less alone in her own mental health trials within the music industry.
When I sat down to interview Deena over some dumplings in her local area, the first thing I did was thank her for drawing me, as the portrait hangs over my bed and reminds me that although I may have bad days, I’m not alone. Deena, to my delight, replied with:
“So many people in the (music) industry came to me after I posted your portrait and were just like, ‘she just summed up how I feel right now’”.
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This is what is so special about Deena’s art, it creates community and unites people who feel alone in their struggles, and that’s pretty powerful.
Speaking about her latest single ‘Beijing Baby’ (which is out now), Deena recounted an agonising tale of losing the master recording and having to film the music video without any music.
“People always say there’s like a second single curse or nightmare kind of thing but holy shit! This was a bloody nightmare! It nearly broke me. It was a real test of my patience. It was also really difficult emotionally for me and losing the master just threw my whole
timeline out of whack.”
Reflecting on the entire nightmare in hindsight, Deena laments:
“I look at it now and I’m just like, wow! I’ve been through this year and all the resilience and fortitude I’ve shown for this song and in my personal life has created this product that I am actually insanely proud of.
“Ultimately, it was a blessing in disguise. I actually sang and played it better because I’ve had a lot of time to practice and sit with it as well. I feel like in the past year, I’ve cut a lot of toxicity out of my life. But I’ve also worked on my self-doubts and insecurities of who I am as an artist.
“I’m now less scared of expressing myself and I also believe in myself a lot more as an artist.”
Asking her about whether she got frustrated by all the obstacles in her path, Deena spoke about battling through stagnation due to toxicity.
“It was a lot of frustration of like, when do I ever get my chance? But I’m getting my chance now and I look back and it’s like, thank fuck, because I wasn’t ready when I was first applying for things like Bigsound and I would’ve just blown the chance. But now, I feel that I am ready.”
When I asked Deena what she shoots on for her Dusky Jonze project, she gave me the most amazing and unexpected answer:
“Well the thing is, you don’t need much to create good art, so it’s just one of those shitty point and shoot cameras, just one level up from like the disposable ones. People always freak out when I tell them and they’re like, ‘That’s what you’re shooting on?!’ and other photographer friends I have are like ‘Do you want to borrow my gear?’ and I just say ‘Nah, I’m good,’ cause my funny little ‘piss-take’ is that you don’t need to be super technical to be able to express and convey emotion. So even though I have DLSR’s and the nice fancy
cameras, I don’t use them on the dusky project cause that’s part of my joke.”
And I mean, she’s not wrong, piss-takes are the thing in art right now. Just look at the careers of The Chats or Dune Rats!
Earlier this year, Deena painted a mural in West End that was a self-portrait, and it was just beyond beautiful. I asked her what it was like for her trying to create something that represents herself and all of the turmoil that she’s been through. Surely summing yourself
up from an outsider’s perspective must bring about some challenges.
“The mural was something that was booked-in months ago, and at the time I was actually going to do it because I’ve never painted before and this was a big piece, and it’s a west end piece so I wanted to do it on someone that means something to Brisbane and has
contributed to west end or Brisbane.
“So I had a subject in mind, and then I went through some shit. So I was going to back out of it but then one night I was just like lying on my floor and I just started scribbling myself on a little sticky note pad and developing this idea and I was like, okay, I know what I need to do, this mural is going to be a self-portrait.
“Creativity for me is a conversation with myself. For every ten portraits I do, I draw a self-portrait, as a way of checking in with myself and processing all of the complex emotions associated with going through traumatic situations. It’s definitely helped me break down the
stigma around PTSD where I can now say I have it just as easy as offering someone a Tic Tac.”
When asked about dealing with and overcoming negative and toxic energy, Deena said that:
“Going through some of the most painful moments of your life kind of puts it all in perspective. When someone says something negative now, I just think to myself that I just went through the fucking depths of hell! That opinion is actually inconsequential to me. Like,
it’s not even a blip on the radar.”
To which I responded, “You’re not doing it for anyone else but yourself anyway, because even if no one enjoyed your art, your brain would still have to make it.”
“Exactly!” she said, “I feel like I exist to create. So if I don’t create, I stop talking to myself. I’m also able to feel less isolated because the people in my everyday world can’t necessarily relate to what I’m going through but with the Spectator Jonze Instagram there’s like a bit of a support network and sense of community. Art and creativity have helped me to be open and honest and not hide behind shame or denial.
“It kind of sucks when people take advantage of you or abuse you or drain you, but it’s up to you to really rise above it and gain control of your life and not let them have the power to affect you in the future. Forgiveness is a hard one, acceptance would be the way I would
“I don’t know how I can really forgive someone for things like abuse and assault, you know, given my history of abuse throughout my whole life. It’s very difficult to sit there and hand more power over by saying: “I forgive you”. Because if I was sitting in a cinema and looking at it on a screen, it would be unforgivable. So what I can and will do is realise that I deserve more, accept that these things have happened to me and move forward.
“Forgiveness has a role in my life, but that’s because the person has also accepted that they’ve made mistakes and I’m willing to that good people do bad things and that we can all be villains in someone’s story. We all make mistakes. So if you can come from a place of awareness, accountability and true remorse and empathy for how your actions may have affected the person then that’s really different to someone who’s in denial and will continue on with the same behaviour.”
I asked Deena about what was the hardest thing she has found about working in the music industry.
“The music industry is freckled with mental health pitfalls and then the coping mechanisms that exist culturally in the music industry are quite unhealthy. It’s very easy to fall down and get sucked into it. You’re just left to suppress and put on a facade, not talk about things, maintain an image and then worst of all, self-medicate. It’s a huge issue in itself, that party culture, and because it’s socially acceptable for everyone to be drinking five to seven nights in a row when you’re on tour, you think you’re fine.
“But I look back on that time last where I was self-medicating to function now and I’m just like holy shit! That was whack. I didn’t even think that was the thing that could happen to me, you know, but it’s because it’s “okay” a lot of the time and you’re surrounded by people
who are doing the same. And the worst part is you’re not allowed to talk about your problems or be struggling, because the music industry is so image and reputation based.”