Julia Ritson

The colourful and consistent output of Melbourne artist Julia Ritson is being celebrated at Scott Livesey Galleries with an exhibition that presents a cross-section of paintings from the last twenty-five years.

The formal logic of Ritson’s painted grids belongs to a rich lineage of Modern movements – Malevich’s Suprematism, Mondrian’s De Stijl, Picasso’s Cubism – that used grids to challenge and visualise the rationality and industrialisation pivoting modernity, from the power grid to the urban landscape. In her seminal essay Grids, art historian Rosalind Krauss claimed that ‘the grid functions to declare the modernity of modern art’.

Today, the ideological rhetoric of the ‘grid’ is even more pertinent, our globilised, technologised, screen-based era making it near impossible to ‘go off the grid’.  Ritson’s paintings respond to this climate, their pixelated surfaces evoking the hi-tech circuitry, computation and information transmission of the Digital Age. However, the artist also makes her hand known in each work with saliently painted surfaces and nuanced assemblies of uneven grids introducing the hand-made image back into the internet schematic. Each tone, each shape, each gridline, emblemises and re-establishes human contemplation and decision-making in the face of a capitalist milieu that force-feeds us pre-made decisions – where ‘want’ has been systematically replaced with ‘need’. In this sense, Ritson is countering the hegemony of contemporary technological systems by subjecting the grid to the human imagination, the human hand and the ‘imperfect’.

In the works, graphic glitches and screen pixilation transform into worn masonry or the interlocking fibres of tweed. We can spot a picnic in the park or a ballroom brimming with dancing guests, proximate plays of colour creating energy and movement as if every box contained within it a life-force. Each grid articulates a multitude of images, and it is for the viewer to decipher their own pictorial meaning. Often small in scale, the works draw the viewer into their micro worlds, beckoning us to stop for a moment and allow ourselves to surrender to the subjective, referential power of the grid.

Julia Ritson | Grid Paintings 25 Years
7 – 29 March 2018
Scott Livesey Galleries, Melbourne

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