Marisa Purcell

Marisa Purcell’s abstract compositions and intricate marks are reminiscent of expanding atoms and energy. Many of her linen canvases hang like curtains, representing the way the brain erects definitive boundaries to construct reality. Through her symbolic visual language, the artist seeks to excavate the unknown forces that operate beyond visibility, consciousness and everyday reality. Artist Profile chatted to Purcell ahead of her fourth solo exhibition with Olsen Gallery.

Your works explore and symbolise phenomena that elude perception, both on scientific and metaphysical levels. Where did this interest in intangible and ephemeral forces originate?
I’ve always believed that what we see is only part of the story.  There’s so much more going on out there then what we perceive. And, actually, we perceive a lot more than we think we do – through other senses, through our periphery, through micro moments that slip past our conscious selves.  For me, any attempt to represent the world around me in a literal way usually falls flat. I’m so much more attracted to the intangible as I feel it asks questions of me – things that perhaps my brain hasn’t yet evolved the capacity to fathom.

Your recent paintings – exhibited earlier this year at Olsen Gruin in New York – inhabit three-dimensional linen canvases, hung from a rod rather than mounted. What inspired this approach?
When I was working on these really large pieces, they were off the stretcher and just pinned to the wall. The tactility of the linen was so beautiful; I really wanted it to be a subject in itself. Working in abstraction, the materials themselves become central. I’m drawn to textiles and I feel the material serves as a great metaphor for the veil or the curtain. The actual painting can also become a curtain, or a thing that exists in an in-between space – neither inside nor outside.

This metaphor of the veil – what does it mean to you?
Most of my recent works have some sort of veil or obscuring device. There’s often a world of other paintings sitting just below a screen of patterning. The veil, for me, is a reminder that our perception only reveals so much, and in order to go beyond conditioned responses, the veil must be pierced to unearth what is otherwise obscured.

Do you work intuitively or methodically?
My process is entirely intuitive. I rely on cause and effect and the feel of the materials. This requires a good deal of trust and a certain comfort in hanging out in the unknown. Some paintings happen quickly, but more often they take a while to reveal themselves, which is why I work on many paintings simultaneously. I tend to jump around the works at once until one grabs my attention, and then I can stay with that one painting for days.

These paintings are changeable based on movement, light, viewing position and changing patterns in the environment.
Changeability is key (which is why it’s so hard to be happy with a jpeg of a painting!). The works change all the time. I use a lot of reflective pigments and surfaces that reflect light, making each painting feel like many paintings. When I make them I have to move them around my studio constantly to capture the changing light. The painting has to feel resolved from all angles, from all aspects of the room. There are so many details that get revealed slowly over time, and the viewer activates this, bringing their own perceptual facilities to the work.

Marisa Purcell | Collision
29 August – 16 September 2018
Olsen Gallery, Sydney


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