Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - by Elli Walsh

Canberra-based artist Sanne Koelemij cre­ates col­laged com­po­si­tions that re­cal­i­brate the di­a­logue be­tween colour, shape and ma­te­rial. Her shapes warp in kalei­do­scopic pat­terns while depth and sur­face merge in tac­tile con­stel­la­tions cam­ou­flaged by plays of light and colour, cre­at­ing a vis­ual ten­sion that is both dis­arm­ing and al­lur­ing.

IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU BEEN EX­PAND­ING YOUR prac­tice since grad­u­at­ing from the ANU in Canberra?

Dur­ing art school I had so many thoughts and ideas; I was con­stantly dis­tract­ing my­self with the wealth of mak­ing. I was given the ad­vice to fo­cus on one idea and save the oth­ers for later, to get my­self into a clearer rhythm of mak­ing. Since grad­u­at­ing I’ve ex­panded on dif­fer­ent ideas to­wards the ma­te­rial de­ci­sions in my work. These have mainly in­volved work­ing with per­spex and trans­par­ent sur­faces, as well as paint­ing on smaller scales.

Al­though your colour fields are non-ob­jec­tive, do they have any rep­re­sen­ta­tional foun­da­tion?

I don’t di­rectly work from rep­re­sen­ta­tion. I ap­proach ab­strac­tion with the idea of ‘con­struct­ing space’. Do­ing my hon­ours the­sis, I was cap­ti­vated by sun­rises and sun­sets. It was the feel­ing of be­ing en­gulfed by colour and the rapid­ness of change in the sky. This sparked an in­ter­est in work­ing with colour as a sub­ject and ex­plor­ing the ‘push/pull’ ten­sion colour can cre­ate on the pic­ture plane. This is just in­spi­ra­tional, though, I don’t work from pho­to­graphs or doc­u­men­ta­tions. I was also looking at the works of Mark Rothko, Brid­get Riley, James Tur­rell and Colour Field­ing as a jour­ney into ab­strac­tion. I also have an ob­ses­sion with grids and math­e­mat­i­cal space. This has crept into my work too; the idea of map­ping colour. I’m ex­plor­ing this as a sub­ject, though the use of mat­ter as ma­te­rial is also im­por­tant to my prac­tice as it adds an­other di­men­sion to the in­volve­ment of colour.

You of­ten work with found and re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als. By re­con­tex­tu­al­is­ing ur­ban de­tri­tus as art, you’re not only re­vis­ing the value of ev­ery­day ob­jects but also sym­bol­i­cally par­tak­ing in the war on waste. Is this a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion?

Ini­tially, the de­ci­sion to use ev­ery­day mat­ter was for for­mal rea­sons. The ma­te­ri­als I col­lected cre­ated a sys­tem for the con­struc­tion of my sur­faces. When I started this col­lect­ing process I be­came drawn to ma­te­ri­als with in­ter­est­ing ‘de­for­mi­ties’ such as a shoe print pressed onto sur­faces; like a ma­te­rial fin­ger­print. This be­came ad­dic­tive and I started col­lect­ing any type of tex­ture I could find – I was ‘dump­ster div­ing’ at this time! Even the stretcher bars I used were ei­ther left be­hind in some­one’s stu­dio or be­ing sent to a skip bin. What in­ter­ested me was how ma­te­ri­als and ob­jects had some­thing in­ter­est­ing in the wide realm of mat­ter and, se­con­dar­ily, how these ma­te­ri­als had com­pletely lost their value to the pri­mary owner or user. I’m pas­sion­ate about the war on waste and this has un­doubt­edly in­flu­enced my work in the same way math­e­mat­ics and sun­set source ma­te­rial have crept into my prac­tice. Waste and re­cy­cling have be­come some­thing that’s im­pact­ing all of us even if we don’t di­rectly see the con­se­quences of it. I’m cur­rently work­ing on paint­ings that di­rectly con­nect to these ideas, so in an­swer­ing the ques­tion, it wasn’t a con­scious de­ci­sion at first but it most def­i­nitely is now. In 2016 you were the Re­gional Win­ner in The Un­der­grad­u­ate Awards, Ire­land, for your body of work Paint­ingBeyondthe Stretcher. What has in­spired you to move be­yond the can­vas? I was cu­ri­ous whether colour could be de­con­structed by min­i­mal use of ma­te­ri­als, in the same way colour is op­er­at­ing in the Paint­ing Be­yond the Stretcher se­ries, which de­vel­oped to a se­ries of works on Per­spex. These art­works ex­per­i­ment with colour where light is phys­i­cally a part of the paint­ing, in­stead of be­ing pro­duced by the white sur­face of the can­vas. The trans­par­ent qual­i­ties of Per­spex al­low for a ges­tu­ral mark to cast a shadow on the painted forms in the back, adding an­other ten­sion – be­tween the two- and three-di­men­sional. This ten­sion seems so cen­tral to your prac­tice. Re­cent se­ries like Float­ingS­tud­ies (2017) and Push­ingBoard­ers (2016) cre­ate a tus­sle be­tween two- and three-di­men­sional space whereby strokes of colour and bold pat­tern­ing forge a per­ceived flat­ten­ing of the tex­tured sur­face. Do you al­ways seek to cre­ate ten­sion, or har­mony?

I be­came drawn to ma­te­ri­als with in­ter­est­ing ‘de­for­mi­ties’ such as a shoe print pressed onto sur­faces; like a fin­ger­print. This be­came ad­dic­tive and I started col­lect­ing any type of tex­ture I could find – I was ‘dump­ster div­ing’ at this time!

01 Un­ti­tled (Franken­stein), 2015, acrylic and spray paint on card­board, plas­tic, hes­sian, raw can­vas, trac­ing paper, polyester and wood, 200 x 205cm 02 Paper Plains III, 2016, acrylic on Per­spex, 41 x 51cm

Al­ways ten­sion. I’ve never searched for har­mony but I am con­scious of mak­ing my com­po­si­tions show a form of dy­namic sym­me­try. I pur­posely throw ab­stract com­po­si­tions in ten­sion with mat­ter, but the point of where I stop paint­ing is when the in­tegrity of the ma­te­rial form is just div­ing be­tween recog­nis­able and cam­ou­flaged. I want to cre­ate ten­sion in my work be­cause it cre­ates a space to ques­tion or be chal­lenged by the space – the same way I was in mak­ing these works!

What do you hope to achieve through this in­ter­play of il­lu­sion (paint­ing) and ob­ject (col­lage)?

I would love for my paint­ings to be touched and have that sense sat­is­fied. I’m un­sure how to achieve this just yet though! For now they just re­main as temp­ta­tions. In do­ing so, I think you bring per­ceived ex­pe­ri­ences of these ma­te­ri­als to the view­ing of the work: how they might feel, where you usu­ally see them or how you might use them, and how this is con­trasted with the set­ting of a gallery space.

As an emerg­ing artist, what are some of the main chal­lenges?

The big­gest chal­lenge for me has been ac­cept­ing to say ‘no’. There’s only so much you can do in the stu­dio and dur­ing busy times it’s not worth wear­ing your­self out. In the stu­dio, mak­ing work trans­portable has been a good chal­lenge too. Be­cause I en­joy mak­ing large paint­ings, I’ve re­ally had to fo­cus on balanc­ing that with prac­ti­cal­ity! It’s made me con­sider other ways I can con­struct the stretch­ers.

Re­cently you’ve been ex­plor­ing ways in which your vis­ual lan­guage can be de­vel­oped into large in­stal­la­tions and mu­ral paint­ings. Is this the di­rec­tion you’re head­ing?

I would love that; it ex­cites me! But I’m never 100 per cent sure where my prac­tice heads next, I just let it hap­pen. At the mo­ment I’ve been work­ing on models for large wall paint­ings which in­cor­po­rate rub­bish and other ma­te­ri­als. They are in their early stages so it will be a lit­tle while for me to work them out but hope­fully when I do I will have a chance to show them. Lots of tan­gents to ex­plore!

www.san­ @san­ne_koelemi­j_art EX­HI­BI­TION Young Mod­erns Un­til 19 Novem­ber, 2017 Pen­rith Re­gional Gallery www.pen­rithre­gion­al­

03 My Mark is a Shape, is an Ob­ject, is a Mark, 2015, acrylic and spray paint on card­board, plas­tic, hes­sian, raw can­vas, trac­ing paper, polyester and wood, 194 x 205cm 04 In­stall Im­age (Float­ing Stud­ies #5-8), 2017, acrylic on mixed me­dia, di­men­sions vari­able Cour­tesy the artist

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