Jude Rae works in con­ver­sa­tion with space and light, play­ing with the eye of the viewer as her works shift and co­a­lesce be­tween rep­re­sen­ta­tion and ab­strac­tion. Me­thod­i­cal in her process, she works with a range of medi­ums from video to etch­ings to re­alise the com­po­si­tion of her im­pres­sive large scale paint­ings. In this va­ri­ety of form and con­tent, what re­mains con­sis­tent is the artist’s aware­ness of a paint­ing and ex­am­in­ing what its role is.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR UP­BRING­ING, AND how that has in­formed your artis­tic fo­cus to­day?

My dad was a painter and he and my mum met at the Ju­lian Ash­ton Art School. Mum was an ama­teur cel­list and work­ing as a life model. I went there on Satur­days when I was about 12, which was un­usual, but my par­ents knew the Ash­tons. We did not have much money but my sis­ter and I grew up with art and mu­sic. I had to re­cal­i­brate my re­la­tion­ship to that cul­ture as I got older.

Your ear­lier room de­tails in the 1990s ap­pear al­most to­tally nonob­jec­tive. What ap­peals to you about the in­ter­play be­tween re­al­ism and non-ob­jec­tiv­ity?

Those paint­ings weren’t so early – I was in my mid 30s. They are quite lit­eral de­pic­tions of wall de­tails, ex­plo­rations of the idea that there might be no dis­tinc­tion be­tween ab­strac­tion and rep­re­sen­ta­tion in paint­ing – that all paint­ing is ab­stract. I was very in­ter­ested in the am­bi­gu­i­ties of rep­re­sen­ta­tion: ren­der­ing what I was see­ing in paint as sharp and soft gra­da­tions of colour and tone. I was paint­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion­ally and pre­sent­ing it in the guise of ab­strac­tion much like pho­tog­ra­phers like Siskind or Till­mans. Even prior to that I was ask­ing my­self the ques­tion: why paint? The fab­ric paint­ings were as much about this doubt, ob­scur­ing the sub­ject of paint­ing or paint­ing the can­vas it­self, as they were about fem­i­nist dis­course, which is how they were in­ter­preted at the time.

By paint­ing onto the can­vas you are dis­guis­ing the can­vas and turn­ing it into some­thing that it isn’t.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tional paint­ing is a cul­tural con­struct. To think of the can­vas as a win­dow is an ab­stract idea. Ap­proach­ing paint as coloured mud be­ing moved around on a flat sur­face is quite con­crete. Con­sciously or not, rep­re­sen­ta­tional painters do both.

You ac­knowl­edge Gunter Um­berg and non-ob­jec­tive painters as your in­flu­ences. Which other artists or styles do you re­fer to?

Cezanne, Mo­randi, Matisse, Mon­drian, Al­bers (both Josef and Anni) to name but a few. The Bauhaus was splen­did. I love tex­tiles, Mod­ernist de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture – Ando, Zumthor, Eames – it has a lot to do with func­tion and ma­te­ri­al­ity.

Does that feed into how you ap­proach the sur­face of a paint­ing?

Touch is very im­por­tant in paint­ing. It took me years to re­alise that, while my fa­ther was a painter, my mother was an up­hol­sterer. She had a store of bits of nice old li­nen and bro­cades, and that heavy up­hol­stery ma­te­rial with tex­ture and phys­i­cal pres­ence.

From small still-lifes to your larger in­te­ri­ors, there is a fo­cus upon light and space. Is scale of sim­i­lar im­por­tance?

Scale is im­por­tant be­cause it af­fects how I make a paint­ing. Work­ing large is en­tirely dif­fer­ent to work­ing on smaller can­vases – source ma­te­rial, paint ap­pli­ca­tion ... ev­ery­thing changes. A large paint­ing is im­mer­sive, while there is more an ob­ject qual­ity to a smaller work. Ac­ti­vat­ing those large sur­face ar­eas so they feel alive re­quires dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions. I think I made progress in the Foyer works (370 and 371) that were in the (re­cently con­cluded) Drill Hall show in Canberra, A Space of Mea­sured Light.

Along­side your oil paint­ings, you work with wa­ter­colour, etch­ings and lithographs. What at­tracts you to this va­ri­ety of medi­ums?

Other medi­ums help me open up new ground but it al­ways leads back to paint­ing. Wa­ter­colour is in­cred­i­bly scary for an oil painter – no sec­ond chances! With etch­ing the de­lay is the thing. I had no idea I was so im­pa­tient. There is some­thing about the way the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ink and paper is pal­pa­ble and I love those vel­vety blacks. The metal etch­ing plates have a pow­er­ful phys­i­cal pres­ence too, like sculp­ture in a way. I like soft ground etch­ing be­cause it is more at­mo­spheric and of­fers more op­por­tu­ni­ties for a bit of foul bit­ing and ac­ci­dent.

How of­ten do you print?

I seem to have come around to it ev­ery 10 years but lately more con­sis­tently. It helps me work through things. The two Foyer In­te­ri­ors in the show at FoxJensen in Padding­ton were ear­lier small ver­sions of the big paint­ings I made for the Drill Hall in Canberra, but prior to


01 SL359, 2016, oil on li­nen, 153 x 122cm 02 SL374, 2017, oil on li­nen, 56 x 61cm

03 In­te­rior 372 Foyer III, 2017, oil on li­nen, 159 x 256cm 03

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