Here Nor There

Solo Exhibition By Karla Marchesi

10 July - 3 August 2014

2 September - 31 October 2014 | Australian High Commission Singapore


By Samantha Segar

Your practice has shifted significantly in the last few years. How have things changed for you?

In mid-2012 I migrated from Australia to Berlin. This journey yielded significant developments in my aesthetic and conceptual concerns as a painter. Previously my practice was characterised by realist depictions and confronting the collision of public and private worlds. By portraying the human in its absence, recent studies sought to revision representational still life painting as means to explore socio-cultural anxieties.

Presently the affect of place, specifically how the urban fabric of Berlin palpably responds to changing seasons, has influenced an aesthetic shift in my investigation of contemporary still life practices towards traditions of botanical painting.

The composition of some of the works in “Here Nor There” seems to engulf the viewer. What's going on?

The complexity of detail and compositional framework positioning the viewer as embodied in the scene are designed to bring the audience in close to the painting, so they are as directly related to the surface while viewing the work as I am while creating the work. It is within this proximity that I find the most exciting aspects of painting, here is where the mark-making, sensuality, and luminosity of the paint is revealed.

By positioning the viewer in this vortex-like space, it also more actively engages them in the time, process, and creation of these other worlds, opening other layers of experience in the work.

Why such monochromatic and muted colour schemes?

My practice has had a long love affair with mid-tonal palettes. I feel that more subtlety is revealed in quiet observation of shadows then the noise of high contrast. In this way it set the tone for a reflective experience.

I find there is something beautifully evocative about this colour use, distanced from local colour schemes. It allows for the audience to draw on their own memory of past places, experiences or imaginings, as the sometimes psychedelic or nostalgic hues evoke a dreamscape, or convey a sense of looking through the world through a filtered lens—the space embodying our individual perception of the world. This lends itself to the concept of Foucault’s heterotopia, of the timelessness and otherness found in a moment of personal musing when we engage with a place and question our role within it.

You have stated that this work is both a self-portrait and metaphor for Berlin. How so?

My experience of otherness and timelessness of place, which frames the inspiration for "Here nor There," is the self-portrait aspect and is two-fold: that of the of the expat experience in a foreign-speaking country and my atypical sleeping cycle distorting the parameters of what constitutes the length of a day.

There is a quietness and reflective solitude living in a city where you don’t speak the language. You are immune to reading and receiving advertising messages and you cannot decipher conversations in public space. In this way your thoughts turn inwards and the city starts to hum at a different resonance. This coupled with my favourite pastime of observational walking has let the city reveal itself to me in a slow and intimate manner—wherein motifs and metaphors of a city emerge through the privilege of time; I observe without aim and walk without destination. This process alone could be read as living in a self- constructed divergent space—in one’s head, in between the gaps of social routine and demands of conventional employment.

The works serves as a metaphor for Berlin in that it is meant to capture the city’s cycle of growth, flux, schism, transformation, and renewal. For many within the creative community here, Berlin can be experienced simultaneously as a pleasure garden, purgatory, place of possibility, and site of reinvention; as I've said, it is a city that manages to regenerate and flourish no matter the circumstances.

Are these based on real scenes/photographs of your wanderings or just your memories of these spaces?

These are based on real places and scenes chanced upon on my long walks around the city. Photos are taken on my smart phone and collected over time, as motifs and ideas present themselves they are recomposed using Photoshop. However, because my process of drawing and responding to chance marks made on the surface is so intuitive, the photographic reference is merely a guide. In that way the scene becomes both real and imagined as redrawing of the foliage largely stems from memory, imagination and a response to the surface.

Can you tell me about your process?

I see my practice currently as being a process of drawing with paint.

During my 2012 residency in Berlin I sought to challenge the nature of my practice and return to the fundamentals of drawing so to discover new possibilities. Previously my practice was characterised by laborious, academic layered oil painting techniques, where the most compelling and exciting stage for me was always the unselfconscious underpainting process that takes place before resolving a painting. For the better part of a decade, peers and contemporaries would try to stop me at this early stage and leave them as finished works, but I held a different conception of what my work entailed at that point in time.

In seeking to explore more liberated and intuitive practices, I developed a process extrapolating and refining a long employed ‘wipe-out’ technique. This involves coating prepared boards with a film of lean transparent colour.

Then I draw in a subtractive fashion with turpentine, removing the lights and shifting the paint around in a broad fashion. This is continually refined until the drawing and tonal balance is resolved. The boards may then be left to dry, then glazed again with another hue (and redrawn again) or silhouetted from the outside edge with flat opaque paint.

I’m very excited to continue exploring this process. I think it holds great scope for innovation as it has the potential to uniquely intersect aesthetics of drawing, painting, print-making and graphic arts. Really it feels like early days in my investigation.


About the Artist

Drawing from a lexicon of the familiar, Australian artist Karla Marchesi's painting practice explores the relationships we forge with domestic objects, spaces, and landscapes, and how the aesthetic depiction of these establishes subliminal connections to past places, rituals, and memories. Engaging both the autobiographical and the universal, her practice interrogates how we live, what we value and what we overlook, the environments we create for ourselves and the personal and cultural myths that are reflected in our surroundings.

Marchesi has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, First Class Honours, from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. She has held multiple solo exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, Australia, as well as Berlin, Germany. She is the recipient of the 2013 Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grant – Early Career, and the 2012 Winner of the Wilson Visual Arts Award. From 2012-2013 she held a studio residency with Atelierhaus Mengerzeile, Berlin. Her work has been collected by The University of Queensland and the Southern Downs Regional Art Collection, among others.


  • Karla Marchesi