Highly awarded, collected and collectable, Lara Merrett first came to national attention with her MCA commission for the Bella Room in 2018, where the large-scale works on canvas drop cloths were suspended in arcing slings of vibrant colour.
Having developed a style of her own, these drop cloths were effectively a chance evolution when the artist found herself more enamoured of the accidental splashes of paint on her drop cloths, than what she was working on. These inexpensive materials, moreover, afforded her the freedom to truly embrace colour on a large and dramatic scale. Returning to the canvas, Merrett has transposed this freedom without censure and the resultant work is breathtaking.
Working within the expanded field of painting, Merrett is part alchemist, artist, and ecological warrior. Colour, and particularly the ephemeral nature of alchemical change is fostered and nurtured to allow surprise intersections where colours meet and merge or dominate/submit. Layering and pouring water-based materials directly into her canvases, which range from intimate to monumental, the process is allowed to mutate as the natural elements such as humidity, heat, cold and so forth interact and disrupt the drying. “It’s like magic when the unexpected starts to happen,” says Merrett who allows each work to reach its own conclusion.
Drawing on literature, nature, community and activism, Merrett’s simultaneous layered colours both amplify and soften as colours shift dominance and alter the composition. As an ocean swimmer, the parallel to shifting colour-weight through different depths of water is evident, yet there is nothing of the pictorial to her work, instead it is a pure abstraction, which is more an essay on the mind than image making.
“In psychoanalysis, oceanic feeling is an expansion of consciousness beyond one’s body, a limitless extension, and a sense of unlimited power associated with identification with the universe as a whole,” says Merrett, adding, “It may be an ecstatic state, a state of altered awareness, a state of interpersonal connection or spiritual union, or a dissociative experience. As an ocean swimmer, I try to tap into, hold onto, and inject this state into the work. In thinking of landscape as an experience, I am connecting to this larger force – I am part of something bigger than myself.”
Born in Melbourne, in 1971, she currently lives and works between Sydney and Bendalong in regional New South Wales. In recent years her practice has further evolved through the merging of community work with her formal colourist investigations, creating both expanded canvases and expanded communities.
Merrett is the recent recipient of the 2023 ‘Sense of Place’ grant awarded by Shoalhaven City Council, with which she will undertake a community engagement in collaboration with the Manyana Matters Environmental Association, continuing her shift towards merging community and work with her formal colourist investigations, creating both expanded canvases and expanded communities.
Lara Merrett: tissu tissue is on at Sullivan+Strumpf Melbourne until 12 August 2023
Studio photography by Hugh Stewart
We think you might also like “A lesson in community building through design” a review of Ace Sydney and how it has become embedded into Sydney’s creative community