A Balancing Act – Old City New World by Australian Artist Ellie Malin
Old City IV, unique state woodblock print, 120cm x 80cm, oil based inks on 100% cotton paper
Kaleidoscopic patterns of colour fill Ellie Malin’s woodblock prints, caught as if suspended mid-motion in air. The playful lightness in her work is deceptively simple, sometimes taking months to achieve as textural layers of colour are carefully built up over time to create depth, movement and space. Underlying structure slowly reveals itself as shapes brush up against one another, lightly touch, or balance precariously like tightrope walkers that could fall at any moment.
A further balancing act is explored in the print series ‘Old City New World’ as Malin combines the fresh, vital colours of nature with shapes alluding to the architecture of ancient cities, as she explains, “Spring greens, and oceanic blues draw in a world of nature while circles, arches and squares evoke memories of old worlds.” These architectural fragments are lifted out of context and allowed to float free in abstract space, sometimes fading into ghostly relics in the background, hovering like luminous shards of stained glass, or forming careworn blocks of solid, three-dimensional form in the foreground. Malin likens these changes in tempo to memories of time and place as they shift in and out of focus in our minds.
Old City I, unique state woodblock print, 120cm x 80cm, oil based inks on 100% cotton paper
The richly tactile surface texture of woodblock printing is also a vital element in the ‘Old City, New World’ series, allowing Malin to further reference the building blocks of architecture. Smooth blue shapes are as bright and clear as polished glass, while scratched blocks of brown and grey resemble solid chunks of wood or concrete; it is perhaps no surprise that Malin cites contemporary Japanese architect Tadao Ando as a major influence on the tactile geometry of her practice.
New World I, unique state woodblock print, 120cm x 80cm, oil based inks on 100% cotton paper
Malin works through a gradual and intuitive process of reduction to achieve these results, sometimes beginning with references to the real world which are gradually distilled down into their barest, skeletal bones. “An image’s origins may begin as something quite recognisable,” she writes, “as I slowly take on a process of deconstructing it into pure simplified shapes and colour. In effect I’m pulling things apart in order to simplify their appearance”.
Square Within Square, unique state woodblock print, 80cm x 80cm, oil based inks on 100% cotton paper
Malin’s approach to colour is equally abstract and experimental, and it is clear to see references to the sonorous musicality of Wassily Kandinsky as fragments of electric-bright colour bounce off one-another and buzz with excited energy. But Malin also introduces certain colours such as “intense clarets and yellow ambers,” to deliberately throw herself off balance, leaving her, and us, teetering on a knife edge between rational order and the wonderful world of complete chaos.
New World II, unique state woodblock print, 120cm x 80cm, oil based inks on 100% cotton paper