The Look Elsewhere, 2018, acrylic on canvas
There is a fresh, breezy lightness to Australian artist Sarah Kelk’s abstract paintings, as swipes and slabs of luminous colour float weightlessly through space. Elements of structure appear here and there in rigid ruler lines and flat, solid blocks of colour, but they dissolve at the edges, squish together or drift over one another with the transience of passing clouds. Expressive textures also keep her surfaces energised and alive, capturing the fluid liquidity of paint, as uneven textures and falling drips remind us these are hand-made objects built up slowly over time.
Persistence, acrylic on canvas
This elemental, ephemeral quality in Kelk’s practice is achieved through a playful process of intuition and improvisation, as she gradually starts building up layers of acrylic paint up on canvas with no end goal in sight. Thin, watery washes of grey or blue streak across her starting backgrounds, suggesting the scumbled texture of stormy skies, which she builds on top of with juicy blocks of opaque paint. Colour is often the starting point that leads her to begin painting, inspired by observations of other artworks, or objects in the real world, as she explains, “I sometimes use a picture as a starting point of inspiration, which might be a landscape with great colours, or a random picture of a garage door I have snapped on my phone.” But this is merely a doorway in, which is gradually worked over through experimentation with the layering of marks and colours.
This is, acrylic on canvas
Working in this way is not without its challenges, and Kelk always runs the risk of going too far, or destroying the tracks of her progress, but for Kelk it is all part of the trilling ride that keeps her creating. “I never know how a piece is going to end up and that’s what I love the most about creating it,” she observes, adding, “My paintings almost feel like completely different pieces from start to finish…the whole process is fascinating to me, and something I never tire of.”
Abundance, acrylic on canvas
In works such as The Look Elsewhere, 2018, Kelk’s loose, watery backdrop is still visible, layered over with floating geometric blocks of colour that resemble architecture against the sky. They hover intimately close to one another without touching, while dribbling edges threaten to bleed into one another. In This Is, by contrast, candy sweet chunks of pale pink and blue squeeze into one another with the soft fluffiness of marshmallows. Whether dominated by dark colours, such as Persistence, or a lighter palette, as seen in This Is, white is a key component in Kelk’s paintings, bringing the dazzling brilliance of daylight into her floating abstract world.
Amidst Solitude, acrylic on canvas, 150cm x 200cm