Studio Visit

Lara Merrett

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
30th of March 2012
Sucker - Lara Merrett, 2010, synthetic polymer paint, ink & vinyl on linen, 240 cm x 183 cm
Every part of me's floating - Lara Merrett, 2010, synthetic polymer paint & ink on linen, 240 cm x 183 cm
My wayward by Lara Merrett for her current show, Invaders, at Block Projects, 2012, synthetic polymer paint &ink on linen, 186 cm x 170 cm
Make my day - Lara Merrett, 2009, synthetic polymer paint & ink on linen, 183 x 167.5 cm

Oh my.  I have fallen head over heels in LOVE with these vast, vivid canvases by  Sydney-based artist Lara Merrett.  Isn't her work just incredible!?

Lara was born in Melbourne but grew up in Sydney.  As she explains below, a trip to New York at the tender age of 16 ignited in Lara a passion for fine art, where time spent ogling the incredible artwork on display at MOMA, The Guggenheim the Whitney and The Met conveyed to her the immense 'power of paint'. Later, tertiary study trips to both Spain and New York cemented this passion.

Lara studied painting at Sydney's prestigious College of Fine Art - where she received a Bachelor and Masters of Fine Art in 1997.  After completing her studies she won a scholarship to undertake a residency in India in 2001 - where four months of exposure to vibrant colour in everyday life left a lasting imprint on Lara's own art practice.  More than 10 years on, you can still see this influence in her works, which are created intuitively in inks, acrylics, vinyl and metallics, using intense layers of colour.

After some time spent living in Melbourne over the past few years, Lara is now based again in Sydney with her young family, where she works from a studio in Alexandria.

Melbournites will be pleased to know you can catch Lara's work in person in a solo show entitled Invaders at Blockprojects in Richmond, opening next week! Lara is represented by Karen Woodbury.

Invaders - new paintings by Lara Merrett 4th - 28th April 2012   Blockprojects 79 Stephenson Street Richmond Ph. 03 9429 0660 Gallery Hours Wed - Fri 11.00am - 5.00pm Sat 11.00 - 4.00 and Sun 12.00 - 4.00
Lara Merrett in her Sydney studio
Tell us a little about your background – What path led you to becoming a fine artist, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?

I spent my early years in Singapore and Malaysia and then we (my family) moved back to Sydney when I was seven. I grew up in Bondi and went to school in Darlinghurst. I used to walk past the National Art School and COFA on my way home and dream about the possibility of one day being able to just paint all day.

When I was 16 I saved up enough money to fly to New York with a girlfriend. I still can't believe my parents let me go. I visited all the big collections at the MOMA, Whitney, Guggenheim and The Met. Standing in front of the works from Rothko to Riley made me realise the power of paint. I think from that moment I never had any doubts about what I wanted to do. Later travels have also influenced the way I work. After completing a BFA and a MA at COFA I was awarded a scholarship to study in India. Being in India for four months was incredible, especially since I was being exposed to so much colour in everyday life (markets, festivals, clothes and textiles). My work definitely soaked it all up.

How would you describe your work?

Intuitive, large, unlikely and not shy.

What can we expect to see in your new show at Block Projects? What has inspired this body of work?

Invaders is very much a clash of worlds. You can see the geometric breaking up the more fluid passages…this work is so new to me, I almost don't want to define it yet.

In the vaders by Lara Merrett for her current show Invaders at Block Projects, 2012, synthetic polymer paint &ink on linen, 186 cm x 170 cm
Falling out - Lara Merrett for her current show Invaders at Block Projects, 2012, synthetic polymer paint &ink on linen, 186 cm x 170 cm

Can you give us a little insight into your process? What materials do you use? Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? Do you work on multiple canvases at one time? And how long does each work take to complete?

I only work with water-based materials, which include inks, acrylics, vinyl and metallics. No work is ever pre-planned, however each work does inform the next. They become a family or chapters in an idea.

I mostly start a painting flat on the floor and move around the work pouring lots of colours over the canvas. I always have at least six works in progress, but this eventually narrows down to the work I become most obsessed with. I have to feel a strong pull toward the work or I won't work on it at all.

It's like magic when the unexpected starts to happen. I love it… it's completely intoxicating. From start to completion a work can take anywhere from three days up to six months. Each work has its own personality and therefore takes its own time.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

If it's not raining I'll always cycle to my studio in Alexandria and grab a coffee on the way. I'll arrive at 9.00ish and start work by 10.00am. I'll always have the radio on in the morning and then play lots of music later on. Lunch is always shared and made at the studio with artist mates using fresh bread from the two bakeries next door. Some days are later than others, this usually depends on whether I need to do the 3.00pm school pickup!  Before a show I'll be at the studio every day so I'm walking, talking and dreaming the work (to myself).

Lara Merrett's Sydney studio

Can you list for us 5 resources across any media (i.e. 5 specific websites, magazines, books or other media) that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?

I love a story, and so find inspiration in a good narrative. I am a big fiction reader, but you’ll also find me reading The Monthly and The New Yorker, and listening to Radio National and podcasts.

Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Sydney artist Nell just sent me images of her recent installation at MONA. I love the freedom Nell has in her art making working across different mediums. There is a joy in her work that I find incredibly inspiring.

I'm also inspired regularly by artist friends (who work at the studio or close by) including Laura Jones, Dan Hollier, Nathan Hawkes, Alan Jones, Guy Maestri and Giles Alexander.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

The first time I sold a work to someone I didn't know.

What would be your dream project?

My dream project would be to go bush and paint slow time! The days rush past when you have kids.

What are you looking forward to?

My trip to Hong Kong in June with my family. We'll be there for my exhibition Be my Inside looking out at Cat St Gallery. I'm always very excited about jumping on a plane and being transported to a very different place.

In the beginning is the end - Lara Merrett, 2009, synthetic polymer paint & ink on linen, 183 x 167.5 cm

Sydney Questions

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

I've fallen in love with my new home Redfern. I love the bike lanes, neighbours and crazy local park that the kids leave all their toys in to share.

Where do you shop in Sydney for the tools of your trade?

I'm not very loyal to any particular art store and generally will pick up supplies as I need them. I have my frames stretched and made next to my studio and regularly shop at the Bunnings down the road.

Where/what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Yesterday I had lunch at Kitchen by Mike at Koskela. Fantastic fresh food and only a short walk from the studio.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Kitchen by Mike, but not for long! Another favourite is Strickland House on a sunny Sydney day. Here you can have a picnic, go for a swim and then a snooze in the shade of the garden. I also love the ice-cream boat that comes ashore in the late afternoon.

Don't look back - Lara Merrett, 2009, synthetic polymer paint & ink on linen, 153 cm x 122 cm.

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