Studio Visit

Marisa Purcell

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
29th of March 2013
Artist Marisa Purcell in her Sydney studio.  Photo - Phu Tang.
'After Image', 2013 by Marisa Purcell, for her new show 'Communion' at Edwina Corlette gallery.  Oil and acrylic on linen, 153 x 137 cm.
'Time Together VI' 2013 by Marisa Purcell, for her new show 'Communion' at Edwina Corlette gallery.  Ink on board, perspex frame, 18 x 30 cm.
Marisa Purcell in her Sydney studio.  Photo - Phu Tang.
Studio details.   Photo - Phu Tang.
Details from the studio of Marisa Purcell.   Photo - Phu Tang.
Yep, it's business as usual here, even on Good Friday!  I just couldn't kick the daily habit - it didn't feel right to take a day off!  SO I do hope someone is reading today... !? Sydney based artist Marisa Purcell started life as a high school art teacher, though she really always wanted to be an artist.  When the urge to paint could be stifled no longer, Marisa moved from Queensland to Sydney to study fine art and begin her own practice. She has since exhibited extensively, both in Australia and overseas, and has taught at the National Art School, Sydney College of the Arts, and The Art Gallery of New South Wales for over 10 years.  She also runs painting and materials workshops in her own studio in Bondi - more info here, they sound amazing! I love Marisa's large scale works on linen - there is something ethereal and almost a bit cosmic about them... all those hazy spheres and seemingly random bursts of colour feel like snapshots of outer space to me!  Marisa is more ambiguous when describing her work - she says she's interested in memory, time and space, and 'the experiences of things that permeate us without conscious attention having been paid to them'. Marisa's most recent works, created for her current show, Communion, at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane, are inspired by a residency completed in Italy last year.  Marisa spent time in Florence, studying frescoes by Fra Angelico in the San Marco Monastery.  Whilst her own works are far more intuitive and abstract in style, Marisa says her time studying the frescoes has had a profound impact on her own practice, emphasising the idea of painting 'as a harness, or as a way of pulling something in'.  She believes the process of painting creates a distinct connection between herself, the painting and the viewer. Marisa is represented by Olsen Irwin Gallery in Sydney,  Block Projects in Melbourne (where she has a solo show oming up later this year!), and Edwina Corlette in Brisbane. Communion by Marisa Purcell Open now until 13th April Edwina Corlette Gallery 2/55 Brunswick Street New Farm, QLD 
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 always wanted to be an artist but wasn’t quite sure how it could ever happen. So I became a high school art teacher, until I couldn’t deny it to myself anymore, and quit my job and got a studio. Since then, my painting has evolved into different forms but the essence has remained the same. I am still fundamentally interested in things that excited me even as a teenager – that ambiguous, uncertain world that seems just beyond reach.
How would you describe your work?
Open, rhythmical, saturated and in-between. I’m interested in peripheries and the experiences of things that permeate us without conscious attention having been paid to them. Memory, time and space all banter around my paintings. Marks and spaces become like zones and somehow activate a shared space between myself and the audience.
What can we expect to see in your new exhibition ‘Communion’ at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane? What has inspired this body of work?
I’ve been continuing a thread since I was in Italy doing a residency at ‘La Macina di San Cresci’ in Chianti. I was there to study the frescoes by Fra Angelico in the San Marco Monastery in Florence. The attention and love he gave to his painting is still so strongly felt when you look at them now. My new paintings are reflecting on similar impulses, and emphasise the moment of painting as a harness or as a way of pulling something in.
'Time Afterward', 2013 by Marisa Purcell, for her new show 'Communion' at Edwina Corlette gallery.  Oil and acrylic on linen, 153 x 137 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?
My paintings begin from the materials. Usually a type of paint will dictate how it wants to be used. So I love playing with different materials like inks, pigments, acrylics, oils, chalk and oil pastels. I usually work on linen for the bigger works and for the last couple of shows I’ve played around with a natural linen which has a completely different absorbancy to the primed linen. I love seeing how materials react to different surfaces. I generally have a few paintings going at once. Sometimes a painting has to sit awhile and brood before my attention wants to go to it. I can easily work on just one painting all day, but on another day I may work across five. The time it takes to make a painting is so hard to say because they all overlap and sometimes I don’t know it's finished for weeks. If it sits in the studio next to the other paintings and it feels like nothing more can be done to it, then I leave it. This could take four days or four months.
Marisa Purcell in her Sydney studio.   Photo - Phu Tang.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
If I’m not teaching I will usually leave my house in the morning, go to my studio and paint all day until I pick up the kids – and in the lead up to a show go back to the studio once they are in bed. Some days are really active and I’m painting all day, while other days I sit and stare from the couch, listen to music, write stuff in my book, get confused and generally just stare without any certainty!  And sometimes things seem to fall into place effortlessly. Work also continues out of the studio with research, especially reading about other artists’ processes and ideas. Lately, I’ve been revisiting the writings of W.G Sebald and the films of Tarkovsky. I draw closely from artists of other forms – writers and musicians rather than painters, although I also love looking at a lot of painting.
Marisa's studio.   Photo - Phu Tang.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
I use Pinterest a lot and Instagram. It opens up a world of images – both art and otherwise. I also listen to a lot of radio, podcasts mostly, especially Radiolab. The only TV I regularly watch is when SBS screens a Brian Cox series – like the most recent Wonders of the Solar System. Music is a must in the studio, so lately I’ve been using Spotify so I can get whatever music I want anytime. I love getting Artist Profile, and Modern Painters in the mail and the more regular The New Yorker. My favourite site at the moment is But Does It Float, which is a treasure trove of the most eclectic and intruiging images.
'Quickening', 2013 by Marisa Purcell, for her new show 'Communion' at Edwina Corlette gallery.  Oil and acrylic on linen, 153 x 137 cm.
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
The artists that inspire me most are my friends. Having regular updates on the working processes of the people you know is the most intriguing and satisfying thing. My friend Anna-Lisa Backlund is designing the most amazing scarves and jewellery. She uses 3D modelling software – it’s like she is in the space of the work – something that is truly fascinating to me. My partner Max Lyandvert is a composer and theatre director. His work is utterly visual and I relate to the sounds he makes almost more than other paintings. He’s been composing scores for theatre and directing his own work for years – the aesthetic is considered, necessary, emotional, yet monumental. Other friends like Maria Gorton, Matthew Allen and Lindy Lee make completely different work to me but our motivations come from the same place. They are kindred spirits. And, the sound world created by artists like Oren Ambarchi. Certain music can dictate a painted mark or imbue the painting with an atmosphere instantaneously.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
When I received the residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. I ended up staying for 7 months because it was such a great experience.
What would be your dream project?
Something like Rothko’s chapel in Houston, where I'd work with an architect and make a suite of immersive site specific paintings.
What are you looking forward to?
The opportunity to keep making pictures.
Work in progress.   Photo - Phu Tang.


Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?
It has to be Bondi because that’s where I live – I get to see the ocean everyday.
Where do you shop in Sydney for the tools of your trade?
Depending on what I need, Parkers’ Art Supplies and The Sydney Art Store.
Where / what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
The Nourishing Quarter in Surry Hills. A great room, and creative vegetarian food that’s fantastic.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Bondi Growers’ markets getting flowers and playing with the kids at the park.
Sydney’s best kept secret?
The rocks at north bondi for a swim!
'Lure', 2013 by Marisa Purcell, for her new show 'Communion' at Edwina Corlette gallery.  Oil and acrylic on linen, 153 x 137 cm.

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