Studio Visit

Unforgettable New Landscapes From Sally Ross

The Archibald Prize alerts us to some truly exceptional paintings, the kind of artworks that stay etched in your mind. While Sally Ross didn’t take out the top award this year, she was again a finalist. Of the 794 entries, her portrait The Huxleys is the one I remember best.

It’s a joy to share a studio visit with this delightfully candid artist as we preview her latest body of work, which goes on exhibit at Murray White Room tomorrow.

Elle Murrell

Inside the home studio of Melbourne-based artist Sally Ross. Figurine from the Salvos, bronze Finger sculpture by Storm Gold from Caves Gallery, ceramic hand by Caroline Gibbes from Arthouse Gallery, Love Poems by Karl Marx (written when Marx was a student – to his ‘beautiful and witty’ wife Jenny  –’ I’m a Romantic fool,’ says Sally), SHIT  by Jordan Marani from Daine Singer Gallery, Canadian artists General Idea‘s edition box for A poodle never begs except for meaning, Jan Lucas’ Piss Off jug from Neon Parc, and Gnome by Gordon Bennett atop an alabaster ashtray. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sally lives and work in an old Victorian house in ‘P-Town’ (Prahran). Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sally credits artist/gallerist/teacher Kez Hughes with helping her to work with better materials and techniques. Artwork: Landscape (11 trees) 130x110cm. Photo – courtesy of the Murray White Room.

To Sally, her space is an ideal work/life environment in which she can thrive. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The artist admits she’s becoming addicted to collaboration. ‘It can only work if you trust and respect each other. It doesn’t work if you don’t let your collaborators ‘do their thing’, she says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Her long studio space is crammed with books and rugs and art and ‘big woofy speakers so I can listen to loud music all day and work late when I need to’. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘My work takes centre stage in my life,’ says Sally. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘‘tis always a tug of war between ever-present doubt and potential ecstasy when putting a show together, but I am thrilled with how it is shaping up,’ says Sally. Artwork: Landscape (7 trees) 130x110cm. Photo – courtesy of the Murray White Room.

Studio details featuring photographs and her Archibald Prize Finalist artwork The Huxleys. ‘The photo is merely a compositional point of departure. All the good stuff is found, not lost in translation,’ Sally explains. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sally’s exhibition runs until December 20th. She’s keen to catch my breath, get to Africa, go to the Brueghel retrospective in Vienna and finish some portrait commissions next. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
15th of November 2018

Sally Ross is striving to carve out a ‘sustainable professional career as an artmonster’ but at the same time, make sure she follows the ‘numerous desires of both her heart and head’.

What does this look like? Well, in May, when the Archibald finalists were announced, Sally was collaborating with her portrait subjects Will and Garrett Huxley, The Huxleys – ‘being dressed in glitter bodysuit and discordant wig at the Art Gallery of New South Wales was quite an honour,’ she tells. But we should be clear, it’s not always like this. Sometimes (in 2017, specifically) it’s working with artist Paulina Olowska in her studio in Poland. At other times, Sally’s days are taken up by more run-of-the-mill liaising with clients, architects and interior designers on site-specific commissions.

How then does art born out of this diversity of adventures appear? For Sally’s most recent exhibition, which opens at Murray White Room tomorrow, it’s vast yet intricately layered vistas in vibrant emerald, teal, and hints of cerulean. These nine new oil-on-board paintings are based on found materials, as is often her process. ‘They emerged from a stinky pile of antiquarian books on 15th/16th-century Flemish art,’ tells the 49-year-old painter, who is astounded by the skill, restraint, and complexity of the early ‘Netherlandish’ artists.

Sally has set out to connect viewers to a deeper sense of time than the relentless instantaneity of contemporary culture through these works. ‘This constant swiping away and stream of next! next! next! that makes people enjoy the potential of a painting, of an object, and materials of real-time and space even more,’ as she puts it.

Her forthcoming showcase is a joint venture, but a pretty atypical one at that. Exhibition-goers will enter through a four-metre high wild smoke bush installation by florist Hattie Molloy, before witnessing Otto Dix inspired skull paintings made with artist Matthew Harris. There’s also 80s Italian seating – by Paolo Deganello for Cassina (1982) – provided by Geoffrey Hatty, which was once showcased on gameshow Sale of the Century! The gallery floor will be covered with antique Persian, Anatolian, Caucasian and European carpets selected by Bob Cadry of Cadrys.

‘The show is about collaboration and the way things co-exist without intending to be didactic, matchy-matchy or follow logical associations,’ invites Sally. ‘As the Huxleys say: “Everything happens for no reason”.’

Sally Ross
November 16th to December 20th
Murray White Room
Sargood Lane, Melbourne

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