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Julia Trybala's Paintings Are About The Politics Of Taking Up Space

Studio Visit

A myriad of Virginia Woolf references can be made about this studio visit with Melbourne-based painter Julia Trybala. These photographs depict the artist in her Melbourne studio, the place where she paints her female characters, each confined in their own tightly defined spaces. The artist’s latest exhibition is even titled ‘Room’. Each of these women – painted or human – has a room of her own.

Julia’s moody paintings are about the politics of taking up space: what it means to paint a woman so dominant she must be folded into the canvas, contorted to fit within a pre-defined space. This captivating exhibition opens at Saint Cloche Gallery in Sydney on Wednesday, March 25th.

11th March, 2020

A few tools. Photo – Claire Summers.

Julia in her studio, surrounded by her pieces. Photo – Claire Summers.

Moody palettes and contorted forms fill every corner of her canvas (and studio!). Photo – Claire Summers.

‘Portrait’. Photo – Claire Summers.

Julia sketches charcoal studies before moving straight to canvas, where the paint and colours come more spontaneously. Photo – Claire Summers.

The intimacy in her paintings is hard to look away from. Photo – Claire Summers.

Two women – one painted, one human. Photo – Claire Summers.

Julia’s studio is out the back of her share house in Melbourne. Photo – Claire Summers.

‘Angels’. Photo – Claire Summers.

‘I use painting and drawing as a way of contemplating myself, my relationships and surroundings.’ Photo – Claire Summers.

‘I think all painters making figurative works are voyeurs.’ Photo – Claire Summers.

The moody colour palettes express tenderness, carnality and bitterness. Photo – Claire Summers.

‘Wrist Bite’. Photo – Claire Summers.

‘I find myself collating ideas, gestures and expressions of people… to later try and replicate through painting.’ Photo – Claire Summers.

Sasha Gattermayr
Wednesday 11th March 2020

‘I think all painters making figurative works are voyeurs.’ – Julia Trybala

Resisting the temptation to compare artists to icons is hard, but in the case of Julia Trybala, the comparison to Mirka Mora is deserved. The Melbourne-based artist’s subjects swell and inflate, pressing against the sides of their frames in an energetic style that echoes Mirka’s naive lines, distinctive faces and irrepressible colours.

Julia doesn’t think so as much (Marlene Dumas and Phillip Guston are her heroes) but her painting nevertheless exudes an intimacy that is hard to look away from. ‘The goal is to make honest and relatable paintings,’ she says of her work, and the universality is sincere. ‘This new body of work (opening this month at Saint Cloche) channels tender and intimate moments from the everyday; offering a sly look over a shoulder, presenting a flower, a mesh top draped on a bed spread.’

From the small studio out the back of her sharehouse in Melbourne, Julia paints women who are both cramped and excessive, intimate and overbearing. The ‘bratty faces, contorted nudes and big feet’ make up grotesque figures, all fighting against the confines of their canvases. They seemingly have nowhere else to go.

‘I use painting and drawing as a way of contemplating myself, my relationships and surroundings,’ the artist muses. ‘Because I don’t really work from photographs, I find myself collating ideas, gestures and expressions of people… to later try and replicate through painting.’ Though her memories are clear, Julia’s process is more spontaneous. She makes charcoal sketches before putting paint to canvas impulsively. From there, her ambiguous forms take shape, themes of vulnerability tangled with familiarity, entwined in a carnal coil of flesh.

But physicality doesn’t stand in the way of the psychological nuance Julia is attempting to unravel. ‘I hope by exploring these varied emotional states of stylised characters that are coy, creepy, bitter, horny, I can allude to a sense of intimacy and tenderness,’ she explains. Through her work, Julia participates in a shared artistic mission to portray the human condition. ‘I think all painters making figurative works are voyeurs,’ she says. By the looks of things, she’s probably right.

Room by Julia Trybala opens at Saint Cloche Gallery on Wednesday, March 25th  from 6-8pm, and runs until Sunday, April 5th.  

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net