There’s something about Ileigh Hellier’s landscapes that make them feel plot-driven, like there is a rich layer of story lurking beneath the surface. Her simple, colourful canvases are by no means traditional landscapes, but in their apparent naivety, they carry a sense of excitement and mystery.
This feeling is perhaps due to her process, which involves building layers of story over the previous one. ‘I never sketch before I begin painting,’ she explains. ‘I like to just begin because I often end up painting over and over and over, so whatever is underneath can rarely be seen on the surface.’
Ileigh’s paintings are like a self-fulfilling prophecy: once she starts a composition, she relies on memory and intuition to guide the composition. ‘I find that once a body of work is underway I no longer need to refer to my drawings, instead I can begin referring to my paintings to create more.’ She’s not interested in realism, she’s interested in interpretation.
The artist shares a studio complex with six other artists that they fondly refer to as ‘The Shitty Shed’ in the Newcastle suburb of Georgetown. ‘It’s got a common area where we sometimes host exhibitions, plus six studio spaces,’ she explains. It’s here that Ileigh has been perfecting her painting practice for the last three years.
Among her references are Australian greats Ken Done and Idris Murphy, and she was particularly inspired by the Kwatye Atnyeme, Kwatye Urewe – All The Rain Falling, All The Water Flowing exhibition presented by Tangentyere Artists earlier this year. These artists all share a focus on depicting the unique specificities of the Australian landscape, which translates to Ileigh’s own artistic mission. ‘I usually create paintings based on memory of places,’ she explains. ‘I like to visit somewhere, get a feel for a place, do some drawings and go from there.’
Ileigh’s vivid natural studies have earned her accolades from around the country, most recently as a finalist for the prestigious Glover Prize, for which Ileigh received a commendation. She also won the painting section of the Newcastle Emerging Artist Prize 2017, and was a finalist for the Brenda Clouten Memorial Travelling Scholarship in 2018.
Though it doesn’t feel like Ileigh is still an emerging artist, we are so excited to see what she does next!
See more of Ileigh’s work here.