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Amazingly Colourful Abstract Art By Amalia Keefer

Studio Visit

Art is a language, and each artist creates their own dialect. Through brushstrokes and colours, shape and line, a painter communicates visually what it is sometimes to difficult to pin down in words. Something close to a feeling.

In a quiet pocket of inland Queensland, Amalia Keefer has harnessed this unique expressive power in her painting practice. Her bright, kaleidoscopic compositions are abstract renderings of a stray moment in her day: her cat stretching out on the bed, or a screenshot of a stranger’s apartment. She takes these everyday frames and builds on them with layers and layers of colour, based on her mood and intuition. The resulting works are distinct and inviting, like hearing a word in a foreign tongue that still sounds familiar.

16th February, 2021

Amalia Keefer moved home to Queensland at the beginning of the pandemic, which she describes as a ‘turning point’ for her practice. She finally found the time and focus to refine her style. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

Trained in textile design at RMIT, Amalia has no formal art education. Instead, her understanding of colour and practicality comes from fabrics,  where her studies were supplemented by stints and Lee Mathews and Pop + Scott. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

Amalia spreads her tools out across her family home, moving around the house to chase the light. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

‘My work is totally abstract, driven mostly by colour and specifically the way colours interact with one another when layered or put together closely on a canvas,’ says Amalia. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

‘My technique is constantly changing and developing; recently I have been beginning each work with a thinned down oil base colour spread across the canvas, to create a translucent first layer,’ says Amalia. ‘I gradually build up the density or opacity of the paint to put down the initial marks. From here I introduce new colours and intuitively build up layers of shapes.’ Photo – Tamas Keefer.

The way colours and shapes stitch together seamlessly in her artworks is evidence of her textile training. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

The starting block is a colour or a line, and from there she builds up layers of colour based on mood and intuition. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

‘I set up where I feel, depending on the day. I am currently set up in the corner of our living room where I have become quite comfortable, being able to see the works in context, up on a white wall while painting, makes it a lot easier for me to decide when they are finished.’

Photo – Tamas Keefer.

The list of Amalia’s artistic influences is long – Miranda Skoczek, Malin Gabrielle Nordin, Tom Polo, Maja Ruznic – but it is everyday objects and moments of organic composition that serve as her inspiration. Photo – Tamas Keefer.

‘Eventually I would like to find a studio near the beach, where I can take ocean swims on painting breaks.’ Photo – Tamas Keefer.

Sasha Gattermayr
Tuesday 16th February 2021

‘Reflecting on the work in its finished form, seeing all the imperfections perfectly in their place, just where they needed to be, makes the painting complete.’ – Amalia Keefer

Visionary modernist painter, Georgia O’Keeffe famously said, ‘I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way.’ The relationships O’Keeffe could manifest from colour, line and movement were more expressive than what she could articulate in words, and once you see it on the canvas, her visual language makes sense.

Queensland-based artist Amalia Keefer has more than a similar-sounding last name to O’Keeffe. Amalia’s intuitive way with colour is also the basis for her painting practice, one that is in its early stages, unshackled by formal training.

‘I wanted to push myself creatively, but found the art world to be quite intimidating and overwhelming,’ the artist says on the pressure to pursue a creative career straight out of high school. ‘I just liked to make art as a form of self expression and meditation, without thinking too deeply about the conceptual aspects.’

Rather than enrol in art school, Amalia spent her early twenties working in hospitality, and keeping up her painting as a hobby, eventually taking up studies in textile design at RMIT. When the course finished, she started working as a retail manager at Lee Mathews, alongside a short stint weaving lampshades at Pop + Scott to keep her practical experience up. But eventually these jobs overtook her time, and it wasn’t until the pandemic struck, and she moved back in with her family in Queensland that Amalia found the time to focus on refining her art practice. She’s been painting ever since.

‘We live inland from the coast, and the house backs onto bushland, so I am constantly surrounded by nature,’ she says, highlighting the free rein she has to spread her tools out over the generous family Queenslander. ‘I set up where I feel, depending on the day. I am currently set up in the corner of our living room where I have become quite comfortable, being able to see the works in context, up on a white wall while painting, makes it a lot easier for me to decide when they are finished.’

The list of Amalia’s artistic influences is long – Miranda Skoczek, Malin Gabriella Nordin, Tom Polo, Maja Ruznic – but it is everyday objects and moments that serve as her inspiration. A green bowl resting on a brown bench, or a cat stretching out on a bed, anything that inspires a new palette or the shape of a brushstroke. She keeps these instants recorded in her phone, between Instagram saved folders and random screenshots, and uses them to frame a new painting. Once the first moment is down on the canvas, her instincts feed the painting around it, which is built up by layers of colour.

‘My technique is constantly changing and developing; recently I have been beginning each work with a thinned down oil base colour spread across the canvas, to create a translucent first layer,’ she says. ‘I gradually build up the density or opacity of the paint to put down the initial marks. From here I introduce new colours and intuitively build up layers of shapes.’

Though Amalia’s painting practice has only begun to publicly flourish in 2020 (a year she called a ‘turning point’), her forward momentum is strong. ‘Eventually I would like to find a studio near the beach, where I can take ocean swims on painting breaks,’ she muses. The dream…

Also besotted with Amalia’s work? Keep up to date via her Instagram here.

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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