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.