Lucy Roleff's Take on a Centuries-old Painting Style

Lucy Roleff

The Melbourne artist turns a centuries-old painting style into her personal fantasy.

Still-life painter Lucy Roleff often features fruit and flowers in her quiet, moody works – but the odd clothes peg, hairclip or supermarket home-brand salt shaker makes an appearance, too. It’s her way of adding what she calls a “contemporary twist” to an art form that some might consider old-fashioned. “I like that play between the traditional and little hints of the modern.”

Lucy Roleff's creative process

The 36-year-old creative says the still-life style suits her reflective, solitary personality. “As a viewer, you can project yourself or your fantasies onto the objects. It invites a sort of meditation – there’s a peace to it.” And unlike landscape painting or portraiture, it’s not reliant on a sunny day or a sitter’s mood; inspiration is all over the house. “People come to my apartment and say, ‘I feel like I’m in your paintings,’” says the artist, whose collectors include Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and garden designer Paul Bangay.

Her Secret Name (2023)

Roleff, who majored in photography at university and didn’t focus on painting until her late 20s, works in the alla prima (wet-on-wet) style and prefers a sparse composition. Imperfection, she says, only injects character. “If something’s a bit chipped then it’s already encouraging questions around why. It makes the story more interesting.”

Morning Pause (2020)

Growing up with her Maltese mum and German opera singer dad, Roleff remembers wandering through galleries in Melbourne and Germany marvelling at “luscious, realistic still lifes”. To her younger self, painters were “magic people” who’d been anointed with an elusive talent. “I felt like I was looking at a portal into another world. I’m probably always trying to recreate that magical feeling.”'

Education: Bachelor of Fine Art, Monash University; Master of Teaching (Visual Arts), University of Melbourne.

Exhibited at: Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney; MARS Gallery, Melbourne.

Breakthrough moment: In 2020, The Design Files hosted her debut solo show, Devotions, introducing her to the interior design world.

Olive Branch and Candle

What the experts say: “Lucy captures a gentle quietude – at once very relatable, while also ethereal and other-worldly.” – Amber Creswell Bell, author of Still Life: Contemporary Australian Painters

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SEE ALSO: Artist Mylyn Nguyen Reveals the Allure of the Miniature

Image credit: Jonathan Cohen, Annika Kafcaloudis, Kim Landy


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