Artist Marisa Purcell's Paintings Play With Perspective and Light

Marisa Purcell

Somewhere between meditation and performance, this painter’s work is an act of pure subconscious.

“I’m obsessed with light and with windows,” says Sydneybased artist Marisa Purcell. “I’ve been taking photographs of windows since I can remember. That’s where the borders come from; from looking through windows, the framing of a space.”

Purcell’s many-layered paintings are moments frozen in time, committed to linen as slices of colour. Her abstract works change with light and perspective, playing on the viewers’ senses and introducing dimension to a medium traditionally considered permanent and flat.

Formerly a high school art teacher, Purcell has been awarded international residences throughout her career, which she credits with honing her practice to the meditative and intuitive process it is today. “It sounds like a cliché but it’s kind of like being a conduit. I just let it flow. When I start I may have a colour in my mind and I’ll work on many works at once. They end up speaking to each other somehow but I don’t plan far ahead.” The artist plays with the physics of painting, allowing the pigments to pool, change and bleed across the canvas.

While she may lose herself in the process, Purcell judges the success of her art by the questions it raises. “The most crucial thing my work is about is how perception is subjective. It’s about how we cloud what we think we see and how that may appear different to someone else. But shift your angle or stand to the side and your view might change.

“Questioning your perception is a form of mindfulness. If a painting can make you question your perception then I feel like I’ve done something good.”

(Clockwise from top left) Close and Far (2021); Fiction and the Breeze (2021); Looking In, Looking Out (2021); and The Removal of Clouds (2020) by Marisa Purcell
(Clockwise from top left) Close and Far (2021); Fiction and the Breeze (2021); Looking In, Looking Out (2021); and The Removal of Clouds (2020) by Marisa Purcell

Exhibited at:

Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane; Olsen Gallery, Sydney; Olsen Gruin, New York.

Selection of awards:

Finalist, Sir John Sulman Prize (2021); Umbi Gumbi Artist In Residence (2020); AIR Nancy Fairfax artist residency (2020); Kedewatan Residency, Bali (2019); Finalist, Ravenswood Art Prize (2018, 2017); Finalist, Paddington Art Prize (2018, 2017); Finalist, Redlands Art Award (2018); Winner, Acrylic Prize, Waverley Art Prize (2015).

Breakthrough moment:

Purcell has been awarded several major residencies, including the prestigious Cité Internationale des Arts residency in Paris. “When I go on residencies, those are the moments where things fall into place and I give myself permission to be myself. They’re such a privilege.”

Image credit: Mim Stirling, Jennifer Leahy

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