How heartbreaking it is for artists when their exhibitions are cancelled after months, years of prep and the pouring of hearts and souls into bodies of works, mostly isolated within their studios. Well, this just happened to Riverina artist, Julia Roche.
Her latest exhibition, Under a Winter Moon, was postponed due to lockdown (it was supposed to be 20 August – 3 October at Murray Art Museum Albury), so we thought we’d gather her here and encourage you all to take the dive anyway into this stunning exhibition online (because that’s how many of us are experiencing life right now).
Julia Roche is a local artist living on Wiradjuri country. Her work embodies movement reflective of current perceptions and self-examination. Each painting is an autonomous creation revealing an exploration and celebration of nature, diverse emotion, impulse, chance, the accidental and the unpredictable. Her work refers to ethereal figurative landscapes, and also encompasses conceptual abstraction through a fluid use of colour and composition.
Under a Winter Moon I, 2021, oil, mixed media on cotton rag, 122 x 153cm
In the quest to create transcendental scenes, Roche begins by envisaging a visual or physical experience, and then works on the canvas over a period of four to eight weeks: spilling, soaking, staining and reworking. Focus is centred on eliminating the brush gesture, resulting in a fluidity of colour that evokes a sensory response of the real and the imagined.
‘For Under the Winter Moon, her luscious works were ‘completed by leaving canvasses outdoors, inviting environmental elements such as mist, rain, sunlight, and debris to become imprinted onto her works’ – MALM
Julia Roche in her woolshed studio, 2021 / Image Jacqui Cooper
Julia lives between a repurposed woolshed studio on her family’s farm near Mangoplah (near Wagga Wagga) and the regenerative farm ‘Bibbaringa’ at Bowna (near Albury), she created her new series of work on large-scale canvas and sheets of rag paper, using found objects and materials from both properties.
‘Venturing out into the winter elements with only moonlight to guide her gesture and palette allows Roche the opportunity to solely focus on what she feels in this environment. Using materials such as natural charcoal and pastels, Roche relies on the motion of her own body, mark making large-scale landscapes in response to the shadows, silhouettes, and textures around her.
Night lit, 2021, oil, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 130cm. blackwood box frame.
This visceral collaboration with the environment means each work in this series serves as time and a site-specific record of the natural world. Pattered with subtle motifs and mark-making, Roche challenges our understanding of painting landscapes and encourages us to work more closely in and with our surrounding environment.’*
For us, this suite of works captures Roche’s innate human response to the Australia-scape and we just love her collaborative approach within a process that allows the weather itself to guide her hand.
Top: Nightscape on ‘Wooroola’. Much of the Under a Winter Moon series was created in this location on Julia’s family farm. Photo Jacqui Cooper. Above: Under a Winter Moon II, 2021, oil, mixed media on cotton rag, 122 x 153cm
Often working outside in the dark of night, en plein air, Roche completed large works on paper over five or six sittings, layering and layering until her thoughts were gathered, relying only on unconscious memories and a gestural feeling of landscape.
Her layering of Country with personal memory and her sensory sensibilities echoes through her distinct technical process, and the resulting suite of work reflects the truth of no two experiences within nature being alike. There is, after all, a myriad of learnt and felt humanness that we all bring to each place and moment.
Surrender to the Night II, 2021, oil, mixed media on cotton rag, 117 x 88cm. Victorian Ash glass frame
Soulful painting like Roche’s allows us the ‘glimpse into’ a connection that feels authentic, uncontrived, raw. In fact, her work feels so far removed from the arts practice of photographing and rejigging back in the studio post venture outside, that we are hungry for more of this painting from within the scape approach. We love that this work feels as if it is moving closer and closer to the source. Roche takes us with her, thankfully because it’s just what we need, to go deeper.
Roche completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts majoring in Painting and went on to complete a Masters in 2012 at University of Western Sydney. She is currently working towards a new solo show, opening on 20 November at Otomys in Melbourne, one we hope she actually gets to visit.
See more work from Under a Winter Moon here.
Or visit Julia’s instagram @_julia_roche
Courtesy of the artist