Kylie Elkington: Native Engagement


Kylie Elkington’s soft-hued botanical paintings recall the temperament and sincerity of Pre-Raphaelite works from the mid-19th century. Void of knights and ladies on horseback, Elkington’s work instead magnifies sections of mossy ground dotted with tiny flowers and textured foliage. “Rather than imposing on the Australian landscape, my work seeks to highlight the essential and largely overlooked beauty of native flora”, Elkington explains.

Elkington’s connection to the Pre-Raphaelite style is most evident in her subdued palette and the way each image appears veiled in a soft mist. In Native Engagement she achieves this through carefully chosen materials and techniques. “By using a range of transparent oils in the same manner as Pre-Raphaelite painters, my aim is to draw close attention to light, detail and understated beauty,” she says.

Using rich greens with soft splashes of yellow, rose and the occasional cobalt, Elkington pays tribute to hardy Australian plants like heath myrtle, white correa and tea tree.

In works like Twiggy Heath Myrtle Arrangement, 2018, diminutive white flowers curl over the dense green undergrowth like a constellation beneath our feet.

With an artistic practice spanning over a decade, Elkington spent several years living in Brisbane and Melbourne before settling in northern Tasmania. Microscopic detail appears as a regular focus throughout her work with earlier paintings pulling a tight focus on the angles of carpentry or a cropped section of wide sweeping hills. Elkington works on both linen and marine-grade plywood, often choosing the grain of wood specifically to tie in with the painted surface, adding unique texture and depth.

Coupling her painting practice with the occasional series of collaborative ceramics, Native Engagement builds upon Elkington’s earlier depictions of the landscape by “exercising liberties which shift the focus from scientific documentation to a more poetic and nuanced depiction of earth and what it sustains.”

Native Engagement
Kylie Elkington
Colville Gallery
29 June – 18 July

Preview Words by Briony Downes