Madeline Simm’s ethereal paintings waltz to their own beat


“The fog that keeps my words at bay is a sieve, and the colours move through it.” As Madeline Simm poetically explains, her practice interconnects her meandering thoughts with swathing applications of paint. Although created within the parameters of the canvas, Simm’s colourful, abstract paintings do not offer easy resolution. Instead, they deliver a series of what Simm calls “problem creating and solving opportunities”, which she paints her way into, and out of.

The Melbourne-based artist’s inaugural solo exhibition, Blue Skirt Waltz, presents new abstract paintings that reference scenes and moods—things like windows, the microscopic surface of a textile, or a blooming garden. As if dancing forward, right, left and backwards—as the title suggests—Simm’s paintings are filled with circular motions, both formally and through her brush marks. Through various opacities and depths, the artist, as she explains, “forms a series of conversations through colour pairings that allow for endless possibilities and potential”.

Madeline Simm, Sea Sea Green, 2023, oil on linen, 31 x 31 cm.

While abstract painting is a field conventionally void of narrative, many paintings in Blue Skirt Waltz reference ideas like the patterns of found fabric and textiles, lively colour palettes from gardens, and window-like forms; recurring symbols in the artist’s practice that evoke daydreaming and voyeurism. As Simm says, “I’m interested in how painting can be explored through its history as a traditional medium, yet at the same time it can reference something secret or sentimental, and therefore uniquely mine.”

Simm’s painted arrangements and rhythmical thoughts entwine and overlap to investigate “painting as information”, encouraging open interpretation. Like one’s mood being affected by the sight of a sentimental item of clothing or their favourite flower, Blue Skirt Waltz encourages wonder.

Blue Skirt Waltz
Madeline Simm
9 March—1 April

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Ellinor Pelz