Painting is a messy business. It gets on clothes and walls, trodden into carpets, refusing any attempt at a neat boundary between work and life. And the smears run both ways, as painting absorbs everything around it—childcare, cooking, studio clutter, soft furnishings. The artist Martin Kippenberger likened art to spaghetti: every painting inextricably tangled in a slippery network of incidences, relationships and ideas, the network as important and interesting as the paint itself.
“People for a long time have talked about where painting begins and ends,” says artist Nadine Christensen, and Outside Painting continues to probe this question. For each of the three Melbourne-based artists in the exhibition—Christensen, Katrina Dobbs and Bill Hawkins—the back and forth between life and art is a constant negotiation. Riffing on Kippenberger’s notion of art-as-spaghetti, Hawkins’s video piece documents the artist ‘networking’ over a pasta dinner, thereby turning the ecosystem of artmaking into his subject matter.
In Christensen’s practice, source material is expansive. A creased reference photograph taped to the artist’s studio wall might be painted in its entirety—as an object in its own right, tape and all. Dobbs, who works from home, necessarily lives amongst her work, and as pieces progress, she moves them to different areas of her house, enacting what Christensen describes as a “really literal blending of home, work, practice, life.” Her recent works use flyscreen and lace as supports, the paint pushed through as if to demonstrate the porousness of the process. Paint-covered Chux cloths, tarps and carpets—studio detritus, originally functioning to wipe brushes or protect the floor—end up reimagined as paintings, bringing the outside back in.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.