Sumer is pleased to present Seventeen Days, an exhibition of new paintings, all 2021, by Sydney and South Coast-based artist Lara Merrett. This exhibition is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The exhibition’s title draws reference to a forest blockade that took place in 1996. An action that brought together 200 people from the local Bendalong Manyana community, camping on the land for 17 days to prevent the forest from being turned into Sydney’s “mega tip”. The success of the protest resulted in the land being preserved, subsequently becoming Conjola National Park. This community, Bendalong Manyana on Yuin Country in regional New South Wales, is where Merrett now resides, and where the works of this exhibition were made. Yet this title is not merely congratulatory, as the community continue to fight to save local bushland from further development; specifically a parcel of unburnt forest, made more precious by the 2019-2020 summer bushfires, which saw an unprecedented area of forest burnt across Australia’s eastern seaboard.
These paintings were produced in the artist’s outdoor studio—open to the elements, encouraging the rain, wind and sun to become an integral part of their making. Merrett works within an expanded field of painting, with a deep understanding as to the interplay of colour and surface, making works ranging in scale from the intimate to the monumental. Within her constructed colour fields, the artist imagines all the ‘geographies of space, atmosphere and physicality’. Layering and pouring of paint, dye and water, her process is one involving chance, whose results are never fully anticipated, yet the artist embraces them as both integral and transformative within the work. Merrett’s simultaneous agility, amplification and softening of the rigid confines of canvas both honour and expand painterly traditions, with specific reference women’s practices and work.
This series of paintings, unstretched and banner-like, represent a new development in Merrett’s practice. For while the use of immersive inks and dyes together with opaque paints, and multifaceted sewn canvases, are aspects seen in previous work, the artist has chosen to move away from presenting her work as traditional stretched canvases. In doing so the works’ materiality become more apparent. They also connect more clearly with her past installation and social sculpture works, and activism.
Lara Merrett (b. 1971, Melbourne, Australia) lives and works in Sydney, Australia. She studied painting at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Spain before completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales in 1996, and graduating with a Master of Arts (Painting) the following year. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and abroad, received numerous awards and is represented in important private and public collections in Australia and internationally. She is also a member of climate activist group Dirt Witches. She wishes to acknowledge the Jerrinja people of the Yuin Nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which she lives, works, rests and plays. Sovereignty was never ceded.