Lara Merrett works within an expanded field of painting, with as deep an understanding of the interplays of colour as those of surface in works of both intimate and monumental scale. Within her colour fields, the artist imagines all the ‘geographies of space, atmosphere and physicality’, layering and pouring water-based materials directly in a process never fully anticipated yet always transformative for the work and, when collaborative, all of those involved. For the artist, ‘It’s like magic when the unexpected starts to happen. I love it—it’s completely intoxicating. Each work has its own personality and therefore takes its own time.’ Such alchemy might last days, weeks or perhaps months. In each case, the artist and works are always driven in part by their material exigencies but so too by their conceptual sources drawn from literature, nature, community, and activism in protection of the natural environment. Merrett’s simultaneous agility, amplification and softening of the rigid confines of canvas and wall, both complicate and honour painterly traditions. Engaged as much within as beyond the gallery, drawing upon abstractionism and colourist practice, Merrett often works in-situ, intuitively responding to the physicality of her surrounding space and architecture. The artist places great importance on process and collaboration in works such as High Stakes, presented at UQ Art Museum in 2019; in the exhibition Superposition of three types at Artspace, Sydney, in 2017; or again in her installation Paint me in, 2018, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. In this last, MCA visitors were encouraged to interact with the work, a series of swung canvases literally suspending the viewer in the artist’s own ‘geographies’ of colour.
Born in 1971, Melbourne, Australia, Lara Merrett currently lives and works in Sydney. She studied painting abroad 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 and graduating with a Master of Arts (Painting). Merrett’s recent solo and group exhibitions have been presented nationally and internationally, including at the University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2018); Artspace, Sydney (2017); Swab Art Fair, Barcelona (2015); Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2009-10); Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), Perth (2008); Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (2006); Latrobe Regional Gallery, Victoria (2009-10, touring) as well as with Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong; Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane; Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne (2014); and Kaliman Gallery, Sydney. She has received various grants and awards including The Freedman Foundation Traveling Scholarship for Emerging Artists (2001). She has been commissioned for various projects including the St Regis Hotel in Chengdu, China; the Victorian Tapestry Workshop for St Michaels Church, Melbourne; the Sofitel Hotel, Melbourne and her work is held by collections of the University of New South Wales, Sydney; Bundanon Trust; Artbank, Australia; Royal Automobile Club of Victoria; and Macquarie Bank and UBS, Australia.