Paint me in (2018) encourages visitors to interact with suspended, looped canvases, immersing the visitor in fields of bright colour and fostering a unique intimacy with the painting. The loops can be moved, allowing for changing physical configurations, encouraging play, creation and discovery. The artwork is accompanied by lengths of painted canvas that Bella Program participants can use to make soft sculptures, wearables, or even cut up. Through participation and touch, artist Lara Merrett is able to break down barriers that people might associate with painting.
Paint me in is informed by Merrett’s time observing participants of the Bella Program, who used the Jackson Bella Room as a place to sit quietly, relax and stretch out, providing a completely different experience of art from those in the galleries. As a space where people can have an especially close relationship with an artist’s work, Merrett has sought to “investigate ways to connect with painting as a refuge, sanctuary and nurturing place”, and to encourage interaction through touch and movement.
For several years, Merrett has worked with drop sheets in place of traditional canvases, freeing her from conventional approaches to painting and enabling experimentation with form and colour on a larger scale. She pours paint directly onto the surface, allowing it to pool, stain and evaporate, creating fields of bright colours that seem to billow and bloom, and embracing the unpredictability and materiality of the medium.
Paint me in draws together several recent areas of investigation in Merrett’s practice – intense colour, large-scale installation, adaptability and interaction. In previous works, she has created large installations of hanging, folded and crumpled canvases, resulting in works that blur the line between soft sculpture and painting. Other works have moved, or encouraged participants to cut out shapes from the canvas. Paint me in builds upon these works, creating an interactive installation accessible to everyone.
The MCA Bella program was established in 1993 through the generosity of MCA patrons, Dr Edward Jackson AM and Mrs Cynthia Jackson AM, and the Jackson family, in memory of their late daughter and sister Belinda.
 Lara Merrett, 'Paint me in' Jackson Bella Room Proposal, 2017.