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Lara Scolari On Her Beautifully Organic Work

  • Lara Scolari
February 7, 2020
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

Ever since she was a little girl, Lara Scolari has been surrounded by paint. The ability to mix it liberally, something that was constantly encouraged by her parents, informed a richness that she now bestows on her subjects. For this reason, her paintings feel like a celebration.

Australia’s most exciting emerging contemporary visual artist, Scolari has developed her own distinct approach to the abstract expressionist style characterized by exquisite transparent layers that reveal hidden diorama. These gestural paintings, beautifully organic in form, line, color and composition, are the result of a singular technique where she voyeurs over her canvasses pouring ink and adding up to 40 layers of acrylic to achieve the translucency and dimension which characterize her works. The act of art-making is a meditative process for her, hoping that the energy of her work prompts a dialogue that continues with the viewer.

To find out more about her practice, we had a chat with Lara Scolari. In an exclusive Widewalls interview, she talks about her organic visual language, her inspiration, the choice of color palettes, her working process and much more.

Lara Scolari - Boomtown, 2019
Lara Scolari – Boomtown, 2019

The Australian Landscape as an Inspiration

Widewalls: Your work is inspired by great post-war figures such as Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hoffman and Mark Rothko, yet, you have developed your visions of Abstract Expressionism. How did you arrive at your current organic and fluid visual language?

Lara Scolari: Growing up in Sydney’s leafy suburb of Balmain, my mother was an artist and my father, a talented musician, was also the industrial chemist for an art paint manufacturer. There were always large volumes of paint all around me and I was encouraged at a very young age to draw and paint and use as much as I wanted. I feel that this also informed my art practice as I use my medium freely and generously.

After many years of study and exploring all genres of the fine arts, something that really became clear to me is that you need to develop your own unique style and the art-making process. My first love is ceramics and I believe my paintings are influenced by these organic rounded forms.

Widewalls: Your work is also informed by the scenery and psyche of the Australian landscape. In which way do you think your work reflects the essence of your native land?

LS: I am a visual person and constantly taking in the essence, feel, colours and scent of wherever I may be. This was by spending my formative years by the water and forever playing on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour, to then as an adult moving to the outback to take up a post as the Education Officer at the Western Plains Cultural Centre which greatly informed my practice.

I see the landscape as a life force with all of its intricacies. When teaching art to others, if I took a class out to the park or paddock to draw a tree for example, I would say “don’t just draw what you see, draw for me the way the tree feels, including the slow movement and energy within the tree”.

My inspiration comes from the energy and emotion of my surrounding landscape. I love walking and exploring Australia’s natural and built-up landscapes. I very much try to absorb the essence, form, feeling and palette of the surroundings. I am also very interested in what you cannot see that is below the surface or within the subconscious. With my artwork, I try to display this through the elements of design line, form and tone to create a visual image of my responses.

Lara Scolari - Ethereal Cobalt I, 2019 Lara Scolari - Chrysalis, 2019
Left: Lara Scolari – Ethereal Cobalt I, 2019 / Right: Lara Scolari – Chrysalis, 2019

The Working Process

Widewalls: Your canvases are characterized by rich and luscious colors. How do you choose your color palette?

LS: I have been told that I am a natural colourist – and really, I think growing up mixing paint it just comes to me. I set out creating artwork with really no idea how it is going to turn out – unless I am working on a commission piece for a client or interior designer, then I will have a clearer picture of the colours they wish to see to complement their interiors.

I mix and lay down the first colour and then that process informs the next. It’s like a dialogue starts between myself and the painting and once one colour, line, form is laid down I instinctively know what to do next. I really don’t get too caught up in the outcomes I just relax and let the magic happen.

Widewalls: You use a range of experimental techniques in your work, while managing to maintain a balanced mix of spontaneity and control. Could you tell us something about your working process?

LS: All my works start with a composition – this is the most important part of the work. I come up with these from my visual and sensory interpretation of the elements and forms of the landscape. I dream and see these forms and shapes in my head and then I start by drawing this onto paper to scale of the canvas that it will be translated onto.

This, in a sense, is my road map – something that I will refer back to resolve the work.

Lara Scolari - Menindee, 2019
Lara Scolari – Menindee, 2019

A Space For Contemplation

Widewalls: Through your work, you share nuances of your thought processes. What do you seek to inspire in the viewer?

LS: I want the viewer to engage in the spectrum of the energy of my work. That, in turn, will create an enlivening space for contemplation, conversation and a resting place for thoughts.

I hope that when viewing my works of energy, you are free to be transported to another state of mind.

Widewalls: You are collaborating with Designer Rugs Australia on a release of the Lara Scolari Collection. How did this collaboration come to be?

LS: Instagram played a huge part in creating and developing this relationship. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Designer Rugs Australia by a friend who thought our association would be a natural fit. The Managing Director, Yosi Tal, visited my studio in late 2017 and was inspired by my use of bold colour, composition and considered lines. Through his experienced eye, he instantly saw opportunities for my artworks to be translated into textiles.

Widewalls: What’s next for you?

LS: To continue to create, have fun with my family and friends, and explore this big, beautiful world.

Featured image: Lara Scolari, courtesy Addicted Art Gallery.