with Monica Rohan
In Monica Rohan’s ‘Disappearing Act,’ Free-Floating Fabrics Disguise Landscapes Under Threat
Draped over invisible clotheslines, vintage fabrics conceal seaside vistas, meadows teeming with dried grasses, and craggy walls of stone in Monica Rohan’s latest works. The artist (previously) renders the vast landscapes of her native Australia in a new series of oil paintings as part of Disappearing Act, her solo show on view later this month at Jan Murphy Gallery in Fortitude Valley, Queensland.
Known for her deft portrayals of pattern and the dimensions of folded textiles, Rohan continues to contrast domestic, human-made material with more organic surroundings. In this series, disembodied limbs draw back the suspended curtains, slowly uncovering the otherwise concealed landscapes. Rohan refers to these small reveals as “portals to seemingly idyllic environments beyond” that accentuate the way paintings—and art, more broadly—intervene in how we experience our surroundings.
The stage-like nature of the paintings draws connections between the limited duration of theatrical performances and the impending losses caused by the climate crisis as they channel “feelings of anxiety and concern toward landscapes under threat,” the artist says. Each is serene with calm waters, sunny skies, and an easiness to its existence, and all notably lack evidence of human civilization. Devoid of a body, the hands add an uncanny tension to the works, as they direct viewers toward what lies behind the curtains and emphasize, as the title suggests, “that the show is about to start.”
Disappearing Act will run from April 26 to May 13. Until then, take a look at Rohan’s Instagram, where she generously shares glimpses into her process.
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Spirited Narratives Drive Whimsical, Patterned Paintings by Monica Rohan
Whether unwrapping themselves from textile folds or balancing atop spindly stools, Monica Rohan’s figures are perpetually in motion. The painter depicts adventurous subjects set amongst whimsical worlds of overgrown bushes, vibrant seas of fabric, and cloudless skies rendered in patches blue. “The figure brings tension, the possibility of a narrative,” she tells Colossal. Rohan envisions each character as the impetus for action in her playful landscapes and thickly decorated domestic scenes.
Each piece begins with the artist exploring a photographic catalog she maintains with imagery of nature, interiors, and self-portraits.
These are developed through photo sessions which last anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. I then translate this content into sketches and studies, finding different ways to pull patterns out and manipulate the figure before moving forward with the painting proper…The first marks on the board are a transfer of a sketch for the figure. I’ll then start painting and slowly work my way across the surface in a single layer, constantly making micro-decisions and balancing the image as I go. The figure in this way acts as a sort of anchor that the rest of the painting moves around.
Often drawing from texts she’s reading—Charlotte Brontë’s Villette is one—the artist imbues fictional tales into her works. “I’m interested in when real life and fiction bleed into one another. I’ve always been an avid reader, but happily, nowadays I can read and paint at the same time thanks to audio-books. Often whatever I’m reading filters through into titles for works and indirectly into the paintings themselves,” she says.
To see more of Rohan’s densely patterned paintings, head to Artsy and Instagram, where she also shares progress shots and some of the original photographs that inspire her dreamlike pieces.
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