Every so often, an artist comes along who we just know is destined for really big things. Lucy Roleff is one of those artists. Ever since our art director Annie Portelli stumbled across her work around two years ago, we’ve been dying to have a show with her. And today we could not be more thrilled to be announcing Devotions, Lucy’s debut solo show, at TDF Collect.
Although Lucy studied Fine Arts at university, her major was in photography. And while she dabbled a little in realism painting, it wasn’t until several years later that she started to take this innate desire to paint more seriously. If you can believe it, Lucy’s painting practice is largely self-taught!
The works in Devotions are painted ‘alla prima’ style (also called ‘wet-on-wet’), which means the works are painted quite intuitively, without allowing the paint to dry between layers. Mind-boggling in their realism, Lucy’s works evoke a sense of history and tradition, whilst also offering subtle hints of their contemporary origins : a half-finished tube of hand cream here, a pair of glimmering golden hoop earrings there. I’m sure you’ll agree that they’re really something special!
Pre-sales for Devotions are now open (and if you have your eye on something… we seriously advise you to get in quickly…!), and the show will open on July 18th – most likely in a limited capacity – stay tuned on that.
And now, to learn a little more about Lucy!
Can you tell us a little more about your creative journey? How and when did you come to painting?
I loved to draw from an early age, and spent a lot of my late teens and early 20s at my desk drawing faces and objects (often while others were out at parties!). I studied Fine Arts, majoring in photography, and in my second or third year decided to take up painting as an elective. I desperately wanted to learn how to paint realism, and learned some really good fundamental things, but was never really happy with how my paintings turned out. I decided painting was just something you had to be born to do, and left it alone.
After uni, I moved more into the illustration world, and became a freelance illustrator for several years. It was excellent practical learning, but the curiosity around painting kept coming up. I would spend a lot of time wandering around galleries here in Melbourne and when travelling in Europe, often moved and mesmerised by the huge realist oil paintings – still so eager to know how they were made. I’m not sure how I came to start teaching myself but over a period of a few years, I would pick up books, watch videos online, ask a million questions of a couple of local painters in my area – until one day after a fair few goes implementing what I’d learned, painting started to make more sense… it just clicked for me.
Where do you typically create your work from, and what materials, techniques and processes you use?
I work at my studio in Thornbury, which is in an old football making factory, shared with some seriously talented people. We all work in different fields so it’s really interesting and inspiring. I paint in the alla prima style – which is also called ‘wet on wet.’ So you’re not building up layers and waiting for them to dry in between etc, but painting everything in one go, more or less. My medium is very slow drying, so I can work on a painting over a few days to a week without it drying out.
I love smooth surfaces, such as very fine linens and board. I have about a million brushes in my studio, but really only end up using 2-3 brushes per painting. I also use a very limited palette, as I feel this greatly helps you to learn to see and mix colour. So now I can mix pretty much any colour just from the five paints on my palette – it’s’ something that comes with a fair bit of practice but is very satisfying!
What has inspired the artworks in your debut solo show, ‘Devotions’?
The sketches for these paintings came about over a few months as I was thinking a lot about the use and presentation of small domestic spaces, in contemporary life and also in traditional paintings.
I’m always trying to find a certain balance between an arrangement that is directly relatable, and an arrangement that seems to point to something a bit grander, maybe otherworldly. A balance between grandeur and the every day. The setting up of these scenes can be quite meticulous, it can feel like setting up a shrine or an altar – which made me think a lot about actions of devotion, these ways we can express such deep feeling for others, but also for objects.
Many of the arrangements were set up in collaboration with my friend, photographer Annika Kafcaloudis. I would bring my props around to her place on a weekend morning and we’d sit outside, chatting, drinking coffee and playing around with arrangements to shoot.
What other creative references do you draw on?
I would say I am indirectly or directly very influenced by music, and art of the baroque era. I’ve been playing music since I was very small so it definitely feeds into the painting, and vice versa. I also listen to a lot of different music when I paint, so certain songs or pieces will manage to weave their way in. I think I also snatch bits of ideas from films, photography, sculpture, fiction writing, poetry… it’s not so conscious but I’ll notice motifs turning up over and over in my mind til I put them down into a painting. Some of the objects in my paintings will have connections to people I know as well – I like how objects can be like codes, or symbols for something else.
‘Devotions’ by Lucy Roleff
Opening celebrations TBC
Saturday July 18th, 11am-5pm
Sunday July 19th, 11am-3pm
Monday July 20th – Thursday July 23rd, 10am-4pm
14 Little Oxford Street