Holed up painting in Armidale, Leah Bullen scaled back the size of her work and began using masonite boards as a ground. When she did, everything clicked.
A few years ago the Canberra-based Bullen turned to imagery from the media – newspapers, television broadcasts – as subject matter for her painting practice. Shutterbug, currently showing at CCAS Manuka, is a sweeping collection of new works that share this origin, but rather than focusing on highly charged moments of drama or violence (as in previous bodies of work) Bullen presents more subtle vignettes. A narrative is hinted at, but not forced. Removed from its context this news imagery becomes odd, compelling, often amusing or poignant.
In this body of work Bullen also reveals a new love for mark-making, pairing thick impasto with minimal, decisive brushstrokes. Rather than abstracting the composition this approach in fact affords the paintings a depth and dynamism, their texturally varied surfaces are delicious on the eyes.
Recreating photographs or video in oil paint may seem counter-intuitive, but Bullen’s confidence with her media means she is able to imbue these images with a rich fleetingness that is perhaps closer to the actual unfixed nature of seeing than a digital reproduction could ever be.
With only one weekend to go Shutterbug is already a near sell-out show, asserting Bullen as one of the most important young painters in the Canberra region. It can take time for emergent artists to find their feet in the art world, but artists such as Bullen are living proof that old-fashioned hard work and staying true to the cause will ultimately produce a force to be reckoned with.
Shutterbug continues at Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka until July 25th