A Melbourne based painter and sculptor, Jess Merlo’s distinctive works feature organic shapes, natural textures and earthy tones.
Jess has always been interested in art. As a child, she was always keeping herself entertained through arts and crafts and later in her teen years, she would often sit in her room painting and drawing until the early hours of the morning. ‘In my final year of high school, I took art pretty seriously and thought I’d give it a crack at university, as it was the only thing I could see myself doing in the future.’
Jess discovered her style and conceptual interests while studying Fine Art at Monash University. ‘Studying at university was the best thing I did for my art as it pushed me to explore other realms, artists and movements, which helped me practise excessively, expanding my work to organic abstraction and sculpture.’ Surprisingly, Jess never liked sculpture until she undertook a compulsory sculpture unit as part of her studies. She found so much joy in it that she decided to adopt sculpture as a key part of her practice. Since graduating in 2017, Jess and her work has gone from strength to strength and she is busy with commissions, fairs and exhibitions both in Australia and internationally.
Jess works from her garage studio in the North West of Melbourne. She aims to keep the studio an inspiring space, full of art books, sketchbooks, plants, rocks and other found objects that hold unusual shapes. ‘I make all my work in the warm, sunlit garage, typically (and stupidly) barefoot, blasting music. A long day in the studio for me requires a great playlist, coffee, snacks and sound-cancelling headphones to keep me in the zone.’
Natural environments typically inspire the organic forms in Jess’ paintings and sculptures, including landscapes, vegetation and rock formations that have been eroded and organically shaped by the ocean. She also finds inspiration from visiting countless galleries, reading books and researching other artists who challenge conventional art boundaries. ‘Artists like Hans Arp, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Matisse and Picasso have always been a big inspiration for my paintings in particular. In addition to these amazing artists, I also find the works of Lucio Fontana and Robert Ryman breathtaking.’
When in the process of creating a painting, Jess usually starts by drawing hundreds of shapes and later matches multiple forms together on scrap paper to find the composition that works. When she sculpts, however, she typically has a very loose plan, as she finds the forms often make up their own mind as she works.
Through her art, Jess aims to challenge conventional artistic constructs and encourage a thought-provoking experience for the audience. She also wants to challenge herself through her art, by learning new skills and techniques and working with new materials.
She describes her current work as an exploration of artistic boundaries, ignoring the distinctive line that separates painting from sculpture. ‘Through a lot of experimentation, I am trying to form a hybrid that blurs the line of typical artistic specialisations. By adding textural layers to my paintings and creating works that don’t quite fit in either painting or sculpture constructs, they continue to question conventional artistic rules.’
See our range of uber cool Jess Merlo works here!