Australian artist Marika Borlase spent her childhood travelling every Friday night from her inner Melbourne urban home to the family’s tiny miners cottage settled in wild, flat, dry bush at Campbells Creek- a small town in the Victorian Loddon Mallee Region. Here she would spend her days running free in the bush observing, collecting, building and making. Marika explains that it was this contrast of place that led her to an interest in landscape and memory.
Her early days were spent often visiting the National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road with her mother. Her Scandinavian mother and grandmother continued in the tradition of making intricate tapestries and weavings whilst her paternal side were great ‘jacks of all trade’ type men. It was, however, a small ‘plein air’ painting of a gum tree, made at age 9, that gave her the drive and passion to become a painter.
Marika has lived and studied in both the UK and Australia. She attended Chelsea College of Art and Design in London to complete an MA in Fine Arts painting where she lived for a number of years. She spent this time in the UK researching Australian Colonial art with a focus on how colonial artists explored and grasped old traditions and painterly conventions when they were confronted by the Australian landscape. Marika presented many exhibitions in the UK, including a solo exhibition supported by the Royal Overseas’ League that coincided with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh.
Today she continues with a practice which draws on her interest in expanding the visual language and narrative found in natural history paintings and the landscape around her. In addition to her own store of cultural memories, Marika likes to paint an individual response to her experience of landscape. Her paintings are a fusion of abstraction and detail that embodies a sense of dreamlike other worldliness to the land she references.
Each artwork may be read as an allegory and makes reference to the relationship between herself, as the artist in the studio, and the outside world. She often uses wordplay in the titles of her works to contradict or expose the narratives found within them.
Working from a pretty mudbrick home and studio on the banks of the Birrarung/Yarra River in the bushy suburb of North Warandyte, Victoria, Marika is perched high overlooking the tree tops of a state park. Daily she witnesses the seasonal changes of fauna and flora. “There is a constant bird song here,” she says, “I am surrounded by beauty and irony every day. When the almost prehistoric black cockatoos fly in, for example, they make such a grand entrance. Their beauty, power and sound is inspiring and terrifying at the same time. In contrast to this type of dramatic interaction with nature, I also have a ferocious curiosity that draws me to the near and far in the landscape. I spend time observing, drawing from or photographing anything from the rock banks or undergrowth where pretty little flowers grow to the early morning sun hitting the wide steaming waters and banks of the Yarra river.”
Marika has been the recipient of a number of art awards including an Anne and Gordon Samstag Scholarship (University of South Australia) a Sulman Prize finalist (Art Gallery NSW), Fred Williams Family Award (Victorian College of the Arts) and is represented in the National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank, The University of the Arts, London and many private collections in Australia and the UK. She has also worked on commissions for the Wynne Casino, Macau and other Australian private companies.
See Forman’s beautiful collection of Marika Borlase works here!