By Laura Sheppeck
AMPR introduces a new artist program in our Melbourne HQ, a new initiative that provides local and emerging artists a platform to showcase their latest work.
The Winter Series has been created by Melbourne based artist Chloé Newby, known for her textural application and fine, yet bold approach to balancing colour.
Midnight Magnolias, created by Chloé Newby, is an expressive abstract series inspired by the most beautiful and delicate of flowers juxtaposed with a deep, dark winter. The bold yet playful colour pallet capture’s the eye with warmth and mystery, whilst the intense and deep contrast promotes a striking beauty that commands attention.
Art is a language, and each artist creates their own dialogue, so we caught up with Chloé to hear more about the series, what’s involved when developing new work for an exhibition and the best way for upcoming artists to get noticed in the art world.
Your current series “Midnight Magnolias” is on display in our Melbourne showroom. Talk us through the collection and what inspired you.
I actually took inspiration from the recent AW20 fashion shows in New York and London, and after settling on a colour palette I began playing with these on various mediums. The ‘Midnight Magnolias’ series came to be as I began painting over an existing piece in my studio late one night. ‘Delving In’ was already the beginnings of a moody floral piece that had lain dormant since late 2020, but it wasn’t until I hit this canvas with lashings of texture in my colour palette that it began taking shape as the first piece of the new series.
As I progressed with my next piece the colours began to intuitively form patterns and figurative shapes that I now reference as abstract magnolia blooms in ‘Winter Rain’. Enjoying the playfulness and dynamic palette, I found the series namesake piece as I finished painting number three. ‘Midnight Magnolias’ solidified the direction of this expressive abstract series and so the final three pieces, whilst still abstract, included much more figurative and focused blooms.
‘Late August’ and ‘Come September’ were the final pieces within the series, and the figurative blooms took more presence amongst the composition. Dramatic, darling and daring this body of work boasts my signature textural application and delicate, yet bold approach to balancing colour. Combined with the abstract and curiosity evoking subject matter, my hope is that they call for prolonged perusal as they captivate hearts and wandering minds.
Do you have a favourite piece within the collection?
My favourite piece would have to be the namesake ‘Midnight Magnolias’. It has the most complex, expressive and layered background, and I love the way the blooms seem to just ‘hang in the balance’ of the stark contrasting background. I saw that the series could hold a narrative inspired by the beauty that emerges from the cocooning of a deep and dark season, just like wandering through the streets of Melbourne in late winter.
Talk us through your process, how long does it usually take to create a series of this scale?
My process is very intuitive. I simply took my brush to the canvas after playing around with the colour palette on a bunch of different mediums and the series came together on its own as the colours found their own space and shape. When I could see that these abstract forms could be magnolias, I loosely referenced them and they became clearer and more figurative as the series developed. You could say the body of work is simply a collection of magnolia artworks in different levels of focus.
What inspires you within your work and is there anyone in particular that you admire?
My main inspiration for this series came from nature and boldly curated interiors. I aspire to be stocked in places like Fenton & Fenton and Greenhouse Interiors and have my work sit alongside bold and curious homewares, decor and designers. I also admire Alessandro Ljubic and Helen McCullagh – two very different but established Australian contemporary artists that work with bold palettes and have a focus on florals.
Take us behind the scenes of an exhibition and what is involved?
In the case of this series, viewing the AMPR showroom prior to creating was essential as I was bringing bold colours to a blank canvas. Whilst my approach to my work is rather intuitive, it is rare that I jump straight into painting. I like to sit with the blank canvas and get used to the size and space I’ll be working with. From there though, it really is just paint, brushes and texture combined with wherever my feelings take me.
Once my paintings have been completed, then they must cure for a minimum of three days, then finishing with varnish. Aside from creating the physical pieces, I photograph and prep all design collateral myself. I am a trained graphic designer and marketing professional, those skills I have compliment my art nicely in being that I am able to present my work exactly as I’d like to.
You are known for your textual application and balancing of colour, how long did it take you to find a signature style?
I’ve been painting consistently in this kind of way for around two years. But this series has really taken my skills and application to a whole new level, combining the figurative with the undeniably abstract.
What advice would you give for any emerging artists looking to set up a career in the art industry?
Paint, paint, paint. Curate your socials. Developing your marketing and design skills or outsource so that you can focus on the creative content and paint to your heart’s content. For me, where my practice is now, is very much a side hustle that has blossomed during my pregnancy. I’d love to dedicate more time to painting and promote my work using my skill set and networking.
Are there any issues currently facing the art industry in Australia at the moment?
An artist’s path is generally a challenging one, and one that requires stamina and perseverance as you develop your style and volume of work. What I can say is that there are great opportunities, albeit very competitive, for emerging artists to be noticed, stocked and promoted by esteemed, local businesses. Fenton & Fenton and Jumbled, for example, run emerging artist competitions every year and Bluethumb Online Art Gallery is a great place to sell your work if you don’t have your own website – they really champion artists of all mediums and price points with regular promotions and curated selections by their team.
You have recently become a new mum, how do you balance the new baby routine with your creative work?
This is constantly changing day to day, but creating this series was a huge accomplishment for me as a new mum. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it together to be honest, but I just made the most of such a great opportunity and broke it down into bite-size pieces (not my usual mode of creating). Sitting in front of the raw canvas and feeling out the dimensions and space was key to me feeling comfortable breaking down the application into snippets whenever my hands were free. I’d often paint in 5-10 minute bursts, so nursing and napping with the little man with the easel in view was key to planning my next moves.
What I love about this moment in my life is, that it has surprised me. I truly feel like this is my best work yet and it’s all happened in at a time where creating work can feel impossible. I’ve just taken those precious snippets of time ranging from 5 minutes to an hour (thanks to Daddy, or Youtube kids) and seen where my intuition has led me. It’s not been an easy execution, though I am grateful for the opportunity, how it has pushed me to create in a new light and as a ‘new me’. Hey there, cool arty mum! … well, that’s what I’m trying to channel anyway.
Finally, what is next for you and what are you currently working on?
More of the same. I’ve just been in QLD and NSW for our first family holiday which was lovely, but I’m itching to paint a mini magnolias series in the same vain. I’ve also started researching a new colour palette for my next body of work and am percolating on inspiration for these. I really enjoyed looking at colour trends for this body of work and using the colour palette as the main vehicle to drive my intuitive approach. So, I plan on giving this approach another whirl for a Spring-inspired series.
Are you a fan of Chloe’s latest series and want to enquire about one of the pieces? Get up to date via her Instagram here and check out her website.