Marina Strocchi

Marina Strocchi left her residency New York City, returning home to Australia, just three weeks before its first Covid case was announced. Having grown up in Melbourne and worked throughout her career in the Northern Territory and Australia's Central Desert, Strocchi was inspired to produce new, formally innovative works while reflecting on her time spent living in NYC.

The points of intersection between skyscraper windows in Manhattan sunset III, 2020, are live; they ring with a vibrant, almost spiritual, blue. Between them, white spaces where the lives of others would be are subtly under-painted with this same blue – underpinned by its electric energy. The painting sees Manhattan from the swaying vantage point of a person moving before (or beneath) it. The buildings swallow the painting’s perspective whole. They loom over us ambivalently; at once overwhelming and aspirational, too-much and never enough, like the city itself. 

In this new body of work, Strocchi approaches the mythic city on a haptic, and lusciously affective level. As a visitor – an Australian in NYC, that perennially recurring character – her perspective is constantly on the move, soaking in as much as possible as much of the time as possible. During her time in New York, Strocchi was living in Brooklyn and had a studio in Manhattan, and would frequently traverse the city between these two neighbourhoods. In an artist’s statement, she describes taking the D over the Manhattan Bridge, between the brownstones of her home and the 1920s warehouses where her studio was set. Focussing on movement through this city which is so ready to be read as symbolic, Strocchi is able to draw down a human, embodied experience of her setting from the ideas about it which run up and away into abstraction so easily. Columbus Circle in the snow, 2021, for example, foregrounds modes of transportation against skyscrapers – their patterning dense and idiosyncratic, like blue notes – in a tender and affectionate portrait of the cityscape as the artist anecdotally encountered it. In a sense, the architectural features of the city are approached like characters. Strocchi describes an interest in “the sheer mass and density of the buildings, the repetition of shapes, the walls of windows, sometimes reflecting, sometimes receding, and always towering over the mere mortals who inhabit them.”

These abundantly-patterned, geometric paintings represent both a formal and conceptual departure for Strocchi, for whom other longstanding interests have been interior scenes or still lifes, and organic forms. Such, perhaps, is the effect of living someplace new, or of encountering the breadth of human experience which Strocchi describes in NYC: “There is something about the energy in New York – it’s a place where people go to try to do something. It seems like a place of hope. A place where your wildest dreams might just come true. There is also the Shakespearean counterpoint to the hopes – the despair and desperation of being overwhelmed by life. One is reminded daily that New York City is a place where life is lived to the furthest extremes.”

New York City
5 – 30 April 2022
Australian Galleries, Melbourne

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