Alesandro Ljubicic paints flowers.
He does this with dozens of litres of paint, casting it across the canvas with a brush and palette knife, scraping it back and sculpting thick swathes into petals.
“I’m a big guy. I paint with my whole body,” he says, demonstrating a huge arm gesture in front of the canvas. “Someone with technical skills and patience might be more meticulous, but that’s the last thing I want. I do this at the end of the day after work.”
Ljubicic’s new show at Scott Livesey Galleries, Intrinsic Nature, shows just how much he gets out of this simple and timeless subject. The shapes, textures and colours provide him with endless material. “The flowers are a start,” says Ljubicic. “They’re far from flowers now. It’s just mark-making.”
From a distance, each piece is a burst of ecstatic colour. Up close (and you should definitely look up close), you can see the mountains of paint rising in mounds off the canvas. “This one started with about 12 litres of white,” he says about a four-and-a-half-metre wide canvas of a magnolia. Many of his works are so textured and three-dimensional that they’re more like sculptures.
The blue and lilac magnolia paintings, the most striking in the show, depict the flowers of a single tree. He’s been painting it from different angles for three years.
“It belongs to a friend of mine,” says Ljubicic. “I was delivering some canvasses to her at her home in Bellevue Hill. She said ‘you have to check out my tree’. I thought oh my god – I went and got my camera and took hundreds of reference photos. Every time I paint it, it gives me something new.”
Ljubicic goes through huge quantities of paint. He owns and runs the Sydney Art Store in Waterloo, so he’s never short on supplies. In fact, that was one of the reasons he began the business in the first place. He started the store with a $3000 scholarship he received at the National Art School more than a decade ago. “I thought I was the richest bloke in Sydney,” he says, “so I wanted to do something lasting with it.”
He set up a website and sold paint from his bedroom. Eventually he was selling paint to the art school itself.
“I knew I wanted to paint, but I didn’t want to let people tell me what to do,” he adds. So he opened an art shop: what better way to surround himself with artists, and pay the bills.
It’s now been 10 years since he opened a physical store. After he closes each evening, he goes upstairs to his studio, and surrounds himself with photographs of something like that Bellevue Hill magnolia, and layers a canvas with lilac paint.
Intrinsic Nature is at Scott Livesey Galleries until May 20.