There’s a disarming simplicity to Sally Ross’s paintings. Though rendered with utmost attention to detail and form, her oil-on-linen works eschew overt intellectualisation and lofty conceptual gestures.
They are, first and foremost, pretty pictures. “They’re very conventional paintings in a sense,” offers Ross smilingly. “I’m really surprised that I’m still able to show in sexy, contemporary galleries.”
Using decrepit old books and forgotten photo archives as source material, the Melbourne artist delicately reinterprets classically picturesque landscapes and uncannily staged portraiture via reductions and shifts in palette and pattern.
“Using all these old books, it means that I’ve got an almost endless supply of material,” she explains. “I’m kind of liberated from the idea of invention. Wherever I go on any given day, I can unearth something. It could be in the newspaper, in some op-shop, on the internet, or wherever.”
“I just find these boring, stiff photographs really peaceful in a way and really interesting to try and represent.”
Indeed, it’s within this idea or representation – of interpretation – that Ross’s work garners its significance. “There’s got to be something beyond nostalgia that makes these images still relevant,” she posits. “You have that translation and that transformation from it just being an old photo in a book to it becoming work worth doing.”
For Ross, who had worked as printmaker for almost a decade before establishing her painting practice whilst working with the Collection Lambert in Avingnon, France, it’s a notion borne out via straightforward, repetitive process.
“I find it really fascinating, this idea of an almost formulaic process and what can be produced from that,” she offers.
“I love the idea that these old images can have a presence today and that people really seem to enjoy them.”
New Paintings by Sally Ross opens today and runs until December 23 at Murray White Room.