Sydney-based artist Antonia Mrljak uses thick expressive brush strokes to represent her rich Sicilian heritage. This week, the painter will present a new series of more than 30 works at Potts Point design emporium Becker Minty. Titled Gift, the exhibition explores her hybrid heritage – born in Australia, but raised among the customs, traditions, and dense emotion of southern Italy.

“Later in life I started painting, and I noticed that my heritage was a reflection of the way I actually made marks and moved around the canvas,” Mrljak explains. Working in an abstract expressionist style, Mrljak’s paintings are made up of fields of colour and vigorous gestural forms, drawing upon her own neglected memories of home, heritage and land. “The layering in each painting reflects a process that I was in tune with as a young child. I watched my father farm; we cooked everything from scratch. There was this layering that went on, it was a process.”

Mrljak recently graduated from Sydney College of the Arts, and was named on Robin Gibson Gallery’s New Talent list for 2017. The pieces in Gift are a continuation of her studies in abstraction. “I was brought up to think emotionally, and often I use my instincts to guide my work,” she continues. “Because it’s abstract you don’t have anything to respond to like a figurative or a still life, so a lot of the work has an instinctive quality.”

Gift opens Wednesday April 12. The exhibition will run in store until mid May.