13/07/2024 10:57 AM

Nuclear Running Dead

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Behind The Haunting Paintings Of Melbourne Artist Ella Dunn

Behind The Haunting Paintings Of Melbourne Artist Ella Dunn

Ella Dunn’s figurative paintings are inspired by personal experiences. She derives narratives from people, relationships, places and domestic scenes – there’s no telling where or when she might get a spark of inspiration. 

‘I am always drawing,’ she explains. ‘That informs my paintings. My drawing notebooks come with me everywhere. I often write down moments that I have experienced or that have caught my attention and have stayed with me in some way. As the drawings, sketches and words build, I start to gather a loose, fragmented narrative that drives the works.’ 

Most recently, a moment between two children at kindergarten, where Ella (an Early Childhood Teacher in training) was on placement, set in motion the concept for her latest body of work on shadows.

‘I was pushing two children on the swing when one said “look down!”. Their shadows were dancing up and back along the ground. The child said, “look, I’m touching my shadow, no it’s touching me”, as they reached down to the ground,’ she explains. 

This moment drew Ella’s attention to the many ways in which shadows shift and morph, depending on how you view them. 

‘Looking around, I became aware of the different rhythms and ways shadows displayed themselves. I noticed my shadow following me, being there as company, so I began documenting my shadow on different surfaces,’ she says. 

Her favourite piece in the new collection, ‘I touch my shadow, no my shadow touches me’, is a nod to this moment of conception. 

Painting wasn’t always Ella’s chosen medium. The artist moved from the mid-North coast in New South Wales to Melbourne in 2013 to study fine arts at VCA in drawing and printmaking. But, when a housemate’s friend gave her an old suitcase full of oil paints, she realised she had found her happy place. 

‘I thought I might as well give them a go,’ she says. ‘Since then I have loved the medium of paint and its unpredictability.’ 

She doesn’t have a consistent method she follows, instead she allows intuition to guide the process (which often involves applying layers of paint, removing it and painting over it again).

‘Even if I start out with an idea, I never know where I am going to end up,’ she says. ‘And that is the beauty of paint.’