Marlee McMahon Shadow Crossed The Sky

18 May –
15 June 2024

Installation view
Marlee McMahon
Shadow Crossed The Sky, 2024
Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Photography Andrew Curtis

For the artist’s first solo exhibition at Sutton Gallery, Marlee McMahon mediates the concrete vocabularies of hard-edge abstraction through an intuitive, process-led methodology. Shadow Crossed The Sky sees McMahon embrace the immediacy of composition, laying bare an indelible human presence that eschews the coldness of pure geometric painting.

Interested in subverting the two-dimensionality and graphic quality associated with the surface plane, this new body of work is firmly rooted in the subjectivity of experience and perception. The exhibition spans work produced during the artist’s Samstag Scholarship-sponsored MFA in Rotterdam, NL in 2023, alongside those made since her arrival in Naarm, tracing the artist’s ongoing interest in the architectural and the rhythmic within abstraction.

The paintings on show in Shadow Crossed The Sky are often reworked and overpainted–a textural acknowledgement of the structural elements surmising each composition. This process of application alludes to the temporal nature of McMahon’s practice, with each work emerging as a procedural testimony of its own making. Traces of distinctive shapes are concealed, as relief forms find themselves submerged in a lingering, subterranean space. Though rather than search for the hidden, suspended narrative encrypted below, these paintings invite viewers to look for themselves at what is perceptible. Here, McMahon invokes slippery, transgressive forms such as colour gradients while stretching motifs across the boundaries of diptychs to circumvent the insularity that encapsulates formalist abstract painting.

Facilitating an internal dialogue that follows its own logic, McMahon’s works are thoroughly palpable, experiential objects that invoke the artist’s studio presence. Oscillating between bold collations to tacit arrangements, Shadow Crossed the Sky features works compositionally weighted by recurrent equivocal shapes. Imbuing each work with a sense of tension and theatre sensitive to the painting’s own conditions, McMahon negates the reverential posturing of post-war minimalist painting. By mining and exposing the mechanics of abstraction, these paintings are characterised by a loosened, highly receptive relationship to form and tonality.

Selected solo exhibitions

Shadow Crossed the Sky, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2024; Stepping Lightly, Conners Conners, Melbourne, 2021; Heavy Kite, Visions, Auckland, 2021; Digestif, STATION, Melbourne, 2020; Carbonated, Bowerbank Ninow, Auckland, 2019; 61x70xM, Alaska Projects, Sydney, 2017; Optic White, Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale, 2017, Victoria.

Selected group exhibitions

Sutton Gallery at Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne, 2024; Partial View, MaMA, Rotterdam, NL, 2023; Sutton Gallery at Sydney Contemporary, Sydney, 2023; Four Meter High Ceilings, Mauritsstraat 36, Rotterdam, NL, 2023; Wind-up Teeth, Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, NL, 2022; I Must Be Living Twice, European Cultural Centre, Venice, IT; I Am Here (curated by Katherine Hattam), Arthouse Gallery, Sydney, 2021; Deep Breakfast, Haydens, Melbourne, 2020; Sounds of Pacing, Conners Conners, Melbourne, 2020; December Mostra, British School at Rome (BSR), Rome, IT, 2019; Hard Boiled, Neon Parc Brunswick, Melbourne, 2019; A more comprehensive physical explanation, Bowerbank Ninow, Auckland, 2019; Unrepresented Artists, Haydens, Melbourne, 2018; The drawing is just not there (curated by Patrice Sharkey and Christopher L G Hill), West Space, Melbourne, 2018; Uh, or so on, VCA Art Space, Melbourne, 2017; Summer projects IV, Boom, Geelong, 2017.

Artist’s profile