Resisting the temptation to compare artists to icons is hard, but in the case of Julia Trybala, the comparison to Mirka Mora is deserved. The Melbourne-based artist’s subjects swell and inflate, pressing against the sides of their frames in an energetic style that echoes Mirka’s naive lines, distinctive faces and irrepressible colours.
Julia doesn’t think so as much (Marlene Dumas and Phillip Guston are her heroes) but her painting nevertheless exudes an intimacy that is hard to look away from. ‘The goal is to make honest and relatable paintings,’ she says of her work, and the universality is sincere. ‘This new body of work (opening this month at Saint Cloche) channels tender and intimate moments from the everyday; offering a sly look over a shoulder, presenting a flower, a mesh top draped on a bed spread.’
From the small studio out the back of her sharehouse in Melbourne, Julia paints women who are both cramped and excessive, intimate and overbearing. The ‘bratty faces, contorted nudes and big feet’ make up grotesque figures, all fighting against the confines of their canvases. They seemingly have nowhere else to go.
‘I use painting and drawing as a way of contemplating myself, my relationships and surroundings,’ the artist muses. ‘Because I don’t really work from photographs, I find myself collating ideas, gestures and expressions of people… to later try and replicate through painting.’ Though her memories are clear, Julia’s process is more spontaneous. She makes charcoal sketches before putting paint to canvas impulsively. From there, her ambiguous forms take shape, themes of vulnerability tangled with familiarity, entwined in a carnal coil of flesh.
But physicality doesn’t stand in the way of the psychological nuance Julia is attempting to unravel. ‘I hope by exploring these varied emotional states of stylised characters that are coy, creepy, bitter, horny, I can allude to a sense of intimacy and tenderness,’ she explains. Through her work, Julia participates in a shared artistic mission to portray the human condition. ‘I think all painters making figurative works are voyeurs,’ she says. By the looks of things, she’s probably right.