— observations from the Blue Mountains Design Bureau —

Painting with fire

After a hugely successful show at Leura’s Lost Bear Gallery, The Cloudscape felt the need to showcase the extraordinarily talented Scott Marr. His aptly named ‘New Palette Exhibition’ revealed exquisite renderings of the natural world, utilising pyrography and handmade pigments to explore both the intricacies of nature and humanity’s place within the natural environment.

Marr has been a practising artist for over 15 years and although he has studied at the Julian Ashton Art School and through the TAFE system, he describes himself as self taught. His early training exposed him to the classical foundations of ‘Art’ and the principles of drawing; a background which has culminated in a fascination with how we as human beings perceive themselves and our place in the world.

Understandably, Marr’s most influential inspiration is nature and from the instantaneous impact and minutiae of detail found in the Australian bush, in particular. He finds interactions between elements of the natural world illuminating, citing the example of a certain grasshopper that slowly becomes the same colour as the food it consumes or the parallel between the twist and turn of a tree’s bark and the flow of water from which it drinks.

Exploring these relationships within his work, Marr meditates on the human condition. He sees himself, and by extension, us as deeply affected and connected to nature. And yet, his work is a lament that we are so often fundamentally estranged from the natural world, despite our shared sense of awe and wonder. Marr exposes and explores this disconnection within his work and as a result, reflections on both science and philosophy find themselves burnt, blistered and stained upon his canvas.

When Marr first came across pyrography, it was known as ‘pokerwork,’ he was still a child and only rediscovered the beauty of the seared line whilst studying etching as an adult. He realised he was more attracted to the completed plate, rather than the print it created, saying that the image left behind, seemed “only a phantom of what actually went on with the production of the plate.”

Once he had mastered the use of the pyrographic stylus, however, he struggled when adding commercially produced hues to the images he was creating. It wasn’t until after a “particularly frustrating session in the studio,” he took a bushwalk and chanced upon a rotting tree. Compelled by all the variety of moss and lichen growing on it, he was curious whether he could somehow use the colours for his work. After trying many different methods to extract the pigment, he arrived at boiling the samples he’d taken and found he could apply the resulting wash in a manner similar to watercolour.

Now Marr describes himself as a mad scientist and his studio, as his ‘lab.’ His palette has expanded to pigments made from raw materials such as nectar and berries, sap, bark and leaves, even road kill. The ‘New Palette Exhibition,’ also included sacred ochres found on a recent trip to the Flinders Ranges.

The unique beauty of Marr’s style lies in the language he has developed in response to the conditions that intrigue him. His manipulation of pyrography hints at the unforgiving aspects of the natural world; his use of handmade, naturally occurring pigments imbue a sense of delicacy and softness. These two elements of his work are never in competition, each anchors the other and allows Marr to finely calibrate the powerful microscope he has trained on our world.

Here at The Cloudscape, we think Scott Marr is a Blue Mountain artist everyone should know about. His work and his passion is something to celebrate. Using the infinitesimally small parts of our universe, he inspires our greatest potential and rekindles our connection to nature. Absorbing the depth of beauty alive in his work and the stories he tells, we too are like the grasshopper, transformed by what nourishes us.

To see more of Scott Marr’s work, visit his website, and be sure to check out the fascinating time lapse clips of his work in progress. Also, his blog makes compelling reading or follow him on Twitter @scott_marr.

WORDS by Jennifer Jamieson IMAGES by Ann Niddrie

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