Artist Marlise Keith's subject matter is vast, drawing inspiration from a mental medley of news headlines, colonial history, friends’ pets, psychopathology, girlhood memories, dreams, her persistent, chronic migraines, and roadside memorials. Subjects too daunting, too confused, or too subliminal to articulate in neat words and sentences, are processed through mark-making; offering an alternative “understanding” of a world that often does not make sense in traditional, logical language. This violence emerges in plentiful paint; sometimes it is suggested by the very act of mark-making itself – paper is gouged, scratched, sanded, torn, folded, and nailed.
The question of value is often explored through Keith’s other choices of media. In her assemblages she juxtaposes found objects and media of varying value: Well-worn but beloved t-shirts, expensive gesso, broken curios, highly specialised micro-mosaic, R5 Store purchases and luxurious fabrics are combined and further worked with embroidery, intricate line, fur, paint, and sequins. The creations seem to emerge directly from Keith’s self-labelled mental “soup,” equal parts cute and hideous, dark, and witty.
The result is a richly layered body of work both violent and uncanny, made more surreal with a playful use of colour and humour. The latter draws in the viewer to a closer scrutiny of the darker complexities lurking beneath, which offer endless possibilities of meaning.