Doorknobs, ash trays and curtain hooks are all commonly used materials for Adelaide-based artist Loren Orsillo. Having studied classical painting from the age of eight, Loren’s practice developed drastically while at art school. “Once I realised that being an artist was an actual job you could pursue,” she says, “art school became a no-brainer for me.”
Naturalism was left by the wayside as she gravitated toward painting on wall-mounted assemblages. She considers the act of painting, “as a pedestal upon which I can present an object for fresh consideration.” The objects Loren uses in her practice are collected, found and reappropriated, a clear nod to Duchamp’s readymades, yet their new configurations undoubtedly reference the history of painting. “Plenty of people blatantly tell me that [my works] are sculptures, however I’ve always struggled with this categorisation,” she says. “What defines them as paintings in my mind, is that they respond to the history of painting. Maybe that’s why they still cling so desperately to the wall instead of becoming free-standing assemblages.” As Loren’s found objects sit harmoniously against smooth painted surfaces, there is a clear reference to early 20th century Dadaism and its disestablishment of art elitism.
While organised chaos may be an age-old saying, it rings true for Loren’s process. Found objects are scattered across her studio, loosely organised into milk crates of wood, metals and plastics. Her studio acts as a haven for these misfit items; an ecosystem is formed with the objects in cyclical rotation. Some sit dormant for years, absorbing the history of the space and holding its power. “We should celebrate [these objects] more,” Loren says, “but we should also ask more questions about what kinds of associations they carry.” For Loren, these objects retain the subliminal ideas she ruminates upon; their cultural, social and physical meanings circulating her studio as if tangible.
Combining personal history with these seemingly negligible objects gives her assemblages power and is vital to her practice. In The Squire, for example, a single doorknob sits across the top of a seemingly blank canvas which has been mounted to a wooden panel. What is obscured remains unknown to the viewer as they weave their own narrative around the work. While speculative, Loren’s works are playful and experimental.
Masterfully poking fun at the concept of high and low art, Loren’s conceptual wit draws the viewer in and makes her work sing with playful obscurity. Sarcastic yet sincere, playful yet sombre, painting yet sculpture, the strength of Loren’s work lies in its ability to defy definition.
Featured image: Loren Orsillo in her studio.