‘Stories with unbound endings’, Alice Wormald: Passion Recognition, catalogue essay by Olivia Poloni


Melbourne-based artist Alice Wormald has established a practice that relies heavily on colour and the precise layering of paint to create compositions that celebrate surface texture, illusory space and quizzical storytelling. Wormald is committed to producing work that is powerfully magical – unfurling, folding and rolling new worlds into the next.

Using collage as her starting point, Wormald creates compositions that are layered and interwoven with shadow, texture, colour and a play on visual perspective. Differing elements float, move, spiral, tilt and balance upon the canvas. The artist draws inspiration from found images in second hand books collected over many years; publications that are outdated and make the imagery hard to place, long discarded by owners who have outgrown or moved on to new interests. Wormald is attracted to the personal stories that are being told here, as the title of the exhibition Passion Recognition references these outmoded images, redundant interests and discarded personal inscribed notes. At times, she combines these images with Japanese formal elements such as colour combinations, structures of paper and wrapping, garden formation and design. 

Balance, movement and a sense of physical uncertainty are evident in the work Centre Method. The foreground form in this work tilts and presents a sense of projection and rotation, almost as if it could spin off the canvas. The slight, winding ribbon-like bands are reminiscent of traditional kimono patterns and Japanese wrapping tie. The flat background and highlighted fine yellow border thrusts the foreground from the background. This work uses movement and static, flatness and depth to explore truth and perception. The use of fine line highlight is also utilised in the work Variations where an ever so slight purple line emphasizes the edge of the blue foreground structure, enabling it to jump straight from the canvas. The softness of the shadow against the hard edges and linear patterns reminds us that Wormald’s works are puzzles to work out, slowly and with time, perhaps never finding the answers. The eruption of colour, texture and storytelling can also be seen in the work Instruction Structure where these elements play out. Ropes tether the center shape allowing it to float, but not too far, on the canvas. Purposefully chosen colour combinations of silk-like twine gather at a point, the background is flat, curious patterning and imagery allude to landscape and rock formations. Like all of Wormald’s work this one too reflects a story with many potential endings or maybe none at all

Wormald is at the heart a storyteller. Her ability to play, manipulate and combine colour transforms her work into stories that cannot be defined. Subtle and bold, offbeat and rich, the work leaves questions and storylines open to viewer’s individual interpretation and personal response. These images are a journey that celebrate process and honour the collage at the beginning just as much as the oil painting at the end.