Life & Style

Sally Bourke Art

Inside a painter's studio in Georgetown

Today we take you inside the hauntingly colourful studio of painter Sally Bourke. Sally is a down to earth, self-proclaimed red neck originally from Dubbo, but has lived in Newcastle for the last 20 years and yet still doesn't consider herself a local yet. 

Nestled in the back streets of Georgetown, is a wonderful artist run studio space which Sally shares with four other artists, it’s here that we meet and sit down to have a chin wag. To set the scene, as I interview Sally, we’re dealing with the constant banter of her fellow artists hurling insults over on plywood walls. It makes for a comedic, light-hearted chat.

“It’s usually cleaner than this” Sally announces as she leads us into her studio space.

Her studio is bursting with paints, aerosols, brushes, and found objects, it feels so homely and lived-in.

“Because I do so many different things I have to have so many materials. And I’m making a massive installation of paintings [at the moment] so I’ve had to be really anal. Otherwise, I end up tripping over… like that bench there I just know where every single thing is. I just grab things when I’m painting.”

Your recent work is primarily portraits, do you only paint portraits?

“No, I’ve always done work that’s based around ideas of oral history or stories that my Dad would tell me when I was a kid. Because I grew up out in the bush. So the first kind of ideas that I had were based around this idea of landscape and what happens in the landscape.

"A lot of them are quite dark … and I hate saying the term, psychological landscapes or portraits. But they’re more like this idea of sort of like painting people from the inside out. Not using their facial features as a reference point to what I’m painting.

"Sometimes I see people and I think god they’re so beautiful and they don’t even know that. Or gosh you’re like the ugliest person I’ve ever met. A lot of them are people I know. They are all related, they’re like a big family.”

Is each work a specific person? Or a mixture of several people?

"They are a collision between a person that I know or a situation or it could be something that I’ve read about. So, it’s more like the idea of humans or humanity more specifically."

Do you always work on multiple works at the same time?

"I always have something that is at the beginning stage and I have always have something finished. So there’s always something to choose from.

"Especially when you’re using oils, you have to be patient. And because I’m an impatient person. I needed to find another way to have clean layers in paintings, but remain fresh. If I focus in on one painting for too long, like if I went from start to finish I would get impatient and it would end up being dirty.

"They have to stay loose and I tweak them and decide if they need to be tighter or they are fine just as they are."

Sally Bourke Art