Silhouettes and storytelling from Gemma Topliss
Melbourne artist Gemma Topliss tells stories through drawing. Explorations of light, shadows, silhouettes and fragments of the everyday create an extension of her personal experiences as an artist and a woman. Her work tells narratives of heroic, strong, complex women dually battling their inner vulnerabilities and weaknesses. At 19, she is just about to start her second year of studying Fine Art at RMIT.
At the root, Gemma’s work begins with thorough diary-like documentation in sketchbooks. A diligent collection of sketches, paper ephemera, polaroids, and notes all converge to inform the beginnings of a drawing. Primarily using charcoal, she pieces these ideas and experiences together to create a fragmented narrative, aestheticised into high contrast imagery and tied by themes of memory and identity. Charcoal is inherently messy; difficult to wrangle. Smudging and a touch of uncouthness ties the fractures of Gemma’s collage-like work together, organically and naturally.
Gemma Topliss is also known to use graphite, ink and watercolour to create smaller works. The culmination of sketches and collages from her tendencies to document are refined and bundled in the form of small run zines and books, and original mini-sketchbooks.
In a number of recent works, inspiration is drawn from 10 days spent in Tokyo. Journeys through the streets at night, window views, dense clusters of powerlines, small visual gestures and iconic imagery like koi and gingko leaves are immortalised in black and white charcoal. Viewing this series of works feels like an intimate peek into her trip, with an emphasis on the more quiet and sensitive moments spent in such a busy, energetic city.