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To look and to truly see with artist Marianna Marx

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To look and truly see

with artist Marianna Marx

Marianna Marx swims in deep pools of thought, long soft strokes as she goes. She carefully observes her surrounds and collects fragments of detail. In her search for meaning, she traces the stories of nature, people and the things we cannot see, but acutely feel. Marianna exercises her imagination and captures a visual representation of reality and reveries, both seen and unseen. She is an artist.

Ideas are scattered around Marianna’s home and work space in the form of grey led and water colour short stories found on A3 pieces of parchment. Paint brushes lean out of big tea cups. Books and collected creations stand upon her mantelpiece. Marianna moves in and out through her own ever changing scenery.      

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“I peek my head out and gather ideas and experiences from the world around me but I find I need to go into my own little shell where it is quiet and there is room for daydreaming to be able to process these ideas and turn them into drawings.” 

At first glance, passersby provide commentary upon Marianna’s work. It is sweet, cute and pretty. It is that, but it would be to do it a disservice to think that it is of such simplicity when it is rich with nuance. The intricately sketched titles hint at the broader scope of significance. To delve into her work further is to enter an enchanting world of intrigue and cleverness. Marianna creates works that are distinctly her own. Strands of childhood hope drape through her work alongside ripened ponderings of the world at large. Her works are ornate, alive with whimsy, our entwinement with nature and a tinge of melancholy. They all contain an adjoining thread of escapism, of beauty. There is a character in there wanting to be understood but wanting to remain apart, content in quiet thought.   

There is a part of Marianna’s work that will always been somewhat private, as is Marianna’s nature, yet the viewer is wholly invited to make their own version of the story, from what they find within the detail.

“I like to create drawings that can be read in many different ways. When I sell my work at markets I often get to hear the many different stories that people read into my drawings. Being able to connect with people in this way is one of the most rewarding and treasured parts of what I do.”

It is an interesting life that Marianna leads, one that is mostly solitary, but also must have a connect to the outside to survive.  

Marianna is part of the art community in Melbourne. Her work was regularly featured at the Rose Street Market. The weekly market in Fitzroy brings together an eclectic melting pot of artisans from all walks of life. They mostly bunker down during the week, toiling away at their craft, and come up for air on the weekend. For Marianna, she found this space to be invigorating after time spent inside her own head, mostly on her own.

“Being around so many successful artists and designers that were making their business work has pushed, encouraged and supported me in following my own path.”

Through the market Marianna also found her first studio. An airy space overlooking the city end of Brunswick Street gave Marianna a place to dedicate her time to draw, but in time she moved to a bigger space where she was able to teach and draw. This was partly due to her blossoming art business, Gloworm Studios.

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Gloworm Studios is thriving in the heart of Northcote, offering both child and adult classes. The small alcove does glow with its sunny disposition. Yellow smocks and colourful tables make it a delightful space to be in as natural light floods in. Watching Marianna talk about it, she too beams.

A year after first finding the space to rent, convincing the owner to let her transform the front room (it did not take much convincing as he thought it was a wonderful idea), she and her Dad set to work sanding the floors and giving it that trademark twinkle.

"I feel really lucky to have found such a beautiful place to teach classes. I wanted to create a really warm and nurturing environment that people of all skill levels could come to and explore their creativity further.”

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“Everyone comes for different reasons, to relax, to try something new, to have fun or to develop their skills. I love helping people to explore their own unique creativity, whatever their intention for coming is. It’s a real joy to see how both the kids and adults in my classes build confidence and find joy in expressing themselves through drawing and painting. It has always been important to me to have small class sizes so that I can focus on each person as an individual and help them as best as I can."

For a stint Marianna lived in San Francisco and loved the art scene there: the coloured houses stacked up and down the steep hills, the interesting people doing interesting things. She thought maybe she might like to live there for a time. Yet her family is based here in Melbourne and they provide her with much support. They are her bookends and as it happens, Melbourne is a city flowing freely with art and culture in unexpected places. Marianna said that she feels really lucky to be an artist living in Melbourne at this point in time.

“With things like social media, online stores, an appreciative community and the market culture that exists at the moment, there are so many platforms to get your work out there.” 

As an artist Marianna gathers and collects. Melbourne, and indeed rural Victoria, hold a hand out to Marianna, offering her ideas in the form of other creations, both natural and in various art mediums.

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“Sometimes a line from a song or book or a mood that music evokes can help to spark an idea. Visiting galleries and seeing other people’s work is really important to me too, particularly if I'm feeling a bit stuck. Looking at different styles and artists of different time period helps me to push my usual patterns of thought and often prompts me to explore a new style, subject or play with a different medium.”

Alongside two Melbourne artists, The Nonsense Maker and Hannakin, Marianna took part in the One Day in May Exhibition and personal experiment. For every day in May, the three young artists created something from nothing. At the end of the month they exhibited their work in the city at The Workshop. Small squares of art hung across a long wall, all different, showing 31 days of creation. It really tested Marianna, pushing her to stick to a deadline each day, among her Gloworm classes and the enormous work it takes to keep up your own business, which includes stoking cards in shops throughout Australia.

Fortunately, the ideas kept flowing: “I think that if you keep your eyes open to it, inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. A lot of my inspiration comes from observing the colours, people, personal experiences, conversation and beauty that exists in day to day life.”

Walking in nature, road trips, family dinners, gardening with her boyfriend, the excitement of a new idea, swimming in the ocean. These are the things that keep the artist in Marianna content and moving. 

“Besides wanting to be an Egyptologist for a brief stint in primary school I've never wanted to be anything other than an artist,” said Marianna.

Marianna remembers a holiday when she was young, she was captivated by a painter on the street. The painter said to her, “You can be artist too, all you have to do is practice.” Practice Marianna did, and she will continue to practice for the rest of her life. After all, as Marianna’s drawing below illustrates, there are Endless Possibilities.

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A few pieces of work that Marianna holds dear to her heart:

Autumn Coat

This was one of the first drawings I did where I felt like I was finding my own style. I remember cutting out each tiny leaf and layering them using tweezers and glue. It was a real labour of love! I’ve often thought about this little character and love to daydream about where she is walking to in her little autumn coat.

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Beyond words

This piece is very close to my heart. I drew it for my partner when we first got together. It had so many tiny symbols and personal notes in there that no one else would know. It was kind of like my version of a love note to him.

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Escape Cape

This drawing is one of my favourites because no matter how many times I look at it it always reminds me of a very particular time in my life. I drew it when I was living in San Francisco. It reminds me of the feeling of that city, the people I met and the colours and patterns that were everywhere I looked.

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To explore more of Marianna’s work visit mariannamarx.com
To attend a class at Gloworm Studios visit glowwormstudios.com

Article by Sinead Halliday