From the Inside Out

A Pair of Portraits by Sally Bourke

Music, storytelling, ugliness, and love. These are the things Newcastle-based artist Sally Bourke (1973-) notes among her largest influences. 

In the portraits The Quiet Light and I am a ghost of you, you are the ghost of me, Bourke avoids her subjects’ external features or appearance. Painted ‘from the inside out’ as one curator puts it, ‘her works capture a haunting glimpse into her characters, rather than a likeness.’

Self-described as a ‘pure abstract painter,’ Bourke’s artworks are drenched in colour with shapes that toe the line between the beautiful and the ugly. Blurry figures and lurid markings made as a child, by ‘cheap, round watercolours,’ echo strongly through her paintings.

Other childhood recollections, like memories of hunting with her father and feeling sorrow as she witnessed animals being killed, are equally present. Following the death of a friend in her later life, Bourke began questioning her own artistic motivations, especially the many creative compromises she made throughout her career to satisfy the tastes of others. 

Bourke was born in Dubbo and now, as a mother of three, lives in Newcastle. She is proud of her regional identity and relishes the act of creating art in the company of fellow artists. All these qualities are present in her work and result in paintings and sculptural objects filled with a sense of shared humanity.