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“I never really know what I’m doing when I’m painting. I’m always responding to things that happen.”

Dylan Newling is incredibly humble when it comes to talking about the inspiration for his work or about his work at all. He relishes the experience of letting inspiration find him, wherever that may be, and his eccentric and sometimes outlandish paintings are indicative of how far his imagination can stretch. “I’m not necessarily looking for anything in particular, rather encountering or happening upon things.”

Distancing measures of the past two years provided fresh opportunities to focus on the new world around us. The Sydney native took this opportunity to embrace the slowing down of time and engage more effusively with the thoughts emerging from refreshed daily experiences. A daunting prospect to many.

Engaging more critically with your thoughts or diving headfirst into new ideas is easier said than done. But for those like Newling, who use these sporadic moments of self-reflection as a powerful tool for self-expression, the results can be resounding.

Time away from painting has also been crucial to the development of his work. As the National Art School closed its doors over lockdown, so began a build-up of ideas ready to burst onto the canvas.

“I like when you can’t pin a work down, categorise it or close it, and you keep coming back.” There’s a cheekiness to this response, which appropriately sums up the intent of his work.

Newling is adept at drawing in viewers with depictions of the serious and the questionable. A small red car finds itself half-submerged in a lake–the driver seemingly resigned to his sunken fate. “Ambiguity, enigma or curiosity remains and the imagination and responses can continue to unfold.” Prolonged exploration of Newling’s works often leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. His work A Pickle… drumming up the strange and anxious feeling of seeing a familiar object in an eerily unfamiliar context.

Despite the wide-ranging subject matter of his work, most of Newling’s vignettes depict scenes that aren’t too distant from our own reality. Many of these daily occurrences could easily form part of our everyday landscapes. However, the artist’s restrained application of colour is, in some instances, a solemn reminder of their fleeting nature.

Whilst reliving the past few years may not be at the top of everyone’s to-do lists, Dylan Newling will be exhibiting these works in February during the BFA graduation show at the National Art School. They offer a refreshing glance at periods of reflection and will inspire us not to take our everyday surroundings for granted.

Newling’s work reminds us that we don’t need to travel far to find inspiration. And with travelling far currently off the table for many, we can consider ourselves lucky knowing that pockets of inspiration and quaint beauty are still close by.


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