She’s spunky, feisty, boganish – so much so she’d pass muster this side of Hobart’s Flannie Line. In fact, her formative years were partly spent in this city, although she was born in Sydney in 1987, growing up on the Northern Beaches. When she was 16 her family moved to Hobs. Listening to Darren Hanlon and Paul Kelly inspired her to try songwriting herself and learn guitar. 2011 saw a move to Melbourne and she started to make inroads into that burb’s music scene. And as we say, with her winning the gong for Best Rock Album at this year’s ARIAs, the rest is history. I think she’s amazing; her two album releases – this year’s ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ and 2015’s ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’ – fantastic. Her lyrics are just so good. Courtney Barnett is proudly gay, as she should be; in a relationship with fellow muso Jen Cloher.
But it’s not the ARIAs this piece is focused on, but more that other award ceremony that raises great interest, the Archibalds. Yep, she was up for that too. ‘Courtney and I are friends. I’m a big fan of her music with its mix of rock, folk, indie and grunge. I also love her guitar playing, and see her as a strong representative of the positive shift happening for women in Australian music.’
When I went into the ether to check out the finalists for the famous artistic award, one image in particular caught my eye. Initially that was for its in-your-face colour and its background design. It took me a second glance to realise the sitter was Courtney. For the artist, she was considerate of two factors when designing how she would portray the increasingly popular rockster. Her ‘…music and witty lyrics are quite colourful, so I have used a lot of colour. The background is inspired by 1930s Australian art deco paintings.’ The result speaks for itself.
Like her subject, Melissa Grisancich was born in ‘87 and is Melbourne based. She cites as her influences Henri Rosseau, Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, To my eye her rendering of Ms Barnett was one of the standouts in the competition eventually won by Yvette Coppersmith’s self portrait. I also liked the depictions of Jimmy Barnes (Jamie Preisz), which won the Packing Room Prize, as well as Guy Pearce’s (Anne Middleton). So in a round about way Courtney drew me to Melissa and her works. They’re daubings that would brighten the dullest of moods.
The artist has been exhibiting since 2011, so her career also kicked off around the same time as Courtney’s. She commenced working in oils, but has now moved on to acrylics. As well as having favourite artists, she is also drawn to old record covers, street art, retro movie posters and vintage Soviet photography to provide stimulus to get her imagination going. Melissa’s bright product, as well as appearing on canvas, also graces clothing and fabric. 2017 saw her first showing, entitled ‘Moonshine’, outside Oz, in a San Francisco gallery.
I like her artistic boldness and hopefully, with her portrait of the musician turning heads, she will gain greater recognition for her distinctive style. Maybe her career will also take off internationally like that of the female rockstar.
An interview with the artist = https://lifewithoutandy.com/featured/mad-love/interview-past-personal-come-life-melissa-grisancich/
Courtney’s website = https://courtneybarnett.com.au/