The Melbourne-based artist’s paintings show strong female characters going about their daily lives – sitting, sleeping, showering – in peculiar, pastel-hued interiors. There’s a monumentality to the figures that lends them a sense of rootedness despite their strange surrounds. As a viewer, this solidity makes you think about how it feels to have and inhabit a body, and consider the way in which we look at women’s bodies in general. It also reflects the emotional weight that we as women lug around with us. “I grew up with three older brothers, to an older mother,” says Flint. “My femaleness has been my interest from a very young age.” She had to fight for her voice growing up and today she channels it into art. “I paint my lived experience.”
For the past 23 years, Flint has been living and working above a Victorian shop front on a busy street in Melbourne. After graduating with a degree in design she dabbled in freelance work for women’s magazines, but it wasn’t long before she was back at university, this time focusing on fine art. “I realised I was interested in how female desire is represented and what it is,” says Flint. She sees painting as a way of making peace with her own femininity, as well as a way of taking risks with it.
In her studio, high north-facing windows let in ample light and there’s a sofa for reading or sitting back and sizing up works in progress. It’s a small space so it needs to be neat and tidy, Flint tells me. She tends to work on two or three paintings at a time, roping in one of several close friends to model for her when she’s imagined who would best suit the character in a certain scene. “I set up scenarios and take photographs – that part is collaborative,” she says. “Then I make up the large forms and space of the painting.”
The closely cropped scenes are free from distractions. Other than the odd prop – a seashell, say, or a slice of watermelon – the focus is entirely on female figures in various stages of undress. Whether perched on the edge of a bath or stretched out on a bed, alone or in company, they look blankly on, absent-minded. Their poker faces heighten the emotion. Who are these women? What are they thinking? How are they feeling? “Too much expression would be crass and close down any real tension,” says Flint. “I want the bodies to feel uncomfortable and command an ambiguous presence.” An ambiguity that leaves room for us, the viewers, to imagine.