We meet Tauranga girl and artist Grace Wright as she prepares
for the Auckland Art Fair.
INTERVIEW CLAUDIA CAMERON / PHOTOS HEATHER LIDDELL / SAMUEL HARTNETT
UNO: How did you start out as an artist?
GRACE: I grew up in Tauranga, so when I finished Elam in 2014 I moved back home for a year to have time to develop the ideas I had generated during my BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts, without financial pressure. During this time I rented a studio space out the back of Zeus Gallery, when they were based on Eleventh Ave. I loved painting there, with the industrial-style spaces, plus having the time to intensively work and establish my practice.
Although I live in Auckland now, I love coming back to see my family and have some down time. Tauranga will always be home.
UNO: What have you been working on lately?
GRACE: Recently I have been working on a series of paintings for the Auckland Art Fair as well as planning for my upcoming show at Parlour Projects in July. My practice is a continually evolving one, so I’m always trying to push myself forward and create something that surprises me.
UNO: Ah, yes, Parlour Projects in the Hawke’s Bay selected you as the recipient of its inaugural artist-in-residency programme. Congratulations!
GRACE: I was so honoured to be selected for this residency and have the support to bring my ambitious 11m x 6m installation concept to life. I had been wondering how our body would feel if we experienced painting more spatially by thinking of the room as a canvas. The body has always informed my work throughout its evolution and in this residency I wanted to recreate the physical sensation of how you feel when you stand beneath something monumental in scale.
UNO: Can you tell us a bit about your process?
GRACE: I see colour as a construction process, so the painting almost builds itself. I never know what the paintings will look like in the end, but I start with one colour or gesture and construct the colours and layers until the final work emerges.
UNO: What inspires you and your work?
GRACE: I’m inspired by an international style of painting that has a real presence with the viewer through scale and the relation to the body. In 2015 I visited Albert Oehlen’s exhibition Home and Garden at the New Museum in New York. It was such a thrill to stand before these huge, three metre square paintings. This feeling of intense physicality is what I’m interested in creating in my own work.
UNO: You’re showing at the Auckland Art Fair as part of the Parlour Projects stand, what can we expect to see from you there?
GRACE: I will be exhibiting a series of new large-scale works measuring 1200 x 1500mm which continue to explore a sense of artificial space and gestural abstraction reminiscent of the body. Recently I’ve been interested in constructing space through subtle illusion and colour combinations so the work will reflect these ideas too.
UNO: You’ll be joined by a number of incredible artists and galleries showing at the AAF this year, what are you looking forward to the most about the event?
GRACE: It’s such a unique experience to see all these galleries in one space, along with work from top galleries in Australia and some further afield. I also love the social aspect of the art fair! It’s a great way to catch up with lots of people in the industry and celebrate all the hard work put in by artists and galleries.
UNO: What are you hoping to achieve from being part of the Art Fair and speaking to an international audience?
GRACE: I’m excited to be exhibiting at the fair and have the support of Parlour Projects. My goal generally is to build up steadily and create work that endures. At the end of the day, art is what makes life worth living, as are the ideas and conversations that surround it.
UNO: What’s it like making art as a full time job?
GRACE: I love it! I’m pleased with how I’ve set up my week to allow myself the time to paint. I’m definitely a morning person, so my day starts by getting straight into painting. In the afternoons I tend to stretch canvas and gesso, then attend to admin later in the day.
UNO: What skills do you think are useful in your job?
GRACE: I think you need to have a lot of faith in yourself and belief in what you’re doing.
UNO: Can you share a piece of advice for anyone wanting to move into a similar creative space?
GRACE: The best advice I ever received was learning that talent will only get you so far. The way you think determines the rest.