In the Studio with Grace Wright

Tell us about your current studio space. How does it affect the work you’re making?

As a female painter, I’m interested in the concept of physical labour and the body in painting so it was important my studio feel industrial and workshop-like. I’m interested in creating works that have bold gestures and real strength in the marks so hopefully this feeling of labour comes through from the space. I love that it’s imperfect – odd blue walls and floor with a pink railing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have it set up into sections; there’s the dry area where I stretch my own canvases on a trestle table and this backs onto my painting trestle where all my materials sit out. On the other side of this is where I paint. This area is the largest with plenty of room to move around, stand back and look at the painting, dance a bit, etc!

What’s the first thing you tend to do when you enter your studio for the day? Do you have a creative exercise or process that helps you begin your work?

I usually jump into painting as soon as I get to the studio when I’m most fresh. I organise the work so the next layer can be painted as soon as I get in. When painting, I enter a deeper zone or state of flow, which I think of as ‘checking my mind at the door’. I paint best when I get out of my own way and allow everything to flow through me. Recently I’ve been re-listening to Drake’s album Views, which I find so inspiring for these moments. I currently do contemporary dance and in the past I played a lot of instruments like bass guitar and piano, which made me realise how much rhythm was a big part in everything I do. I think you can see this rhythmic sensibility emerging in my work and studio routine.

Can you identify a pivotal place or experience that you feel has had a particular influence over the current direction of your work?

It’s interesting, because I feel like my entire career revolves around trying to express this feeling that I have, and the shows, studio practice, research, is just a process of vocalising this feeling. It sticks in my head and constantly drives me forward, questioning, considering, what exactly is it? Returning to Elam School of Fine Arts for my MFA in 2018 has helped me think critically about this elusive feeling. At this point in time I think it’s a feeling of being adrift, small, insignificant in an ocean of consciousness. It’s like I’m trying to paint the inconceivable, something that cannot be tangible, but we feel it in our bodies. I want the audience to feel like they’re delivered back to their bodies when they stand in a room of my work.

When you have a day away from the studio where do you like to go?

If I have a day off, it’s usually a Friday because I enjoy being home in the quiet while everyone works. I’m probably a bit strange, but I like I catch up on life admin things like cleaning the house! Sometimes it’s breakfast at The Candy Shop in Newmarket (best place ever) followed by a wander in Ponsonby, or the Auckland Art Gallery.  I like change so my day off always varies.

If you could collaborate with any artist within history who would it be and what project would you work on together?

Definitely Hilma af Klint. I came across her practice during my MFA studies and feel a connection to her interests in painting the spiritual or the unseen. I would have loved to collaborate on a large scale installation type project or experience with her and would have been interested in her opinion on climate change, technology and our world today.

What drives you to devote your life and career to making art? 

There’s nothing I love more than the process of painting. I’m reflective in personality and am inspired by the in-depth questions and conversations surrounding art. It’s a career where you can dig deep and access this level of being beyond surface level appearances. Painting is something I’m endlessly curious about and felt I was meant to do. I’ve never taken my work personally; it’s my job to allow the work to come through me and live a life beyond me. I feel privileged to have made it a career. 

What’s the best arts-related advice you’ve been given?

It can be related to any kind of pursuit in life, but the best advice I’ve ever received is to believe that your capable of something before you’ve any actual proof. These deep-seated beliefs then affect every interaction, decision and thing that happen on the surface level of your life. People will always support someone who is genuine and the trust you have for your own ability and goals subconsciously reassures those around you, thus opportunities happen. In the end, life is just a game, so why not go all in?

What projects are you currently working towards?

Currently I’ve just finished working on my show at Gallery 9 in Sydney, opening late February, so next up is preparing for a solo show at The Vivian opening late June and a group show at Parlour Projects around the same time. I’m also finishing my MFA at Elam School of Fine Arts this year, so I’m diving into research and pushing the boundaries of my practice. 2019 will be an exciting year!  

In the Studio with Grace Wright