In the Studio with Natasha Wright

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

My studio is located on the 4th floor of a large industrial building in Bushwick. The best thing about the space are the large north facing windows and view of the Manhattan skyline and surrounding Brooklyn neighbourhoods. I spend a lot of time in my studio, it’s my haven and favorite place in New York. It’s a space to clear my mind. I feel both simultaneously immersed and removed from the craziness of the city. I mainly make large scale paintings and tend to work on several pieces at once. I have one large wall for painting and the other walls are usually covered with rotating drawings and pieces that are drying.

What is 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 like to draw everyday. Drawing is a pivotal part of my practice and where 99% of my ideas start.  My goal is to place no hierarchy over a small drawing versus a large oil painting. I want the paintings to feel fresh and immediate. The drawings are all about the movement of the hand while in the paintings I use my body to create the same type of energy. When I get to my studio I also like to start mixing paint – it helps me to think about colour relationships. I buy a lot of pigments and like to make my own oil paint. One of my favorite shops in New York is Kremer – it stocks all sorts of very specific colours you can’t buy by the tube.  Recently I’ve also been adding different materials to my paints, such as magnum, sand and glitter.

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

Growing up I studied art history and was obsessed with early renaissance art.  Spending time in Italy when I was young was definitely a formative experience. Fra Angelico has always been a huge inspiration. Visiting his frescos in The Museum of San Marco in Florence was life changing. Most of my travel is centered on art that inspires me. A few years ago I spent a week drawing in Naples at The Secret Museum which houses erotic art from Pompeii.

If you could place any piece of artwork from history within your home what would it be and where would you place it?  

A large reclining nude by Matisse.

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

I wander around my Lower East Side neighbourhood, visit a few galleries and head to a rooftop bar.

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

Louise Bourgeois – she was such a fierce and powerful force. I love the honesty, intimacy and darkness in her work.  She had such mastery over her materials, whether it was a large sculpture, a small work on fabric or a delicate print.  Her retrospective at MoMA a few years ago was fantastic. If I could travel back in time we would work on a large scale sculpture collaboration together.

What are the main themes you seek to explore within your practice? 

I think a lot about the representation of females throughout history alongside contemporary references. The Venus of Willendorf, Mary Magdalena, The Three Graces and Cardi B are some of my many muses. Some of the many themes that motivate my work include gender, sexuality, vulnerability and power and the political and personal.

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

“Tell your own story and you will be interesting.” – Louise Bourgeois

What projects are you currently working towards? 

I have a few upcoming group shows and a solo show later this year in New York. At the moment I’m focussed on my exhibition at Parlour Projects (opening October 5) – it will be my first solo show in New Zealand, which is hugely exciting!

In the Studio with Natasha Wright