My current body of painting explores surface tension through gesture and space, and it rethinks the historical context of painting today. Each of my paintings interweaves tonal colour planes throughout fleshy, coiling gestures. These curving, sensuous forms cluster into hives of pulsating drama before spinning out into areas of harmonious depth. This process is an attempt to build a fictional landscape and atmosphere of fantasy. Inherently intuitive and unplanned, each gesture responds to the last, mapping out an unknown terrain, creating a heightened sense of tension and release. The final composition emerges through attempting to draw out a logic specific to each work.
Colour is an important factor in creating this aura of fantasy and history; this particular body of work feels cosmic. During the Covid-19 lockdown I mostly walked at sunset. It was through the repeated action of walking I noticed, perhaps for the first time, the nuances of colour in our natural world. The subtle mandarin glow fading to peach with an opposing lilac to grey-pink as the light drained from the sky. The ocean too, had its own aura: a milky, pastel blue, green, metallic. While natural, this palette also felt artificial to me, evoking the aura of some kind of uncertain cosmic future.
While this cosmic palette unintentionally came about through absorbing the metallic, pastel colours present in the late autumn, I’ve also referenced Baroque and Renaissance colours such as dark brown, blue, forest green, deep turquoise and maroon, to evoke a historical atmosphere and reverberance. These colour choices create a chiaroscuro lighting effect: dark tonal backgrounds interact with light, floating gestures that, while abstract, also feel representational. Each work contains its own artificial light source that illuminates each layer. The canvases thereby become a kind of historical yet contemporary tableau: a stage upon which a heightened emotional fantasy scene unfolds.
While this figurative potential is important to my work, the curving nature of my gestures also speaks to the physical body – through their inherent ‘bodiliness’. In one way, these coiling gestures are a proxy for a cluster of bodies that struggle against the landscape. In another way, this sense of bodiliness appears as oozing, intestinal, inner-body substances. This icky yet fascinating sensation imitates boundaries between the inner and outer body, suggestive of our own skin as well as the physical skin of paint.
I am not only interested in capturing the sensation of the body within painting, but also the physical labour of my own body performing a painting. By working at a scale that, at times, overwhelms me, I aim to elevate a sensual, feminine gesture to that of a monumental standing. Thereby, in creating large works of interweaving bodily forms, I expand and develop this connection between the monumental, the historic and the (female) body.
- Grace Wright, Artist Statement, July 2020
*Please note, the opening event has been cancelled due to limitations on gatherings at Level 2 in Auckland.