12 July – 12 August 2023GRACE WRIGHT
Recently the words, ‘I carry my landscapes around with me’ has been turning over in my mind. The poetic phrase is the title of a Joan Mitchell book, which I discovered late last year in Paris. The concept intrigues me because as an artist I continuously absorb colour and light in the environment, often unconsciously, which filters into the work. For ‘The World Moves’ I wanted to live and work in the place where my paintings would eventually be shown, and see how a different environment might alter what emerges.
Over the past few months I have been able to spend focused time in the studio, accompanied by a gentle rhythm of morning walks by the water, exploring the city and finding different views of the landscape. Capturing this particular light and colour, and the sense of a fantasy atmosphere, has been a touchstone for the exhibition. Ocean blues, burnt orange evening light, and the milky yet jewel-like ripples of morning light on the water plays out upon compositions that evoke this otherworldly atmosphere, inspired in part by painting whilst listening to the music from Dune. - Grace Wright
Grace Wright’s paintings draw together the lineage of abstract expressionism with a historical atmosphere found in grand European religious paintings. Particularly referencing the dramatically diagonal of the baroque, chiaroscuro light and renaissance colour palettes, these works come together in a unique energy. The combination of movement and colour in multilayered compositions seem to impossibly balance localised surface details with equal parts visceral immersion. The tangling gestures unfurl across the canvas evoking figures and landscape with an abstract language. Grace graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (hons) from Elam School of Fine Arts (Auckland) in 2014 and she completed her MFA from the same institution in 2019.
Grace Wright’s lush compositions reach across time and space. Their organic shapes wriggle and writhe on the subatomic level; they float through the universe in the aftermath of the Big Bang. Their fleshy forms recall Italian Renaissance scenes, and the potential boundlessness of their depths imagines our digital futures.
The light comes at us from these boundless depths. It peeks through, ducking and weaving between the layers. It catches the rounded edges of abstract forms, and diffuses across soft-edged sections. While the majority of paintings in The World Moves are dramatic chiaroscuro experiments, there are also works which evoke a gentler, crepuscular light. Wright’s studio practice i
s an often-subconscious filtration of her movements through the world, harnessing and distilling daily encounters into abstract expressions of landscape.
Wright, who lives in Auckland, relocated to Sydney to create this body of work, and each painting found its starting point in the walks the artists took around the city, and her observations of the elemental interplay between water, land and light. In Moon Over Shifting Earth Melodies, a circle of light sets copper tones ablaze, with lilac accents. In the dramatic Light Against The Current, deep indigo and cobalt blue foreground coiled tails of blood red. Knowing A Life Of Truth is a verdant scene of forest green, with butter yellow daubs recalling the autumn foliage seen from Wright’s studio window. The artist evokes a soft sunrise in Growing From A Moment, with translucent blue mingling with apricot. And in Faith In Forever, a storm of brown and blue sets the scene for a microcosmic battle of red and white curlicues. The titles of these works, too, set off poetic imaginings of time and space.
It is no surprise to learn that Wright has a history of playing and writing music, and that music is a constant companion and presence in her studio. (The music from the film Dune was the artist’s preferred soundtrack during the creation of The World Moves.) The way these compositions are built up suggests this, with soft tonal evocations forming the background for key accents, and diagonal slashes of light anchoring each picture. A tonal motif from one painting becomes the starting point for the next work’s distinctive palette. This creates harmonic visual through-lines across the exhibition, with every painting representing a unique movement from the same symphony – each singular joy, bringing a richness to the totality.
-Chloé Wolifson, July 2023