Grace Wright’s paintings emit energy. They invite the viewer into a space tangled with coiled brush strokes that tighten and release. Space expands and contracts, in what could be viewed as expansive, post-apocalyptic worlds, or minute, interior landscapes. Wright cites influences on her thinking as diverse as 17th century religious paintings, and the tempestuous rhythms of the natural world. In her latest body of work, Asking For A Dream, Wright draws more closely upon the concept of a garden, and the relationship she sees between the cultivation of a garden and the act of painting. She discusses the work:
“Since creating the painting Tending One’s Own, 2022, I’ve been absorbed by the concept of a garden. As children, my sisters and I played within a large, beautiful Hamilton garden my late grandmother expertly tended, full of flowers, trees and places to hide. When I spend time in a garden I feel her close. Equally on the edge of Rangitaua Bay, Tauranga, nestled in native reserves, my family home has a garden rich in structure, shade, lush greenery and light playing on water. We all enjoy returning to this peace and harmony, passionately created by my parents.
On reflection, it should have been no surprise that my travels to Japan in 2019 found me drawn to the historical gardens, just as much as to the art. In the peace and tranquillity of places like the Kyoto Botanical Gardens and Okayama Korakuen Garden, I spent hours absorbing their views, structure, colour relationships and integration with architecture.
If we take a step back and look beyond a cultivated garden to a forest in its natural state, while appearing chaotic, a forest contains its own hidden harmony. The same could be said of areas rewilding without human interruption, such as those described by Cal Flyn in the book Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding In The Post-Human Landscape. The forceful cycles of nature allow a succession of plants to grow, which intensifies into a forest over time. A garden, by contrast, is nature restrained by our own directives, to a lesser or greater extent. Painting feels a lot like this. As an artist I select colours, build planes of atmosphere and create gestures of interrelating forms that tangle together. The elemental force of nature is drawn through this personal filter of artistic decision-making to create a work that is material yet embodies a connection and resonance with the formless forces of nature that drive birth, growth and death.
In this body of work, this embedded, intrinsic concept is repeated in the forms of the painting itself. Each layer builds a multiplicity of gestures that grow and exist in and around each other. While I’m not painting an actual garden, it is more the feeling of one. Much in the same way that my work speaks to history painting of grand scenes, even though they don’t depict actual landscapes or people. Some paintings feel like a haunted garden, caught in an early morning mist. Some feel abandoned, planted long ago, captured at sunset. Other works feel like a celestial garden, a vision of heaven – or others a fantasy battlefield.”
Grace Wright exhibits regularly across New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. She recently exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong 2022, and Taipei Dangdai 2022. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections.