Studio Tour with Amy Wright
Photographs by Amy Wright
I'm a massive fan of Amy Wright and I'm not afraid to say it! I've been following Amy's career for years after discovering her work through a story on The Design Files back in 2016 about an art auction put together by Hunting Collective - see the story here. Yes that's right, THE DESIGN FILES!!! I'm fanning out right now, I can't believe Amy is having an exhibition here in Orange!
I'd describe Amy as a mark maker and mixed media artist. Her work is built up of layer upon layer of different mediums such as acrylic paint, pencil, pastels and charcoals. Amy also uses collage techniques to create textural, tactile qualities. Her themes vary from still lifes through to landscapes, and sometimes a mixture of the two.
As well as completing this series of work for Suburban Requiem which making its way to The Corner Store Gallery, Amy already has one solo exhibition under her belt after the birth of her first baby Maeve in 2017. I caught up with Amy to learn just how she does it...
Tell us a little about your background.
I’ve a very varied creative background! I was painting and drawing from a young age, often with my paternal grandmother who was a talented watercolorist. Through high school, my focus was always on the arts and I was extremely lucky to have worked under the tutelage of some brilliant artists through my teens that have since informed my painting practice - one of note, Yolanda Calkoen, a Bauhaus trained Dutch painter - was integral to the way I ’see’ my surroundings; be it the landscape or still life. Initially I studied a Bachelor of Fine arts at Victorian Collage of the Arts (VCA) majoring in sculpture, before shifting focus and taking on a Bachelor of Textile Design with a major in Printed Textiles at RMIT. This degree back in the the early 2000’s was a perfect fit for my desire at that time to create hand drawn/painted designs that could be translated into a usable product.
What followed was an 8 year foray into Automotive Design. The majority of the time was spent at GM Holden in Colour and Trim Studio working across automotive soft textiles, exterior body paint, decorative finishes, and Advanced Design technologies.
I left the corporate world to develop my own textile brand - Wunderplant- that would later morph into my own Floral Design business, focussing on Wedding and Events, which continued up until late 2017. Funnily moving my focus away from the visual arts and into flowers, spurred on a new desire to return to painting. At the time I was working and living in a large warehouse space in Melbourne's bayside area. I had a constant supply of still life fodder with the endless parade of remarkable flowers that surrounded me on a daily basis. For the first time, I didn’t have the pressure for my painting and drawing to make a living, so what ensued was a highly creative time of experimentation and exploration of new materials and methods, and finding my individual creative voiceR
Since moving to Regional Geelong, falling pregnant and having my daughter Maeve, I have packed away the floristry tools and now am fully focussed on my painting practice. Happily now I am a full time Artist.
You have an amazing studio space, can you describe it to our readers?
My studio is in my garden in Ceres. Ceres is a small township on the outskirts of Geelong, a regional town an hours drive from Melbourne. I joke with my partner that I wanted to buy the property because of the shed! Its really a big tin shed the size of a double garage. I think the previous owner was a mechanic of sorts, as left behind was all kinds of random benches, metal beams, hooks and hoists. All during my pregnancy last year, I worked in the tin shed - it was freezing in Winter and boiling in Summer. When Maeve arrived, I was keen to keep my work going - I had to, I had a solo show to prepare for! - so my very handy father helped convert the space into something a little more habitable for a baby and a cot. Now it is insulated, lined, painted, has sky lights and gorgeous custom barn doors that open out to garden. I am one very lucky lady. Its now the best room in the house - hands down.
What is it that drew you to the subject matter of suburban gardens?
I am always interested in landscapes that many people would overlook. I see landscapes like a collage - a breakdown of parts: textures, pattern and colour - and my work pieces these elements together. Anyone with a newborn knows that hours are spent walking with the pram. It was on these walks that I got to see a multitude of different gardens, from the overtly neat and tidy, to the over grown and untended. In all of them I found something wondrous.
Your work consists of many layers and mediums. Talk us through your artmaking process.
It all starts with my camera. I take copious amounts of photos; generally of close up details and colours in the landscapes, which I take back to the studio. From there my work always starts with drawing - sketching out details and exploring textures and patterns, using different materials and mediums. Nothing is off limits at this stage. Its about interpreting details of the photos and piecing them together to form new visual landscapes through colour, texture and pattern. As I work in many mediums, its knowing what layers need to go down first, and how to layer the mediums to create that finished texture or colour. Often the painting that was there to start, is completely covered by the end. The layers themselves create part of the story. Often I have no real plan for a painting, outside of perhaps a colour scheme or a general theme. I just put marks down and they then inform the next layer and so on and so on.
You have a new baby daughter, how on earth have you managed to put together two solo exhibitions in the space of a year with a new baby?
Call me crazy! No, really I’ve had a lot of people ask me this over the past 9 months. To be honest, its because I know that I have to do it for my sanity. People exercise to clear their heads and feel good. Painting is my excerise. I could be a very unhappy person without it.
I planned for it. I knew that I would have to paint in snatches of time. Maeve had a second cot in the studio, so from day one it was part of her life. I painted while she slept. I wore her on my back and painted, and I even fed her while painting . For a while there she would only sleep during the day for 40min intervals. Thats all the time I had, so I set things up in the studio ahead of time so that I just put paint to canvas - with a timer in those early days!- I didn’t have time to think about it. I only had time to start. If anything I think it’s made me more productive and more intuitive to the process. I don’t have time to stress about something or think about how I tackle something, or whether its any good, I just do it. If it doesn’t work I paint over it and start again during the next nap!
What’s next for you?
A holiday! Creatively, I’m working on a couple of projects with local Geelong brands for the end of the year and have a few interstate projects up my sleeve as well.
I am working on a body of work inspired by the granite peaks of the You Yangs, landscape around Stieglitz ( Brisbane Ranges), and Marine Parks around Point Addis and Bells beach. I plan to show this collection as a solo show early in 2019 in my studio in Ceres.
I am also looking at solo show opportunities later in the year in Sydney.