Zoe Grey

By PHANTASM gallery

Zoe Grey’s new collection of bold and gestural landscape paintings showcase raw recreations of her home Marrawah, a small town on the North West coast of Tasmania. Utilising rich earth tones reminiscent of the natural world, the Hobart based artist intimately shapes her being through the painting process of remembering and re-presenting, portraying the land as if it were a long-lost loved one. The works in the series ’Thanks To a Place I Know’, aim to unconditionally capture, and ultimately transcribe the complex sensations of being in, and a part of, place. These paintings however, are far from traditional landscapes.

Forms are abstracted and consequently personified, interacting and relating to one another within unorthodox picture planes, for which are made up of alternate perspectives and shifting points of view. The dichotomy between space and form, between sensation and representation, between abstract ambiguity and recognisable reality, is subtle, yet comes naturally. Zoe translates the land in defiance of the accepted Western canon by not only delineating typical foreground and background composition, but by also utilising landforms as a vehicle for a dialogue on emotional states, where elements of the human condition assertaining to isolation, alienation and notions of nostalgia, drive the narrative. The deep yearning to capture the innocence of childhood and document the complexities and fleeting nature of memory becomes a powerful allegory in these works, Zoe aims to capture the ephemerality of intimate experience and represent the ineffable through her art making.

Phantasm gallery caught up with Zoe ahead of her show ‘Thanks To a Place I Know’, opening on the 1st of April over at Despard Gallery.

Your work is heavily influenced by your upbringing. Tell me a little bit about your background and where your passion of art making began.

I started painting in year 11 and 12, for the first part of my schooling I wasn’t necessarily drawn to art making, but really came to it by the end of high school and college, where I really began to enjoy drawing, painting and making throughout those college years and going on to art school and on to where I am now. I can look back at that and see a thematic link that has evolved and that theme of home and trying to represent that place where I grew up and still spend a lot of time has revealed itself through those years.


How would you describe your style of art making?

If people ask me I say I’m an abstract landscape painter 


Your paintings explore a deep connection to home, intimate experiences within nature and being in and a part of Place. Do you often prefer to paint from memory, or are there other processes involved? Also, could you describe your general creative process.

I mostly paint from memory, I do plenty of drawing, painting and visual note taking out in the landscape while at home. While at home and making a work, I draw from those sources a little bit, but it’s mostly from memory and thinking about familiarity and those forms that are familiar to me and etched in my memory. 


Which artists are your main influences?

There are a few landscape painters in NSW that I look to such as Charmaine Pike. And also there are several Tasmanian landscape painters for who I draw inspiration from.


What compels you to paint?

Particularly in preparation for this show, I have come to realise what role painting plays in the personal connection to home and place. This show has evolved and I’ve realised the importance of painting every day and remembering that place and thinking about those familiar forms has in turn helped me feel closer closer to that place. And it has become an important process to be constantly doing. And my painting right now is a tool to explore that experience of home and to feel closer to it.


Your works depict abstracted landscape with strong, fragmented forms and ambiguous perspectives. Have you always worked with this style or have you previously painted in realism?

When I first started painting I was interested in not depicting a real representation of a photograph or something that is real, but it has really evolved naturally from the beginning from outside influences. 

Your practice is driven by the want to understand, explore and represent your connection to Marrawah. Do the works comment on the social isolation apparent when living in a small town? Also, do the works comment on duel physical/ mental displacement?

I think there is a lot of the latter (in the works). I’m creating this work about place for which I am not physically in, so the works naturally undertake that mentality of displacement. But the place I am representing, Marrawah, is very remote and isolated, There are no figures in my work and the focus is the land, so yes, it does talk about both social isolation and physical displacement.


Looking over your works, there is an absence of human figures. Can you put into words the reasons why your art depicts environment over humanity?

I have painted figures in the past, but am focussed on this way of working at the moment, and developing that further for the foreseeable future.

What’s next after this series of work?

Once this is out there, I’m pretty keen to resume painting again. Do more painting, perhaps get involved in some group shows and then apply for some residencies and things like that. Possibly overseas. 


And finally, where do you see your arts practice in 5 years from now?

Established haha. Still painting. Getting better at painting and art making in general. Pushing forward at what I am doing now and developing as a painter, as an artist. Getting more experience in art making and better at understanding my own work. Hopefully exhibit solo shows outside of Tasmania throughout Australia and be able to support myself with my painting. That’s the goal.


‘Thanks To A Place I Know’ opens 5.30pm, Wednesday April 1 at Despard gallery, Hobart

Check the details HERE

Note: due to recent circumstances, the opening night of this exhibition has been cancelled. The works will still be on display from April 1.