Erica Gray


June 27 - July 11 2020

Gold Coast-based Erica Gray imparts that the current exhibition's paintings and sculptures further her life.e.quatic series in celebrating the vivid colours, intricate patterning and structural complexities observed in a variety of marine creatures, coral formations particularly. Known as the ‘rainforests of the sea', coral reefs have long been venerated by ancient civilizations for their alchemical, curative and ornamental properties.

Erica's fascination with aquatic entities began at an early age. 'As a child growing up in New Zealand, I experienced the sea as a beachcomber and spent times living on a working fishing vessel during school holidays. Subsequently I have viewed coral formations firsthand when snorkelling at Magnetic and Great Keppel Islands and abroad in Fiji - all inspiring and amazing experiences. I use my art to capture some of those memories both past and present.'

Recent months of mandatory isolation have fostered new approaches to the rendering of her marine subject matter. Erica's abode took on an ambience akin to being submerged beneath the waves. The enclosed environment offered both cognition of and immunity from the dire situation occurring in the world beyond. 'Social seclusion was a big motivation,' she reflects. 'I came to have a greater appreciation of my home and reimagined it within an aquatic realm.'

The quietude synonymous with watery depths permeates Erica's paintings. Luminous sea creatures are conjured into domestic spaces now adrift in dream-like pastel hues. Living coral has appeared amidst breakfast leftovers, dishes and cutlery on a kitchen sink. Bedroom décor evinces the aquatic tenor: richly coloured coral motifs emblazon bed coverlets, cushions and lamp bases. A most intriguing character reaches into a wardrobe that is metaphorically brimming with imaginative possibilities.

Curious coral branches emanate from the heads of female figures which Erica describes as part sea animal, part human. Marine growths and encrustations adhere to the scalps and wend down long necks. Self-portraits of a kind, the facial expressions may be alternatively read as introspective or penetrating, perhaps even challenging. There is a symbiotic relevance at work here. Everything in Nature is interdependent. 'This meshing of aquatic and terrestrial forms symbolises how coral and its surrounding ecosystems, once autonomous, must now cling to us in the hope of maintaining their continued existence,' she explains. Although Erica says she is not an environmental artist as such, her personal concern is manifest.

Erica has a very successful background in the fashion industry. Her award-winning ‘wearable art' that includes coral-like headpieces and masks has been featured in numerous national and international events. 'The configurations were painstakingly produced utilizing highly technical processes,' she informs. 'My coral portraits were initially inspired by these pieces. However, I've gone back to my roots in the exhibition sculptures with a softer, less filigreed outcome.'

Asymmetrical, organic creations, these domed coral cluster sculptures virtually pulsate with life. Fashioned from crocheted nylon twine, certain areas have been stuffed with tulle to support bulbous ‘breathing' shapes. Layered together akin to evolving coral communities, the textures and patterns of the crochet work have a meat-like palpability; an anthropomorphic presence. One can imagine the long fringes adrift in warm ocean currents and offering shelter to a multitude of sea creatures.

An award-winning soft sculpture and wearables artist, Erica has also been a finalist in important portrait prizes including the Moran National Portrait Prize, Perceval Portrait Prize and the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize.  She is once again a finalist in the upcoming Tamworth Textile Triennial touring exhibition with a wall-hung crochet sculpture. In 2011 and 2017 she gained the award for Artistic Excellence in Townsville's Strand Ephemera Sculpture exhibition with aquatic themed, soft sculptural forms.



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