Erica Gray

life@home

February 27 to March 13 2021

The physical structures within which we live possess both functional and symbolic qualities, usually an interweaving of both.  Home is thought of as a sanctuary - a place to retreat from the world and be oneself.  Erica Gray's current paintings reflect a quest for such.  Although the figure is absent from her interiors, a mood of warm intimacy resides amidst the sensuous forces of colour and pattern.

Erica's new works evolved from the making of her previous series where sea creatures were conjured into the domestic spaces of mandatory isolation.  There had been so much time to contemplate life at home. 'I'd buried myself in my art practice within a house cramped with collections of period furniture and bric-a-brac, as well as huge quantities of painting and sculpture-making materials,' Erica divulges.  'In a way it was like living in a storage museum.'  Her architect partner's ‘tools of trade' contributed to the somewhat chaotic milieu.  'Home had become merely a work zone! My interiors now aim to evoke an alternative reality of stillness and calm.'

'Upon entering the front door after being away all day, I relish the hushed stillness before the keys hit the bench,' continues the Gold Coast-based artist. 'One can take in the moment and absorb the details of objects, the shadows and patterns not normally noticed.'  Erica describes her paintings as renditions of living spaces that are part fanciful, part real, into which she has incorporated some of her furniture items and personal ‘treasures'.  'Not wanting to have the rooms completely devoid of life, I sometimes depicted our ever-present dog, Yogi (aka Whoppet), or bed-loving cat Izzy,' she adds.

Several still lifes are included in the exhibition. By its very nature a still life engenders a sense of quietude.  Physically static the subjects might be, but the works are alive with chromatic energy and organisation of geometrical shapes.  Erica's abiding interest in the aquatic realm is evidenced in the placement of certain crustacea, coral, sea urchins and shells at the bases of vases filled with Australian natives.

The flower arrangement in the still life 1.3 painting seems somewhat overwhelmed by a dominant fish trophy mounted on the exceedingly vibrant wall behind it.  Erica tells that the wallpaper motif was initially inspired by the angular patterns on a vintage, 7 feet tall giraffe she'd collected!  Those shapes then merged into the colours of coral polyps.  'I'd thought a wallpaper like this would impart some fun and humour - both very important senses to feel at home,' she imparts.

The same pattern appears on the tablecloth in the life@home 1.4 canvas, albeit with a couple of contrasting, bright yellow insertions.  If one looks beyond the teapot and cups, up amidst the red-flowered wallpaper, a little gecko lizard might be espied.

In speaking of her sculptural pieces, Erica tells, 'Art is therapy.  When making the sculptures I utilise processes that are meditative.  It is a way of reflecting on my place in the world and to create works that mimic some of the wonderful coral creatures we share the planet with.'  She describes e.quatic corallabra as displaying a growth of coral-like skin over an everyday object that might be found in the home.  'I could just have as easily covered a toaster or iron in crochet, fringing and beads to suggest movement akin to that of sea anemones, but I'm being drawn to beauty.  The candelabrum metaphorically shines a light on our shared connection to the environment.'

'My works aspire to thread together the narrative of life, joy, whimsy, calmness and ultimately, a sense of place and home,' Erica concludes.  A haven for renewed creativity and well-being Erica's home has become, however her imagery's interplay of luminous visual relationships propels the viewer beyond and into a heightened aesthetic domain.

JACQUELINE HOUGHTON


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