“The idea that people can wear a message or something that has a woven revelation that releases beauty and freedom is something I am really passionate about”.
2019 has already been such a big year for you, with two exhibitions wrapping up and your wearable art being released at the same time! Could you tell me a little about both exhibitions and what went into preparing for them both?
The first exhibition was held in a triangle delight of a building called Shadow Bang in Long Jetty on the Central Coast. It was a moment and night I will never forget. The range of works were all inspired by a venture I found myself on a year ago with a friend who took me around Marseilles in the south of France. I had unravelling moments whilst climbing up the dusty pink terrain that overlooked the Mediterranean sea. Heaven kissed revelations brought me to singing and tears I had so many mixed emotions. I was literally filled with wonder and it exploded my heart and eyes with new hope. The range of works are kissed with abstract vessels, poetic mysteries and dusty pink brush strokes.
This exhibition night was really beautiful, so much more than I expected. Every friend and collaborative creative creature came along. I had no idea who was coming but it really taught me to surrender and enjoy the friends that show up. I was so at peace while the busking of live french music played in the background, and baguettes, Nutella croissants, European meats and red wine were consumed. White linen table tops were chaired by young and old, chatting and getting to know each other. Upstairs was the gallery, it was a very hot night! Whilst everyone looked around they used the exhibition hand out as a fan to cool down. The night started at 6:30pm and people left at 1:00am in the morning – crazy beautiful. People lingered and that was my desire; to have art as an excuse to gather, chat, form new friendships and celebrate beauty. It was a night I will never forget…
I’d love to know a little about your background and what motivated you to become an artist. Did you always know you would take this path?
My career background consists of dance teaching, songwriting, floristry, teaching guitar, youth work and anything that consists of hands on creativity; people and teaching has always been my strawberry jam. I think having an undetected case of Dyslexia growing up has encouraged art. It really has helped me along my journey to comprehend, as the drawing of ideas and formulas helps me understand in a way that may seem easy for others but has always been more difficult for me. Art was and is a language that my brain can gobble up and then lay out answers sweetly, easily and quite colourfully.
Song writing and painting go hand in hand for me. Song writing is something I have always loved It was my first love and art has been a dance I danced with randomly. However, over the past three and a half years art has become the greater focus . Songwriting dances all throughout my paintings. I cannot help but write music, poems and melodies then paint from this space of inspiration into colours and art. The music springs from pen to paper, then to paint brush to canvas. This has been my rainbow dance process. When people receive a painting they are really receiving a colourful song on their walls.
Your studio is bright and beautiful - the perfect background to show off your striking work. How important is your environment when you are creating?
The environment I work in is so important to me. When the space is clean, ready and pretty it feels like a trampoline, built ready for me to jump around. Without a doubt if the room is a mess it feels like my mental state is cemented with slowness. A clean, prepared space that is ready to play is pure bliss and encourages mental and physical freedom.
Can you share a little about your wearable art collections and what inspired you to move into garment design?
Wearable art has been something I’ve sketched out for years but the dream is now alive and women are wearing them. The idea that people can wear a message or something that has a woven revelation, that releases beauty and freedom is something I am really passionate about. We can create ''cool things'' but to create mystery and beauty that only encourages greater depths of freedom in someones life is something so unique that I value dearly. Art does this, it runs past the mind straight to the heart.
You recently announced a break from social media to unwind and relax post-exhibition. First of all, YOU GO GIRL for taking a moment for yourself, secondly, can you tell me a bit about this decision?
Social media is literally a vacuum cleaner, it sucks time, growth, creativity and being truly present. It obviously has it positives too though. It’s been fantastic as a platform to meet people, to create with new hearts and make new friends, plus its’ a free gallery. But I am aware of the slim shady side for sure. I have learnt to be really strict with myself by placing healthy boundaries in my life. I am still learning and I falter many times. I only have instagram on my iPad that stays in the studio. My phone is sacred (haha). I don't have instagram on this so I can break the habit, and my room is sacred free from social media and work. I make sure I only look at instagram twice a day from Monday to Friday. I delegate 9:30am and 4:00pm as my instagram check. I also now only talk to clients through emails as the portals of back and forth conversation through instagram + emails clouded my time and stopped me from doing what I should be doing for them – painting.
On that note, do you ever feel pressure to be present on social media? What do you do to combat this?
To combat the pressure, I have now started with a day of full rest – this is changing my life. Friday nights from 5:00pm till the following day at 5:00pm I call my sabbath. My phone is off, I rest, sleep, swim, hang with friends. I don't shop, go online or any mechanical instrument and have a full breather from stuff, those '“life fillers''. This was crazy to start as I could feel everything in me want to check things, to go on my phone, to check my to-do list, shop, and spend money on clothes, but by Monday, WOW I noticed how mentally free and ready to start the week I was. I value new, freeing space most, as well as more self-control, more peace, creativity, being more present and seeing my friendships grow in greater love and authenticity. There is a unique dance to this and a constant check up but i am learning how to navigate this still.
Where do you source inspiration for your collections of work from?
The Mediterranean South of France inspires me. The ocean and coastal walks, old buildings and quaint alley ways, pasta, croissants with Nutella smothered in cream, smoothies and tropical sunshine. Henri Matisse is such a beautiful man and his story and perseverance undoes me every time. My sisters Tess and Sharee who are creative geniuses and cheerleaders in my world inspire me and my friend Mel Hope.
Do you have a morning or evening routine?
My process is morning sunrise podcasts and the book of proverbs – the passion translation at the moment. Holding hands with words and new sunrises helps me process and fish for new ideas and revelations from a place of refreshment and rest, instead of busy and to-do lists. When I get back into the studio and all dressed in my painted overalls I start to work on new client commissions, reading and hearing their story. All their valuable memories I consume like milk and cookies.
I then bring out my red diary and write. I write loads of stories and poems and sometimes my guitar greets this imagination with un-pioneered ideas and words. After I have captured all the words I then mix my colours and create dusty pink magic. Clients sometimes send me their colour palette from previous work and I utilise them in the painting dance. From there abstract shapes patterns and hidden etched words are placed layer by layer. Some paintings have so many layers like a cake, that songs and words are hidden and will never be seen but thats the whole process to get to the finish line.
If I'm losing my bananas and feeling clogged and halted creatively I drop my brushes. Sometimes when I find myself frustrated I literally stop and go for a beach swim to come back rested. I would say my art work is like backing lush cream pink cakes.
Finally, I’d love to know a woman who inspires you.
Mel Hope, who is the most selfless human I know. She loves people and works at a homeless shelter. She inspires me to love big, to create with my whole heart and to share hope and joy in new levels of colour kinds.
Learn more about Bonnie Gray