Q + A: Liz Gray


What kinds of subjects inform your work?

I create large-scale oil paintings of figures in water. From playful inhibition in Australian waves to the quietness of warm Mediterranean waters, I paint to generate atmosphere and beauty in living spaces.

When did you first start to paint?

Since my father introduced me to the tactile and sensory quality of oil paint at a young age, I have always loved to paint. For better or worse, I have been quite obsessed with it and completed an Honours in Fine Art in 1988. I cannot describe the involuntary reaction I have to my box of oil paints; they are so forgiving and adaptable to my application and will. My paints are part of me. They are my phantom limbs.

Could you describe your studio space?

Large rugs, worn from love; cushions and an oversized couch splattered with Prussian blue; shelves bending in protest to books and photos; an ancient and out of tune piano; warm light; and a badly behaved dog. My studio is a conglomeration of memories and muses situated peacefully at the bottom of my garden. I can become lost in time there and only remember to wander back to the house when I am reminded fervently that it is dinnertime by said dog. 

What’s a typical day in the life of Liz Gray?

In the early morning, I face the canvas and consult my mood and materials for the day. From my photos and sometimes-live poses, I start painting slowly and loosely. With some convincing by numerous cups of tea and the warm Perth sun, it is eventually difficult for me to stop. And with a blink of an eye it’s dusk and I am covered in (mostly) blue paint.

How does each piece come together?

I love being in and around water; pools, the ocean and rivers. On warm and clear days, I’m often in there with my GoPro camera, snorkel and goggles and take numerous photographs of my daughters and their friends in the water. After this, it’s a case of manipulating the images to create solid compositions, to finally create a work that conveys a feeling or universal memory of water.

Where can people find your work?

Online through my website and a couple of galleries, including Nissarana Galleries in Noosa, Applecross Art & Framing in Perth and the Margaret River Gallery. I also love working with clients to create individual works for particular spaces.

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