Natasha Wright is a New Zealand-born artist based in New York City. Natasha has exhibited in the United States and internationally. Her large-scale paintings fuse figuration and abstraction. Wright’s work explores the significance of the female body as an icon. Wright’s practice probes the politics of the representation of the female form. Gender, sexuality, vulnerability and power, seduction, and aggression – these dualities motivate the dynamics of her work. The paintings reference the political and the personal. The representation of females throughout history is considered alongside contemporary references.
A Women’s Thing and AucArt’s exhibition is titled “Stretching Arms,” which asks the viewer, how do we transcend solitude? In the midst of this global pandemic, many of us are immobilized by our emotions and isolation. This exhibition highlights artists that structure their work with self-compassion and reflection, which provides empathy for others and establishes a community that endures any separation. How does your art practice transcend solitude, especially during this time?
Natasha Wright: To me to transcend means to move past something. Solitude is the act of being alone so I’m not looking to transcend solitude I would rather embrace it. Painting is a solitary act and I’m confident in being alone. As an artist, this is when we do the real work. I’ve slowed down a little and my day-to-day rhythm has definitely changed. Quarantine has allowed me to slow down. New York can be overwhelming with so much to get involved in that I’ve really tried to see this time as a much-needed reset.
What are some of the main ways you communicate with your viewers and artworld peers? How has that changed during quarantine and what are you doing instead for communication?
NW: Being connected to a community of artists is important to me. I think that’s the best thing about living in New York. I have a close group of friends who are painters, pre quarantine we would often visit each other’s studios. To me, viewing work in person is crucial to appreciating the scale and materiality of the piece. Like most people, during quarantine I’ve been connecting with friends online I’ve also been involved in a few virtual exhibitions and art fairs which has helped me feel connected to the wider art community.
Your work questions the dichotomies of vulnerability and power, the political and the personal, and seduction and aggression, through iconic females in art history and contemporary society. Are these false dichotomies? Are they dichotomies that will always exist that need to be restructured?
NW: I would say that I use these dialectics to explore the painting. The dichotomies exist in relation to my thinking about the work and the world. Things are constantly shifting and with this, my focus will too. I’ll use this structure for as long as it services the work.
In your interview with Nancy Elsamanoudi on Art Critical, you give readers a great insight on how your intuitions develop your content. Your own energy, power, and confidence navigate your structure and application. It makes sense! If you want to paint a strong and confident figure, you have to be strong and confident while doing the work. Do your paintings make you feel more energy, power, and/or confidence after you make them?
NW: To me, the journey and process are very important. The journey is often where the discovery happens and the work can take on a new and sometimes surprising direction. After completing a work, especially on a large scale, it does give me a certain sense of satisfaction and confidence especially with the subject matter I’m addressing.
Glitter comes with many associations and often blurs the line of what is excessive in sexuality, popular culture, and “high brow” art. What are your views on glitter? How do you approach the material in your paintings?
NW: Glitter is a tough one to use because of the inherent associations. Because glitter is such a distinctive material it’s more difficult to transform than paint. I want the material to embed meaning in the painting rather than drawing attention to its inherent qualities. With all materials, I’m looking to transform them into my own. In the last few months I’ve been working with glass and paint – the possibilities are endless here. I’m a magpie so I’m drawn to materials with reflective qualities.
Just in the past year, you’ve had exhibitions in the New York and Los Angeles Spring Break Art Shows, Auckland Art Fair, SFA Projects, John David Gallery, Parlour Projects, and more. How do you prioritize the projects you participate in?
NW: Yes, It’s been a very busy time. I try to be involved in projects that really engage me. I just released a screen print on Exhibition A. It was a collaboration with Pegasus Prints and Sidel & McElwreath. It was really interesting learning more about the screen printing process.
Have galleries and organizations offered any curatorial structures for the work you’re showing that have inspired your process of creating the work? If so, could you share an experience?
NW: Earlier this year “Spring Break Art Show” inspired a new body of work that was an immersive experience. I created a room with paintings both on the wall and on the canvas. The starting point to this was a giant wheatpaste poster I found in the Lower East Side. The poster featured six women all standing in a very confident way that reminded me of what I am trying to achieve in my paintings. I used these posters to form a backdrop where they were integrated into the paintings on canvas this created an integrated experiential vibe that opened up a whole range of potential.
When we recently spoke, you mentioned that the quarantine has given you more time to focus and reflect on your work with more drawings and research. What are some things you are researching currently?
NW: I’m working on a book project with a writer. Our focus is based around the idea of desire. I’m doing a series of drawings and we are responding to each other’s work.
How were you introduced to the AucArt platform? What are your positive experiences from working with AucArt?
NW: Natasha Arselan, the director of AucArt, has a great eye and has curated a fantastic selection of artists. It’s been really exciting to be involved in this community and be exposed to artists’ work from all around the world.