When It’s With You is the title of Zoe Grey’s debut exhibition with James Makin Gallery. The romantic title suggests connection with a significant other – a partner, a family member. However, it is not about a person at all. As has been the preoccupation of much of Grey’s recent work, her exhibition is about her relationship with the Tasmanian landscape. Specifically, that of her hometown of Marrawah, a rugged and remote coastal environment on Peeraper country on the Western edge of lutruwita/Tasmania.
Now based on the other end of Tasmania in nipaluna/Hobart, Grey continues to draw inspiration from Marrawah. She paints not for representational reasons, not to create a postcard memory, but to maintain a connection to place, to nurture a relationship with it and carry it with her when she is not physically there. This body of work was painted following a summer spent at home in Marrawah. It is a unique place in terms of its weather: rugged and shaped by wind and swell. It is warm in summer, but maintains an element of roughness that makes you move with it, rather than around it. As a surfer, Grey’s summer days are dictated by the landscape, not a plan. This fosters a deep relationship – a dialogue with the landscape on its own terms.
Blue and orange are ever present and speak of home: bright orange lichen on sea-sprayed rocks, blue ocean and big skies in any part of the landscape you look upon. Each work is in conversation with place, literally and emotionally for Grey. Working in large scale she captures the movement and energy of the landscape, while at the same time demanding the use of her whole body in choreography with painting and place. Each painting creates a mark that informs another. Her large marks are loose, lessening control, just as Grey moves in discourse with the landscape.
When It’s With You is an honest exploration of the complexities of connection and the complicated feelings of ‘home’. Her paintings are an act of commitment, to a relationship with place.
Grey graduated with First Class Honours from the University of Tasmania, School of Arts and Media in 2018. With numerous solo exhibitions nationally, her work is held in private collections around the world and in the public collection of the Devonport Regional Gallery. Zoe was a finalist in the 2022 TIDAL Tasmanian Art Award, the 2021 Hadley’s Art Prize and the 2021 Paddington Art Prize. She has undertaken artist residencies on Kind Island, Tasmania, the Spitsbergen Artist Residency, Svalbard, the Northern Artist Residency, Norway, and at Arteles Creative Center, Finland. She is currently based in nipaluna/Hobart, working out of the Artist Run Initiative, Good Grief Studios.