Behind the scenes with painter Grace Bader

The Auckland artist’s process can’t be pinned down, but one thing’s for sure in her studio: there’ll always be music playing.

Artist Grace Bader’s studio is on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, but she always has sketch books with her so, actually, the world is her workplace. Having moved to Auckland in 2014 after some time spent living in London, she says her environment and the people in her life all affect her work in some way. 

ABOVE The untitled works pictured here are both pieces in progress and others exhibited in previous shows. Grace creates a textural background before gradually layering oil paint onto each canvas, a process that creates weight and depth.

Grace, was there a pivotal moment when you landed on painting? I’ve painted since I was a little girl. My family has always encouraged me to be creative, which I’m thankful for. 

You’re working towards a solo show at Melanie Roger Gallery in early 2020 — are you exploring certain themes for it? There are a few, which have evolved and change as the collection grows; often what starts as an idea shifts during the process. I thoroughly enjoy exhibiting.
I understand that I can’t control what people take away from the work and that in itself is special to me. 

Your process involves a lot of sketching. Do you work from still life or figurative references? I have a vast range of resources that I reference. I think that’s really important as it expands and grows my practice.

ABOVE Grace uses still life and the body as her subject matter to examine spatial tensions, preferring not to introduce narratives into her work.

From sketch to finished painting, how do your works take shape? There isn’t a prescribed method for each work.
I have hundreds of drawings and not all of them transition to painting. Sometimes a work will start with the intention of experimenting and other times it’ll be extending a particular language. 

You have a great eye for colour —how do you select your palettes? I’m actively interested in colour. It’s very intuitive, and each work is an opportunity for investigation. Rather than being drawn to specific colours, I’m more interested in how they relate to each other and how they layer.

What tools can you not do without? Turps! Plus coffee, water, cigarettes and music; I’m really interested in the psychological effects of classical music. 

Do you have any daily routines that set you up for time in the studio? I walk from my home to my studio, which is nice. It gives me space to clear my head and think about how I’ll apply my time. 

Where do you find inspiration outside of the studio? Painting and drawing fuel me, so I’m thankful that I never have to convince myself to go into the studio. I’m quite a reflective person — something as simple as a leaf may start a train of thought.
gracebader.com; melanierogergallery.com

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Larnie Nicolson

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