Marle Women is created to celebrate our philosophy of designing pieces for women of all ages and stages of their lives. We hope each interview inspires you, the same way in which these women do to us.
Juliet Souter and Natasha Wright first met as children in speech and drama class. Fast forward to today, it is a pleasure to reconnect with the New York-based New Zealand abstract artist who is widely celebrated the world over by renowned art critics and collectors alike.
Here, we speak with one of our favourite artists about her life and work in New York, along with her achievements, and the inspiration behind her latest exhibition, ‘A place to Stand’.
Please share a little bit about yourself - including your background, noting some of the defining aspects that have contributed to the woman you are today.
I grew up in Auckland in a large, tight-knit family. Art has always been a huge part of my world. I’m fortunate my parents really encouraged creativity. When I was very young, I would draw constantly –my grandmother was an artist and someone I really admired and looked up to. My biggest joy was spending the weekend with her drawing.
I studied fashion and textiles at University in Wellington but took as many art and drawing classes as I could. The female form has always been integral to my work. I think the relationship to making clothing and physically dressing the body really helped with this understanding.
Eight years ago I moved to NYC to focus on painting and study at the New York Studio School. The Studio School was the original site of the Whitney Museum and was embedded with a fascinating history. It was important to my development as a painter as it connected me to a close community of artists. I’ve been lucky to show my work here and in New Zealand ever since.
Your oil paintings often reference the female form, some might say this has become a signature of your work. Can you tell us more about how and why women inspire your work?
My work is inspired by the representation of women throughout history. I incorporate a wide range of inspiration to create my own personal narrative. References to The Three Graces, ancient fertility goddesses, Matryoshka dolls and contemporary culture from advertisements and the pages of fashion magazines often weave their way into my work. In some way I’ve been dealing with this subject matter my whole life. The paintings are rooted in the body but continue to evolve as they take on more abstract forms and shapes.
When Philip Guston Lies on Your Floor, 2020
Moving from New Zealand to New York to further your career as an artist is something most people would only dream of. What led you to make the move and how has living in New York inspired your creativity?
From the moment I first visited New York I felt connected to the creative energy of the city. I’m inspired by my creative friends across a range of fields as well as having access to so many wonderful galleries and museums.
With being awarded the New York Studio School Scholarship and Harper’s Bazaar named your 2018 solo show ‘Les Biches’ as one of the five best exhibitions in New York, you have achieved some incredible accolades. What do you think your proudest work moments have been?
Being able to show and share my work.
New York and Auckland are worlds apart in some ways. What comforts have you found in New York that make you feel at home?
When I get the chance, I love to be outdoors. This usually involves hiking upstate or spending time at the beach.
"My work is inspired by the representation of women throughout history. I incorporate a wide range of inspiration to create my own personal narrative. References to The Three Graces, ancient fertility goddesses, Matryoshka dolls and contemporary culture from advertisements and the pages of fashion magazines often weave their way into my work"
Tell us about a day in the life of Natasha Wright and what are the go-to Marle pieces you reach for when you have a very full day ahead?
No day is the same but usually it involves painting. Anything I wear to my studio has the potential to get covered in paint so I change into a jumpsuit as soon as I arrive. When I’m dressing up I love my new cashmere Marle sweaters, they are made from the most beautiful material and are so cozy for the winter months.
Your latest exhibition ‘A place to stand’ is currently showing at Sanderson Gallery in Auckland. Can you tell us about the challenges you faced creating this body of work while in lockdown last year? What inspired this show?
I feel like I have learned so much this year, both personally and professionally. The biggest lesson has been perspective and accepting the unknown.
In March 2020 I set up a home studio and began to explore ideas for my New Zealand show. I always start each new body of work with a series of drawings which allows me to think through my ideas and explore various compositions. I love working on paper because of the intimacy and sense of immediacy. This past year, more than ever, I feel really lucky to have had a creative pursuit, something that inspires me everyday.
Many of my creative friends have really grappled with creative blocks and making work during such a tumultuous time. For me I’ve always found that the only way through this is my daily painting practice. I remember listening to an interview with Tracey Emin where she talks about the courage to face a blank canvas and the need to feel strong when making her work. This feeling is something I really identify with.
|"The defining elements of my wardrobe are silk slip dresses, oversized sweaters, black ankle boots and my collection of handbags"|
What is your most treasured piece of art and why?
A group of Max Gimlet quatrafoils that my mum gave me for me 30th birthday. I met Max when I first moved to New York and he has been a mentor ever since.
How would you describe your personal style? And how has it changed over the years?
I tend to stick to a uniform of easy to wear classic pieces. This involves a lot of black, denim, white, khaki and tan in minimalist styles. The defining elements of my wardrobe are silk slip dresses, oversized sweaters, black ankle boots and my collection of handbags.
Do you prefer texture or colour?
Favourite New York restaurant?
Buvette in the West Village
Spring/ Summer or Autumn/Winter?
Where is your favourite place to holiday when home to New Zealand?
What are you reading right now?
Walk Through Walls – a memoir by Marina Abramovic