Drawing on influences from overseas and a background in textile design, Grace Ochero’s first solo exhibition in Townsville will open at the Drill Hall Studio this September.
Inspirations from Papua New Guinea is based on Grace’s experiences lecturing at the University of PNG for eight years, and showcases an appreciation for detail. We caught up with Grace for an insight into her creative practice and the inspiration behind her exhibition.
Why did you choose to showcase Papua New Guinea in this exhibition?
Papua New Guinea is an inspiring world-renowned treasure of breathtaking people, animals, flora and artistic diversity which continues to captivate the imagination. It is a country of rich and diverse cultures that speak and communicate in over 800 languages and dialects, and its cultural habits provide a rich source of visual and communicative mediums.
During my years of residency in Papua New Guinea, I was amazed by the beauty and rich colour of traditional treasures and diverse tribal cultures which inspired me greatly. This led me to work on a series of selected themes and compositions showcasing my PNG cultural research and experience. While lecturing at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), I enjoyed working and sharing various creative developments with my students. I travelled widely throughout PNG and participated in various creative research projects – solo as well as with students – to learn, document, and participate in local cultural research activities. I have a large collection of various visual forms and images from past cultural research projects which is available to me for ongoing creative developments.
Have your previous artworks been similar to what we will see in this exhibition?
My previous artworks varied due to the time, place, and choice of working subjects or selected working mediums – for example the use of paper and gouache or fabrics, twines, wax and dyes. Besides artworks on paper, I have produced printed, tie-dye and batik collections for arts and crafts exhibitions, especially during my years as an academic at UPNG. My professional background has in a way also contributed to my creativity. I started my career as a Textile Designer on completing my tertiary education, specialising in printed/ woven textiles for fashion design. At the Liverpool Faculty of Arts and Design, I won the Olympic Swimwear Print Design competition for the British Olympic Swimming Team participating in the 1980 Olympic Games.
As an artist, I have over the years developed and established my creative techniques and style in my portrayal of varied themes ranging from the natural environment to still-life studies, contemporary art compositions to colourful and decorative textile art and design collections. I use various techniques but due to my textile background, gouache watercolours are my basic and most-preferred painting medium.
What should people expect in this exhibition?
A display of artworks with interesting visual inspirations from traditional and contemporary Papua New Guinean culture, that have been interpreted and portrayed to express not only the splendid quality of their original artistic treasures, but also the amazing comprehensive use of form, style, composition, colour and texture across the whole art collection which expresses my fascination with a culture steeped in the rich diversity of traditions from region to region.
My paintings therefore seek to express the inspiration of belief in the ancestral spirits of the Papua New Guinea people. I conducted creative research projects of various PNG fine traditional treasures and cultures in the Sepik, Enga, Eastern Highlands, Oro and National Central provinces, which resulted, over the course of time, into this expressive visual collection of artworks. The artworks explore the artefacts, storyboards, bilums and sing-sing themes and compositions to capture the imagination and effectively manipulate information collected from personal cultural research and experience while living and working at UPNG into contemporary visual creativity. Through traditional or contemporary interpretations, these paintings are created to appeal to our emotions and provide an appreciation of intricate, colourful and aesthetic creativity.
What is next for you after this exhibition?
My aim is to carry on with my creativity as a Freelance Visual Artist and establish myself in time within the art communities in Townsville after recently relocating from Brisbane. My artworks are aesthetic resources of information. Through both traditional and contemporary styles, I aim to make it appeal to our emotions, provide inspiration, and interpret creativity and life in general. I am already a member of the Drill Hall Studio which has a great team of artists who showcase a great variety of their different arts and crafts to the public all year round. I look forward to working on creative projects and themes that represent the environmental surroundings of Townsville and Northern Queensland in general.
View Grace Ochero’s Inspirations from Papua New Guinea exhibition at the Drill Hall Studio from 22 September – 18 October.