Georgie River is an emerging artist based in the North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Her work explores her relationship with Australian landscape and flora and the natural world around her. What began as intricate studies of leaves in the form of acrylic paintings has since developed into a larger scale, semi-surrealism landscapes, and leaf portraits in acrylic, oil, and ink, touching on the fragility of Australia’s unique ecosystem.
Georgie began her journey as a practicing artist after moving to the sub-tropical coastal town of Byron Bay on the East Coast of Australia 3 years ago. Mainly self-taught since a young age, Georgie obtained a Diploma of Art and Design in London where she grew up, before undertaking a BA (hons) in Photography at the University for the Creative Arts in 2010. She rediscovered her love of painting through her connection to Australian land when moving here in 2015. She has exhibited in a group exhibition in Fitzroy, Melbourne, as well as taken part in various art shows. She has been working on a collection of work for the past year for her first solo exhibition.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Georgie: The natural world. Spending time connecting to the land I am on, getting lost in colours and textures of a tree or leaf or a rock. There is so much wisdom in Mother Earth, from the beginning of the cosmos, the billions of years of creation, the forms of our natural world are ever-changing and evolving, and contain so much energy from the past. Especially the land here in Australia, a place I have felt deeply connected to since I arrived here. It is extremely potent and rich, full of emotion and mystery and wisdom. I am very blessed to live in an area so abundant in beauty and aliveness. I’m surrounded by subtropical forests, waterfalls, swimming holes, beautiful beaches. I get to connect with the ocean, go for walks in the native bush lands and national parks. There’s so much life here and so much sacredness. It is an endless stream of inspiration for me. I have always felt the emotion of this land and I think it stirs that deep within me to then express in my work. I also find I am more called to create when I am going through some kind of emotional process, it acts as fuel for me to drop into that space and process what I am feeling. Creating can help me come home to myself in a way.
What mediums do you work in and why?
Georgie: When I started painting again 3 years ago it was mainly acrylic. I got gifted some acrylic paints by my friend’s dad as a birthday present who knew that I used to love painting when I was younger and inspired me to start again. So that was my main medium for a while. But recently I’ve got back into oils, I used to only paint in oils growing up. I love the art that is required to work with such an unforgiving and changeable medium. Painting with oils is a whole other world, it requires patience and layers and forethought. Patience is a challenge for me. So oils allow me some practice with that. I do love the ability with acrylics to be both fluid and thick, to make mistakes and easily fix them within minutes. I also play around with ink too, it is such a beautiful medium to work with. More recently I have been using dry ground pigments and a carrier such as a safflower or a linseed oil, which has been amazing. I love playing around with different techniques and I feel like I’m still discovering my ‘way’. Or maybe the beauty of it is to be constantly exploring and discovering. I think I’ve accepted I’m not the kind of artist who has one distinct style and I’m learning to be okay with that.
What is your relationship and influence between your cultural background and your artwork?
Georgie: That’s an interesting one to reflect on. I grew up in a very urban environment in southeast London, where connecting with the natural world every day wasn’t something I was blessed with. I remember everything being very grey. I remember feeling sad and disconnected a lot in the energy there. I truthfully never felt connected to England. I always knew I would live somewhere warm and beautiful. I always wanted to leave. In that sense, I can’t say my cultural background influenced me all that much, aside from painting being an outlet for me. I was always painting, drawing, creating, making something with my hands as a child, it was all I was really interested in. Until I studied my Bachelor of Arts in photography after leaving school. This was another passion of mine. I feel that my skill with photography has also had an influence on my work now, especially in terms of composure and form. But moving to Australia has had a profound effect on me and my life as an artist. I have always felt that the land is speaking to me and that my paintings are a communication between myself and the living, breathing aliveness of this place.
You have such a delicate touch with your technique. Can you talk us through how you approach a new piece?
Georgie: I usually have some type of photographic reference to go by, but not always, or sometimes it only makes up a part of the piece and the rest is from my imagination or feeling. I have started more and more to paint in a more fluid way, going by feeling and movement. Getting down some colour and building from there. I love playing with freedom and discipline. Sometimes parts of a piece will be super freeing, wild, chaotic, and other parts will be a lot more detailed and intricate. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to paint, whether it’s a landscape or something else, and then it will change and evolve and I am learning more and more to trust that process. I never really learned any specific painting techniques and there’s no structure to my approach. I usually mix my own colours and make a huge mess on the pallet. Sometimes I waste a lot of paint trying to get the right colour, or trying to recreate colours, as I usually mix all my own. Its just complete trial and error. I don’t have much knowledge on theory or the best way to do it all. I think I like that as much as I feel lost in that. I am finding myself called to create from a deeply intuitive space, where I let go completely and allow something totally surprising to emerge. Starting from what colours are coming to me. Then feeling into how I want to express that on the canvas. I still am playing with how I create, like most artists, at times falling into self-doubt or confusion about how I should paint. It really is a big lesson in trusting myself and trusting that whatever comes out is meant to. And that not even piece of work will be for every person. That is a big one for me.
Is there a story you are trying to give to each piece or is it something else?
Georgie: I think a theme or message I find myself drawn to express in my work is that of the emotion of the natural world, particularly this land. I am fascinated with the beauty of decay and rebirth, and the infinite worlds within worlds that can be found from the microcosm to the vast expanse of a landscape. Australia is such a sacred land, there is so much energy to be felt from the deep connection between aboriginal people and the land. For thousands of years they lived completely a part of nature, they intuitively understood how to live in harmony with this earth, to never take too much, to listen deeply, and to love her. We have lost touch of this as a human race, most of humanity has forgotten this deep truth that we are nature and that loving her and protecting her is our duty as visitors here. I feel the wisdom and connection of ancestors past here and I feel the sadness and trauma that the land and its original custodians suffered. I’m aware that I’m living on stolen land. There is a lot of pain that was experienced here and it’s still very fresh just around 250 years ago. I think this comes through in my work, there is an essence of grief but also beauty and strength that I like to play with.
Do you think that a creative job is just creativity or discipline too?
Georgie: This is a beautiful question. I often reflect on this because my work is such a dance between free creative expression, boundless and unknown – to disciplined, focused and structured. In many cases, I have experienced frustration, anger, fear, and confusion when creating, where I felt
I overworked a piece, or ruined it, and have then regretted it, only to keep persevering, and eventually, the final piece presents itself and I am in love with what I have created. I realize in those moments that the ‘mistakes’ were a part of the journey, a part of the creative process, and the discipline to continue and not give up was so important. It is not always easy or enjoyable. But life is like that. It’s all-encompassing. So I do feel there is this dance, sometimes I find it hard to know when to stop with a piece, it’s a work in progress for me, and I think as a self-taught artist with no formal teachings I am completely having to learn from my own experience, which is both freeing and challenging.
What artists influenced you the most and why?
Georgie: To be honest, I can’t say I have any major influences in terms of how I define or journey with my own work. I certainly love seeing other work and it inspires me greatly. I think nature is my biggest influence as well as my own vision on what I want to create. I have been very inspired by some Australian artists such as Baden Croft, Lauren Guymer and Liam Waldie, who’s work I discovered while I lived in a small coastal town in Victoria. I love seeing other artists and their unique way of expressing their connection to this land. I also recently discovered the work of Charly Wrencher, another Australian artist, his stuff is beautiful.
What’s the artwork you’ve been working on most recently?
Georgie: I’m working on my largest painting so far at the moment. It is a rock portrait. I often see faces in nature, so this is inspired by that. This piece has been a completely different technique for me compared to acrylic and traditional oils. I have worked on this one using mainly dry ground pigments and safflower oil. It feels very earthy in a way, using only a few basic colours and natural oils and playing with texture and lines. It is more translucent and raw than thick layers of paint that I would normally work with. I am loving the process though. I feel like I am always trying out new techniques, new mediums, new approaches. I like to discover what else I am capable of and push myself in my process.
Are you currently working on new projects?
Georgie: I’ve mainly been working on pieces for my first solo exhibition that I’m looking to hold next year. But I also have another exciting collaborative project that a friend and I are in the early stages of developing, combining both sound and visual art. It will be great for me to explore a different approach to creating, one that will be very intuitive, expressive, and emotive, based on interpreting sound into a visual form and playing with colours, textures, shapes, and abstract expression.
Are there any upcoming workshops or shows we should know about?
Georgie: Nothing set in stone yet. I have the intention of next year being the year that I hold my first solo exhibition as well as to be a part of group shows and collaborative projects local to where I live as well as Australia wide. In the meantime, I will just keep creating and exploring and see what unfolds. I feel that next year will be an exciting year for me as an artist.
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