Interview | Parnell Gallery talks to Greer Clayton

10 Quick Fire Questions with Greer Clayton

In the lead up to her ‘Light Layers exhibition’ Parnell Gallery sat down with contemporary artist Greer Clayton and posed a few short, sharp questions to her. Find out more about Greer’s personal art collection, the studio tools she can’t live without, and what inspires her breathtaking paintings, below.

1. Tell us a bit about your background
I was born and bred in Dunedin and during my fourth form year at high school I remember loving the still life sessions in art class and that was when I was ‘hooked’ – I was my happiest when painting and drawing. Then after high school, I headed to Canterbury University, then to Elam in Auckland where I completed a BFA in Painting.

Like a lot of young people, I undertook the obligatory OE to London where I was able to indulge in a lot of travel. Followed by a stint living in Sydney for a few years, then back to New Zealand 10 years ago where I have been since, living in Devonport with my husband and 2 children.

2. Your painting style is very well-recognised, can you describe how this has evolved over your career?
I seem to have an obsession with the horizon and how the light plays on the landforms. Over the years I have made the landforms more distinct while still hoping to capture a mood and feel of the area to the viewer. I played around with works on paper and collage last year when I did some smaller works stemming from my 2019 Sub Antarctic trip, this led to developing a technique with which landforms became more prominent, adding more layers and depth. Often the work gets described as ethereal and I like this reference as it may refer to the idea of the forms being there but hidden in the elements. The colour palette continues to be earthy and muted with a more ’smudged’ technique of paint layering.

3. You have an impressive collection of other artists’ work. What are some of your favourite pieces?
A still life piece by Neil Driver takes pride of place in our lounge. Another favourite is a larger Rob Tucker work that was commissioned from an existing one I saw of his.

4 .When you aren’t painting, what would we most likely find you doing?
My husband and I are keen renovators and have recently bought a bach in Hatepe, near Taupo where he used to holiday as a boy. There we get to spend time boating on the lake, the sunsets and lake vistas are incredible. We have been painting and renovating the place – it seems I am always paint brush in hand!
I spent time as a colour consultant which I loved, however being full time with my art has meant colour consulting has taken a back step. In saying that I’m happy talking paint and colour and am always switching up the colour schemes at home.

5. What are your main sources of inspiration for your work?
In 2019 I was an invited artist with Heritage Expeditions, travelling to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Then 6 months later, I visited Doubtful and Dusky Sounds aboard the ‘Flightless’ with adventure boat charter business Pure Salt. These have both been pivotal journeys for me, evidenced in much of my work since. Pure Salt shares the Department of Conservation’s vision for Tamatea / Dusky Sound to be one of the most intact ecosystems worldwide I am so passionate about their Dusky Sound Restoration Project. I have previously created a series of paintings around my time there, some which were sold to help support the project, but Fiordland remains a source of inspiration in my present work also with some of my current exhibition works referencing this magical location.

Other noteworthy locations that have made their mark on my work include Mangawhai in Northland, where my parents live. Our family are avid hikers and try to complete one annually. This last Easter we headed south to Te Anau to complete the Kepler Track walk – the majestic views along the 60km hike inspired another exhibition piece from this latest exhibition, ‘Manapouri Light’. Our bach at Hatepe is providing a lot of inspiration – interestingly, my work seems to swing between more mountainous or more island inspired. But I am constantly standing in awe at the beautiful sunrises and sunsets I see twice-daily on the beach walks with the dog around Devonport too. I feel very lucky to live here and see Rangitoto from this vantage. This has become a ritual that bookends my daily creative process.

6. How have developments in technology over the past 20 years impacted on the art industry?
I see real value in putting a work in-situ for scale and perspective and with technology you can now experiment on your own walls at home to see how a piece fits and how it will change the space. I strongly feel an artwork can be the starting point of a whole vision for the home.

7. What one tool or medium can you not live without?
I use a large Italian brush for ‘laying off’ the paint and to ‘feather out’ the strokes, its invaluable to me!

8. Which artist has had the greatest influence on your process?
I’m not sure my process has been influenced by other artists as its evolved naturally and authentically. I am always inspired by the female gallerists I’ve worked with who also are painters – Kate Hopkinson Pointer and now Kerry Armstrong from Studio Gallery Group in Melbourne (who Greer is represented by in Australia) – they have a great work ethic and passion for what they do and somehow manage to do both!

9. If you could spend an afternoon with any New Zealand artist, who would it be?
Well, Don Binney was head of the painting department when I was at Elam School in Auckland. I just love his work and regret not spending more time learning from him.

10. What are your favourite places in Parnell?
Its always nice to catchup with the ladies at Parnell Gallery and see the new works by the other artists represented there. Plus we can easily pop next door for lunch or a glass of wine at NSP (Non-Solo Pizza) after an exhibition opening.

My daughter Riley often helps me deliver paintings to the gallery and we like to head to Winona Forever for a coffee and yummy cake after!

A selection of Greer’s works from her current Exhibition ‘Light Layers’ at Parnell Gallery can be viewed instore at 263 Parnell Road, Parnell from the 6th – 20th of July or online here.

Image: Belinda Merrie

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