Artist_Grace TobinMeet the Artist

Grace Tobin

Can you describe your work in three words? 
Dreamy nostalgic retrospection. 

What got you into the arts? How did you become an artist?
I’ve been innately drawn to art for as long as I can remember. I was a shy child and I think even in primary school, when I found it difficult to communicate through words, art was my method of expression. I took lessons both in and outside of school from the age of seven, I couldn’t get enough of it. Like any kind of discipline that one is drawn to, it was something that I wanted to practice over and over again. I went on to study art at Oberlin College in the US, and continued to paint while also working as a Graphic Designer and Art Director in New York City. I decided to commit more fully to my art practice in 2020, attending the Royal College of Art for an MA in Painting, which I graduated from in 2022.

What drew you to painting more specifically?
Painting conveys for me a freedom that I cannot often find in other mediums. I’ve worked a lot with drawing and printmaking, and although I enjoy both, painting offers a malleability and freedom that provides a sense of open-endedness. I really enjoy the process of my practice.

What is the process behind your work? Where does your imagery come from?
I am interested in how physical objects can build and hold emotional value, over time embodying histories and identity, and I often use domestic environments as my starting point. My process usually begins with sketches and photographs; I archive and research imagery that catches my interest. From there I look for connections between the scene and objects that I’ve gathered, often focusing on specific forms and details. It feels like a constant push and pull, as I build up and subtract from the composition on the surface of the canvas. I think this subtraction of material can help to sharpen the experience or focal points for the viewer. The use of specific colours is also quite important to me, as I want the piece to evoke the blurred memories of a scene which we particularly remember or value. Through these certain colour choices, the tonality of the painting gives a tinted-glass effect through which the constructed scene is experienced. 

What motivates you to make art?
I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience and process the world without my painting practice. I have never found a form of communication more powerful than paint. It’s my form of comfort, reflection, meditation, exploration, and truest form of expression. I think painting brings to light experiences and emotions that are not otherwise tangible. The sense of the ‘unsaid’ or ‘unknown’ is what drives my practice and I constantly question and challenge the techniques and processes I use to communicate this feeling.

You spent your childhood between the US and the UK. Do you think that has impacted your work?
I was born in London and emigrated to the United States with my family as a child. Although I grew up in New York City, my familial ties meant I visited the UK often and I always felt that my home existed somewhere between the two places. This has greatly influenced my work, reflecting on the effort it took to create a sense of home in a new country, while also feeling the history and comfort of a home that was an ocean away. I am fascinated by the ways in which people develop a sense of identity through their surroundings. My work focuses on the ways in which particular spaces and objects can hold important memories and stories that help define our sense of home and in turn our sense of self. In this way, much of my work is inherently based on personal narrative. I use my own experiences and context as a basis of researching, cataloging, and archiving the spaces that hold such importance for me. 

Who are the artists that have inspired you most?
I’ve always been drawn to the work of Pierre Bonnard and Harald Sohlberg, and Wayne Thiebaud for their use of colour and construction of space. Recently, I’ve been more drawn to contemporary artists, such as Jennifer Packer, Poppy Jones, Henni Alftan, Sophie Treppendahl and Catrin Llwyd that have captured my attention. It feels important to be looking at what other painters are doing right now, within the same relevant time and contexts.  

What interested you about joining Canopy Collections?
What first drew me to Canopy Collections is their clear passion and interest to understand and support the artists they work with. They provide me with the opportunity to exhibit and promote my work through a gallery, with the curatorial knowledge and experience behind it. This kind of collaboration enables me to make the transition for my work from studio to gallery a successful one.

Do you collect art from other artists? How important is it for you to live with art?
It’s a great privilege to own work by other artists. Although I have been able to collect a few works from artists, I would love to be able to invest in more works over time. Collecting not only helps support the community of other artists, but also offers inspiration for one’s own development.

Any projects in the pipeline?
I am really excited about being able to participate in Soho Revue Gallery’s 2023 Artists in Residence program this spring. I’m looking forward to having a studio space that I share with other artists whom I can connect and grow with, as well as the experience and insights the work will have with Soho Revue.