Having your artwork displayed in New York is every artist’s dream, and it’s one that was realised for accomplished Australian artist Tracey Levett when a collection of her works opened for display in May of this year. The exhibit, entitled Luminessence, is on display at the Consulate General of Australia in New York until July 9th (next Monday), and a significant portion of her works have since been acquired by a private dealer. We spoke to Tracey about the significance of her work and asked her for some words of advice for aspiring artists.
You started out as a singer-songwriter. Tell us more about that part of your career.
I started singing and playing guitar when I was twelve, it was the beginning of a very exciting time because I was so hungry for music, I loved learning to play the guitar and sing songs that I’d hear on the radio.
I bought my first record which was tapestry by Carol King I still love those tracks. I wrote my first song a couple of months after I got that first guitar and continued singing and writing until a few years ago when I decided to give my full attention to painting. Music will always be a part of my life I enjoyed the gigs and working with great musicians, it was fun.
Do you prefer painting or music as a creative outlet?
I love music and find it so emotive but I find painting so much more challenging. Painting is still a mystery to me.
It’s like a music became a familiar friend and painting is this elusive lover that I am forever chasing. My use of text in my painting is a link to my songwriting. Perhaps it’s having Irish parents but I love words. Both music and painting share elements such as feeling, poetry, key & rhythm. So although I’m not performing anymore the music is in my art.
How do you think Australia inspires you?
Australia inspires me because of it’s physical beauty. But mostly I get my inspiration from people. I love people. I love knowing their story, I love hearing about their lives. I love their faces.
What was it like to have your work shown in New York with such a positive response?
It was so encouraging. To have someone like David Rankin as an advocate and to describe my painting as “direct & earthy” and to say “it is brave for an artist to address spiritual matters in such an earthy way” meant a great deal to me. I have great respect for his work. So yes it was a wonderful experience and the positive response on opening night was palpable.
Do you think there’s a fundamental difference between Australia and the USA? If so, how do you react to it when you’re in New York?
The thing I love about the new York art audience is they understand abstract painting. They’ve been immersed in it for so long that they are very receptive. Australians have a smaller population that relate to abstractionism so it’s more of a challenge for an abstract painter to thrive there. I don’t know that there’s a fundamental difference, both Sydney and New York in particular are exciting multicultural cities. People are people when it comes down to it. However there is a faster pulse in the New York, when you’re in New York you get swept up in the rhythm. I think Sydney is a little less frenetic. We are only comparing two cities I’m not sure it’s possible to compare two countries as individually they are both so diverse.
What are your favourite things about Australia?
The light, the sunshine, the space, the possibilities. The food, the wine, The amount of trees. I could go on forever!
What are your favourite things about the USA?
The energy, the people, the variety of everything such as food, fashion,design I could go on forever!
What’s next on the horizon for you?
After I close my exhibition at the Consulate on July 9th, I intend to take it easy for a few weeks
as it’s been a very intense year and in particular the last couple of months. Then it will be a case of “filling up my tank” which is how I describe getting inspired, then a delicious time ahead, back in my studio with music playing while I paint, sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Follow your bliss and just keep going. Don’t listen to the naysayers, you can do anything!
Find out more about Tracey Levett at her website. You can view the work by contacting the consulate and making an appointment on (212) 351-6500