Gabriella Moxey is a visual artist specialising in oil-based portraiture. Her portraits are convincingly human, intimately conveying the personality of the subject to the viewer. Gabriella’s work also includes landscapes and animal life portrayed through a variety of materials, such as a striking charcoal series reminiscent of fossilised fish. While painting and drawing are her primary mediums, Gabriella also dabbles in sculpture and photography. She is currently undertaking her Masters in Fine Art at RMIT.
Have you always been interested in art?
My mum is an artist, so art has always been a part of my life. It was an odd day when I realised that it wasn’t normal to have life drawings lining your home! But yeah, I enjoyed drawing and making things as a kid, and was that ‘arty’ one in class. When I was around 10, Mum started teaching me how to draw and paint technically with still lifes and such at the kitchen table, and I got some proper confidence in it. It’s basically snowballed from there.
Do you have a routine when it comes to creating your art? Is there a time of day when you work best?
No, there isn’t a particular time, thank goodness! Working four days a week, with uni lectures too, has meant that being able to work well late at night has come in handy. Usually though, I try to get to the studio by 10am, make myself a cup of tea, and then set to it. I’ve been working with concentration for the past five years to perfect the art of painting a portrait, and can now go into it with enough certainty that I’ll be able to make a good painting, so I don’t need too much in the way of ritual to reassure me anymore.
Your portraits have a great sense of character, and often humour, to them. Do you choose your subjects for this reason?
Thank you! Not particularly, it’s kind of the magic of painting – it brings out all the interest in a person’s face. It’s probably why I love painted portraiture; it turns someone into art and adds a whole new dimension to our interpretation of them. I suppose that’s what takes them out of the limitations of reality, both theirs and ours.
Who’s your favourite painter, or which artist is inspiring you currently?
Benjamin Björklund is probably my current technical inspiration. He’s a contemporary Swedish painter who has the most magical manner of wielding paint and ink – his portraits of his Great Dane are everything. My enduring influences are probably Edgar Degas, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Euan Uglow and Jenny Saville, for their handling of paint and the manner with which they describe the human form.
You just completed your final work for your masters at RMIT. Could you tell us a bit about it?
I’ve been exploring how traditional portraiture functions in contemporary culture, where the ‘selfie’ in social media is probably the more accurate form of portraiture to discuss who we are now.
Through this, I’ve found that there is something enduring in paint – its value as a medium hasn’t changed for centuries, despite numerous technologies being invented that challenge its purpose.
My final work explores this: the value of the painted surface in relation to the new values of social technology. I’ve gone full art school and it now involves performance and projection, as well as a painted piece.
Will the public be able to see your final work at your grad show?
Yes they will! The exhibition is held at RMIT at our studios in the city, which are in Building 49 on the corner of Swanston and Franklin Streets. The building used to be a lingerie factory, and our studios are up on the top level where the workshops used to be, so it’s all whitewashed beams. It’s been amazing to work and exhibit in.
Next year, I want to get back into commissioned portraits. It was something I really enjoyed before I started my Masters, and now I’ve got the time again to really pursue it. It’s amazing, the feeling of presenting someone with an image you’ve created of their loved one. You don’t ever get it quite the same with a work created for exhibiting, as most people who see it don’t know the sitter. You feel as though your work is truly appreciated
What’s your favourite shiny thing?
My grandmother’s silver bangles. My mum gave them to me on my 21st and, except for airport security, I haven’t taken them off since. My grandmother died when I was one, so it’s nice to have this connection with her in lieu of memories. Without knowing that my grandmother also wore them, I started wearing bangles as a teenager—just these two wooden ones from Sportsgirl—I never took them off. It was amazing when I found my grandmother’s silver ones in my mum’s jewellery box and realised that we had this connection.
The RMIT Master of Fine Art Graduate Exhibition will run from November 23 till December 2, at the RMIT studios in Melbourne city, Building 49, corner of Swanston and Franklin Streets. The opening night is on November 23.
Photography by the effervescent Elly Freer, videography by the vivacious Tye Dunn.