Chelsea Graves

Nostalgic Intimacy

Bachelor of Visual Arts Installation Painting Drawing Feminism Identity

A body of work that reflects on my lived and dreamed memories and releases the build-up of anxiety of overthinking. A cathartic process that began through the isolation of lockdown in this pandemic and being left with nothing but my thoughts and my journal.

My painting practice has evolved from the rural landscapes of my up bringing, to the figurative female form and understanding how to empower the lens that is placed on her. The work I have created this year is an amalgamation of all the influences that I have collected and learned from over the years that I’ve been practicing, from David Hockney to Ghada Amer to Jenny Saville to Tracey Emin. Nostalgic Intimacy is a true reflection of my mind, and my heart. Paintings that are memories and visions that have the ability to draw an emotional response as I recall every thought and feeling that existed at that time.

Can you tell me a bit about the install?
With this installation I wanted to remove the formal gallery setting and create a more personal space as the paintings themselves are extremely personal. I wanted to introduce props that held the same significance and nostalgia that these paintings do for me.

What does painting mean for you?
Painting for me can be a cathartic process where I can release my stress or things backlogged in my mind and focus on what’s in front of me and essentially that’s how this body of work started during the first lockdown.

What were the initial reference points for these paintings?
It began as a couple of photographs I had of significant people in my life. I didn’t begin with the intention of using these paintings for my studio work – I was just trying to do something for myself.
Then eventually I began building based on my memory and mind rather than with reference to photographic sources. That’s where the work become questionable as to what actually happened and what I’ve made up subsequently. Essentially inside the journal that is in the installation there is a diary entry that corresponds with each painting. I have a tendency to keep a journal I find it a great source of reflection coming to the end of these things I’ve been going through and being able to look back on how I felt at the time. A therapeutic process, like painting, through a pandemic.
The paintings are in an A5 journal size. Working in that size over lockdown was manageable to maintain when I didn’t know what materials I would be able to have on hand.

Is this work a kind of commentary on the process of journal writing – the intimacy of it and the possible mythologising of it?
Sometimes it’s nice to hold on to the nice picture when you’re going through a pandemic – even if the picture is unreliable. Going over these same things again and again It’s quite obsessive and could be described as unnecessary, but it’s necessary for me. I have a need to know every little detail about an experience and events that have been and gone. It gives me comfort to try and understand other peoples’ perspectives. So, some of these paintings come from photos taken by others which included me — because I was trying to understand their perspective.

What does this intimate compilation add up to?
It gives me pride. I am really happy with what I produced despite the circumstances. I was worried I might panic at having so much personal material presented. I feel quite at ease to allow people into the space to see these paintings and this installation and take it in and take from it their own intimate experiences and be able to reflect on them. To anyone else each of these paintings will probably mean absolutely nothing of the sentimentality or nostalgia that I feel.