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Asian Influences & Western Techniques
The art of Gabby Malpas is mesmerizing. Ethnically Chinese, Malpas was raised in New Zealand by a white family. Gabby studied in NZ and completed her artistic education in the UK and Australia. As a result, she combines Asian influences with Western art techniques and her natural approach to Chinoiserie with the beauty of the natural world. Full of color, floral motifs, and meticulous details, the art of Gabby Malpas embellishes paintings, prints, stationery, accessories, and homewares. It’s very refreshing to see elements of traditional Chinese art such as colorful fish and peacocks transformed into contemporary art.
Such minute art requires laborious preparations and a lot of work. The artist spends years thinking, rethinking, visualizing, sketching, and painting before an idea comes to life. She uses watercolors, which ask for precision and determination. Any hesitation ruins the entire work.
I have ideas in my head for years and it may take many years before I work out how to make those ideas come to life so I think about them until I am ready to commit.
While precision is the key, the pure joy of laying colors and creating beautifully reimagined chinoiserie is what makes a great artwork. Moreover, Malpas uses her works to convey powerful messages about racism, adoption, and immigration. She finds inspiration in her roots and life experiences, and her openness and honesty touch people around the world. It’s what makes the artistic process rewarding and validating.
‘Colourblind’ made in 2014 was my first significant piece about my life experience as a Chinese adoptee. It was a joyful and colorful image with an important message about racism. This artwork also taught me how art is a powerful communicator: a number of bi-racial folks, adoptees, and immigrants have expressed how they identified with my art and to me, that was incredibly rewarding and validating.
Malpas’ work is not only inspiring and motivating; it’s also appealing and commercial. Her romantic and perfectionist style appealed to corporations and led to a vast library of images.
I consider myself fortunate to produce work that is commercially viable – I license my art to a number of global companies for a variety of lifestyle products. It is a challenge to be able to continually produce work that appeals but I have been working on imagery for this purpose since around 2009.
In spite of current events, Gabby Malpas has big plans for 2020. Teaching “malpasims”, a show at the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown, and making a return to pottery and wheel work are just some of her ambitious ideas. Always learning and experimenting, she remains true to herself and her authentic art.
Article written by Monica Radulescu