The Sculptural Way with Giorgia McRae

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In this growing community of ours, we're always so pleased to be introduced to someone new – a creative and inquisitive soul that inspires and challenges us. By way of Eliza Gosse, we were introduced to Giorgia McRae and her transportive and captivating work. The Sydney-based artist welds the most intriguing sculptures that offer a modern and individual approach to the art form. Here, Giorgia opens her world to Reliquia and welcomes us all in. Prepare to rearrange your furniture and get creating. 

What is your philosophy and aim when it comes to creating?

I'm forever exploring balance in my practice. Both compositionally and intellectually.

There are so many ebbs and flows in the studio, always problems to solve – whether it's figuring out how to cold bend steel at the perfect right angle or weld two pieces together when you need at least an extra 2 pairs of hands. And in contrast there are compositions that seamlessly fall into place or wonderful mistakes that suddenly pull the whole thing together.

It's that juxtaposition that I like to represent in my work as it mirrors a lot of what I see in humanity – our constant search for satisfaction.

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Can you tell us how you got started and your initial inspiration? What are your preferred materials?

I applied to NAS (National Art School) at 25yo and went into the degree certain I'd end up a ceramicist. I loved clay and all that comes with the medium, but when I learned to weld, I fell in love with it. The instant gratification of MIG welding was so inviting and I found myself more and more drawn to the work of steel sculptors. 

I work with mild steel, grounded in sandstone, however I'm slowly moving towards free standing sculptures that allow the object to integrate into a space freely. It's been a nice evolution.

In your wardrobe and your work, what colours, patterns and motifs are you most drawn to and why?

My wardrobe has plenty of white and blocks of primary colour with the occasional hint of pastel green, purple or a seventies brown.

My sculptures are overtly geometric, utilising minimal line, colour and negative space so I try to keep the palette as succinct as possible. Lately, I've been painting predominantly black sculptures with hints of yellow, blue or red.

I also have a recurring circle in nearly all my work that I cut from a very long, old piece of pipe. It tends to be how I finish a piece – my full stop. 

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What is your typical outfit for a day of work?

I have two studio spaces in my beautiful little Stanmore home and there will generally be an outfit change when going from one to the other. Upstairs in the sunroom, I'll usually throw on some bike shorts and a loose, breathable button up shirt. Cotton is great air flow as the space is bathed in warmth and light. 

When I head downstairs to weld, I need a lot more skin coverage and can only wear natural fibres, so I'll switch into a pair of cotton pants, a tank and boots, then head down to where my welding jacket is faithfully waiting for me.

What does a normal day in your life look like?

I'll start with a coffee on my sunny balcony followed by yoga. Then I'll head into the little sunroom studio with a smoothie and draw for an hour or two to clear out ideas or work on a composition from the day before. There'll almost always be a sculpture or two in need of another coat of paint or a handful of emails to respond to, so I'll move onto that while listening to a podcast.

I'll head downstairs to my workshop at around 11:30am with my sketchbook and see where I left things the day before. I love coming in with fresh eyes, particularly if I've hit a wall with a particular piece. When I feel I'm done for the day, I'll either race to the ocean for a quick dip or have a long bath and then make dinner with my partner.

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Tell us about your studio. What is your interior aesthetic and how do you curate an inspiring space?

Upstairs is where I draw, paint and finish my steel sculptures – the beginning and end. The walls are mint green and decorated with previous drawings either hung from a picture rail or blue tacked on for an easy view of colour palettes and compositions that I intend to come back to one day. French doors open onto my balcony, so it feels like one big light filled room with airflow and plenty of greenery. There are a few sculptures dispersed around the room, either half-finished or waiting to be picked up.

I have everything for drawing set up: charcoal, soft pastels and my easel and A1 cartridge pad so that I can walk in and get straight into it. 

Downstairs is a classic dusty workshop with a roller door that dramatically screeches its way open each day. I have work benches on either side of the rectangular room, leaving a clear path for me to walk between the two and allow for ease of air flow. Welding is a dusty and toxic medium, so I'll have my extraction fan humming in the background. It's a little grimy down there, but I love it.

Where do you seek inspiration?

Apart from seeing any exhibitions I can around Sydney and my subscription to Artist Profile, I get a surprising amount of inspiration from early to mid 1900s horror films – particularly by German directors.

Often when I'm feeling inhibited creatively, I'll put Metropolis or The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari on while I draw. Sometimes the most minute detail on the screen will unlock something. There are so many incredible shadows and unusual shapes in German expressionism, the era is a great source of inspiration for me.

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Can you give us your top three:

Self-care strategies

Exercise – If I haven't moved my body energetically, I'll get a little sore and cranky.

Reading – I'm a big fantasy/sci-fi girl.

Long baths – I'm not sure is Epsom salts do anything, but after hunching over a welding table all day, I'll try anything to avoid resembling Quasimodo by age 35.

Down-time activities

Drawing at home while watching re-runs of Law & Order: SVU could be my all-time favourite thing to do.

Rearranging furniture. I don't know why, but it's cathartic catnip.

Laying in the sun with a good book.

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Feel-good tunes

I'm Every Woman by Whitney Houston

Believe by Cher

Oh and anything by Sister Sledge

Are there any other up-and-coming artists we should keep an eye on?

Chanel Tobler

Casey Chen

Lauren O'Connor

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More: @giorgiamcraeart

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