Tracey Deep has a deep connection with nature. Growing up, Tracey was always fascinated with the natural world, she’d collect pebbles on walks, red gum chips from the school playground, and fallen Autumn leaves. She’d present her findings in a very curated manner and call it her ‘collection’. What she didn’t know at the time, was that these early fascinations were the early carvings of her future career.
Upon leaving school, Tracey trained as a florist, and learned the ropes under the tutelage of well known florists Susan Avery and Alison Coates. During this period, Tracey was able to investigate Australian native flora in all of its uninhibited glory. She started to use the sticks, leaves, branches and anything else she could get her hands on to create three-dimensional art works with a uniquely Australian sensibility.
Eventually, Tracey went on to work for herself as a florist, while continuing her floral sculpture projects. Her sculptures began to grow and grow, and soon she found herself undertaking large scale installations. These days, Tracey takes on private sculptural commissions alongside her floristry practice. Her creative drives comes from her endless fascination with the Australian native landscape, a passion that still brings Tracey much joy and wonderment.
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
Art was always my first love. It was always my favourite subject at school, and I started collecting art books from a very young age. Also at this age, I started to collect pieces of nature that drew my attention, such as textured leaves and rocks featuring patterns and shapes. I created my own little private collections of little things I had found, and I think this was the starting point for everything that eventually followed.
Following school, I started working in flower shops. I first worked for the talented Susan Avery, where I had the opportunity to explore flowers of a wide variety, and to study nature’s wonderment up close. I then worked for the very talented Alison Coates, where I started to think more about textures in nature, and was able to take my floral practice a step further.
I eventually went out on my own, and it was here that I began to combine everything about nature I loved, in particular our rare and stunning Australian bush flora, pods and textures. I started creating floral sculptures firstly for myself, but then for a wide-ranging audience. The next natural extension for me was creating larger scale sculpture and installation art, with an emphasis on shapes, patterns and textures all inspired by mother nature and her surrounds.
How would you describe your work?
I am deeply inspired by nature. My work is playful, sculptural and whimsical with an emphasis on patterns, shapes and textures. Shadow also plays an important role in the spirit of my works.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?
It all starts from sourcing the right materials, which then inspires the creation of the piece, which in turn comes to life through installation. Repetition of material creates patterns that seem to give off a sense of energy and vibration, almost like a living organism from the natural world. Then shadows appear, which becomes a sketch of the work, the spirit etched onto walls or ceilings, leaving its mark.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
It’s usually an early start at the flower markets, where you can find me sourcing unusual materials for an event installation or filling flower orders for the day. It’s then usually a mix of site meetings, installing a commissioned work, or preparing works for an upcoming exhibition. It’s always important for me to combine both commercial work with my own private projects.
Most days I also try and fit in a walk in the park, as this is my moment of total relaxation.
What have been one or two favourite recent projects or commissions?
I recently worked with inspiring interior architect George Livissianis on the Dolphin Hotel. I created some installation pieces for the interiors and lighting.
I also worked with incredible stylist and guru Megan Morton on a Christmas in July event at the Wolgan Valley Resort. Here I created floating installations inspired by the Australian bush. One of my oldest and earliest commissions was at the same resort, so it was lovely to be able to revisit this work and pair it with something new.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
Janet Laurence. I love Janet’s sensibility with nature and the environment, her works echo nature’s uniqueness and wonderment.
Joshua Yeldham. I adore Joshua’s sensitivity to nature, and his unique patterns and incredible detail. He captures mother nature’s spirit so beautifully.
Maria Fernanda Cardoso. I find Maria’s works delicate and beautiful. she captures nature at its most vulnerable, with an emphasis on form, structure and texture.
Can you list for us a few key resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?
Frida Kahlo’s garden. I adore the unique way Frida captures nature, it is so sensual yet graphic with a folk style to it. Her ability to combine patterns and details in both her art practice and garden is very inspiring.
Karl Blossfeldt. I love Karl’s photos of nature, they are so intricate, delicate but have a very architectural quality.
Brett Whitely. I love the way Brett captured nature with delicate lines, contrasting light and shade.
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
My most recent exhibition Paperbark at Saint Cloche Gallery in Paddington. I find every new exhibition pulls at my heart strings and is a celebration of new energy. New works are always created as a result of my intense relationship with the natural world and all of its incredible beauty. It’s amazing the gifts mother nature offers!
What would be your dream creative project?
To create an installation that takes up a huge area that people could walk through. I like the idea of viewers enjoying the work by walking in amongst the installation, experiencing it from every possible angle and immersing themselves in it, being transported some where else.
What are you looking forward to?
My first exhibition in Europe and a commissioned work in LA. Also my upcoming exhibition in September at the Sturt Gallery in the Southern Highlands.
Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?
Enmore, I love the eclectic mix of shops, it’s a treasure trove.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Sydney?
Whole fish with sorrel and herb butter with wood roasted veg at The Dolphin Hotel.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Walking in my local park or at my studio playing.
Sydney’s best kept secret?
It’s not a secret but I always discover something new at the cactus garden at the Royal Botanic Garden.