The first time I met Grace Tankard was in Amsterdam. Back then, this young Australian graphic designer was studying in the Netherlands. Grace arrived with rainbow dip-dyed eyebrows and parrot-shaped earrings. Her eclectic, yet unpredictable style is something that reappears in her artwork as well. It was a beautiful expression of what one can call “crossing boundaries in everyday society”, where people are used to plain and grey. I love that as well, but as opposites attract, this stream of creativity Grace was dressed-up in made me remember her. And that is why, one year after our first meeting, I am writing an article about this young creative soul.
The next day, after a rooftop party somewhere in Amsterdam and a morning with gojiberries for breakfast, I took her to Noordermarkt in Amsterdam. This little vintage book, clothing and organic food market is definitely a must-do when staying in Amsterdam. Hidden behind a church, located right near a canal, Noordermarkt gracefully encompasses the city in miniature. But, I’ll save my love for this ideal saturday morning spot for another article. This one is about Grace, as eclectic as the market is.
While she was holding an art-book I asked her why she liked contemporary art, she said: “It’s abstract”. Now Grace explained this notion to me a bit less abstract. She loves works of art, unconventional, design or even when something is edited from it’s original status, which call for different perspectives. Abstract art allows that. Think of a sculpture you have to walk around to see and experience it fully. Grace loves to make people see things in a different light to what they are used to. She explains that the object they stare at “could be one thing, something else or maybe nothing at all”.
THE HAPPINESS PROJECT
Grace’s style is unpredictable, just like laughter. After all, that is what she aims at. Not necessarily to be laughed at of course, but to create things that make people smile and laugh. She likes reactions, that’s why she keeps things light-hearted through images or objects. How gloomy and dark the subject may be, she will still try to put a smile onto people’s faces. But when is someone happy, what is happiness? Lately she became interested in the discussion and definition of the term ‘happiness’. She told me that “the research has been going on for more than 2500 in China, India and Greece by great thinkers and philosophers like Confucius, Buddha, Socrates and Aristotle”.
The occurrence of these wonderful names in the world of thinking in Graces field of interest shows that this Australian artist is more than just a creative mind. She doesn’t just draw, design or create, she combines it with thinking and reflecting it, consciously or not, in her colourful work.
ADVERTISEMENT: THE SYMBOLISM OF EUPHORIA
Advertisement and branding seems to be exactly that symbolism of happiness in these Post-Modern times. Or at least, that is what I can derive from what Grace tries to say when she told me that “all advertising tries to persuade an enriched happy life, including religion, politics and everything which is based around the creation of ultimate happiness”. Personally she thinks this questioning derives from her own questions and ailments in life. But, by overcoming them, she opens up a field of exploration. In a way her victories seem to create happiness and that is exactly what she wishes to recreate for other people, the viewers of her work on whom she wants to see a smile.
CLAY RUBBER PLASTIC MACBOOK
I asked Grace with which of the above she would work with if she was asked to create a masterpiece. She immediately responded that she would use all of them. Her working usually hits off with a macbook and a pile of published books. After that she uses pen and paper for the model making and the materials. At the moment, Grace loves to work with clay and fimo, a sort of clay you can bake in the oven at home without needing a kiln, like with ceramics. Her biggest dream thus is to have a florist with a milinery and a ceramics studio in the back. She says it would have such an amazing smell hanging around there, so the place would be perfect to make wonderful creations.
Although her dream looks very specific, when it comes to her working process, Grace reveals that she doesn’t have an outlined plan. Usually she is working on a few completely different things at a time, whereby new ideas and decisions seem to pop up during the process every now and then. It is hard to choose one direction for Grace, so when there is a deadline, she is actually grateful for it to make her finish her work in time.
HANDS AND MIND
The reason for this abundance of ideas and occasional chaos is perhaps the effect of Grace’s curious and interested character. Before she actually gets started, she does a lot of research. Thus it isn’t just a stream of creativity she expresses in one single move. No, in fact she loves the library, as she tends to get lost in the abyss of the internet whereby in the end she has hundreds of new tabs opened, waiting for her to be incorporated in her inspirational mood-board. So, the slower pace of the library helps her to get inspired in a relaxed way. She even loves paper and pen, as it’s a good way to interact and get touched with your idea or work of art. Lovely, this occasional preference for the natural over the digital.
DOLLS, IDOLS AND ISLANDS
When you look at Grace, whether it is her work or the way she dresses, you can’t describe it in just three words. Or perhaps you can in just one: indescribable. Grace’s taste changes daily, every mood and reason is linked to another designer or vintage item. She loves designers like Kenzo and Celine, but also her national Ozzy prides like Emma Mulholland, P.A.M., Josh Goot and Romance Was Born. But if she really had to, she would describe her style as eclectic, undefined, fun, dramatic and playful, which I think is a very valid ‘definition’.
But, she doesn’t only care about wearing beautiful prints and textiles. She loves to create fabrics. The reason is that she likes to creates moods, and textiles can bring images to live and obviously be worn by us, the living humans. At the moment she is working on a tapestry with reference to the Windows XP desktop as ‘home’, another one of her witty inclusions of humour. And even with this project she is exploring the theme ‘happiness’. To give a little hint: she is including smell in this project as well. So it won’t just be a pleasure for the eye, she is including the other senses as well.
Just like most little girls, Grace has always looked up to her dad whom she refers to as “a certified genius”. In general she truely admires people who work hard and do what they want to, while being succesful at it. Throughout this article you may have noticed that Grace is interested in serious matters as well, which a tunnel-visioned opinion wouldn’t say when he sees her wearing eclectic patterns and colours at first. But on the other hand, Grace definitely shows a lot of respect for hair dressers and fashion designers as well. It is a combination of interests and inspirations that trigger her to make this art that goes beyond a strict definition. Because yes, she does look up to astronauts as well. As long as someone is satisfied with what he or she does in the present and is good at it. I think that is a very Buddhist way of thinking and thus I can only applaud her, Grace, for that open-minded way of thinking.
ISLAND AND LAND
Apart from her latest nightmare, whereby she looses all of her teeth, Grace dreams of visiting islands. If you meet her in her daydreams she will probably be on Flamingo Beach in Aruba, while singing “Aruba, Jamaica, oo I wanna take ya”
So, from this long but dreamy post about a girl who’s mind travels like a racket from libraries, to islands, to Buddha and Kenzo, it is time to land here and start dreaming yourself.