The Dirt: Tracey Deep

Words by
Georgina Reid
Images by
Daniel Shipp
| May 27, 2015

Tracey Deep is a curator of nature. She transforms found objects, old industrial materials, and bits and pieces of the natural world  – all of which are often discarded without a thought – into seriously beautiful sculptures and installations, heightening and celebrating their unique forms, textures, and colours.

Tracey's Redfern studio
Tracey's Redfern studio

Tracey’s studio in Redfern is a wonderland for anyone with even a passing interest in the sculptural qualities of plants. It’s packed to the brim with sticks, leaves, nuts, flowers, rolls of wire, logs, you name it. If its dead, and its origins lie in the plant world, it’s probably in Traceys studio.

It’s like an exquisitely beautiful graveyard for dead botanica. Nearly all the bits and pieces in the space have passed their traditional use-by dates, but to Tracey they’re even more beautiful in death than in life. ‘I’m the queen of decay!’ she says with a laugh.

Tracey has worked with nature for over twenty years now. She started off working with florists Susan Avery and then Alison Coates, before starting her own business as a floral sculptor. Whilst she works with flowers, she has never called herself a florist. ‘If you call yourself a florist, people put you in a little box. I look at it more as an artform’ she says.

Her obsession with collecting bits and pieces of the natural world started very young. ‘I was one of those kids who collected things all the time. My first project at high school was collecting rocks. I turned it into a project about volcanic rocks. They weren’t actually volcanic though, I just made it up! I was just a mad collector of nature.’

Not much has changed it seems, and nature obviously remains Tracey’s chief teacher and inspirer. ‘I’m always in the park’, she says, ‘always somewhere with trees. It’s food for the soul and the best therapy’, she laughs. This reverence for the natural world is obvious in the way that Tracey works with materials. She seems to have a gift of heightening the beauty of an object – twisting it around and making people see it in both a new, and an old way without compromising the integrity of the material.

'I like taking risks. I like to challenge myself a lot, especially with art.'
'I like taking risks. I like to challenge myself a lot, especially with art.'
One of Tracey's most recent artworks - native ferns woven together to form a hanging sculpture.
One of Tracey's most recent artworks - native ferns woven together to form a hanging sculpture.
Traceys' hair reminds me of her artwork and her studio - gently curated nature!
Traceys' hair reminds me of her artwork and her studio - gently curated nature!

An average day for Tracey involves a trip to the flower markets, yoga, a walk, and then mornings spent working on orders. She has a bunch of regular corporate and private clients she does floral sculptures for – mixing the vitality and colour of fresh flowers with the subtle beauty of nuts, dried leaves and flowers. Once the orders are done, the fun begins – Tracey starts playing with her art. It’s obvious that this is where her heart lies.

The concept of play is very important to Tracey and her art making process. Strict, straight lined symmetry is not her thing. She creates with heart and intuition, and a sense of joy. ‘I try to keep things relaxed and fun and whimsical. To me, my creative process is all about playing….That’s where my ideas come from’, she says.

Ideas are certainly something Tracey has in abundance. Being a natural collector, Tracey finds all sorts of interesting bits and pieces on her walks, on the street, or given to her by friends, which she stores in her studio until inspiration for an artwork strikes. When it does, she can’t stop.

‘I’m always thinking and feeling and the ideas are always coming, so I have to keep producing’, she says.

Tracey’s art is in demand. She has works held in Macquarie Group’s private collection, is championed by many dedicated private collectors, and in August this year is having a retrospective exhibition at the Penrith Regional Gallery, a culmination of 8 years of solidly exhibiting.

If a retrospective isn’t enough to keep her busy, she is also having an exhibition called ‘Spirit’ at Saint Cloche in July, an exhibition of new works ‘which are currently lying about your feet’, she tells me, at Depot Gallery in September, and one also at Koskela later in the year. She’s a prolific creator!

It seems to me that what underpins all Tracey’s creative endeavours is her particular way seeing. She sees things others don’t. Her gift is taking the beauty she finds in often invisible, everyday objects, and translating it in a way that encourages others see it too. Whether its in a floral arrangement, a floating garden installation, or in an artfully woven sculpture consisting of an old cane lounge found on the side of the road, Tracey finds a way to communicate the nature of the material in a reverent and extremely beautiful manner. She is a true curator of nature.

Tracey doesn’t have a website but does have a great instagram account. Check it out here.

Tracey camouflaged in her studio.
Tracey camouflaged in her studio.
Dead flowers, seeds, nuts, and foliage abound in Tracey's studio.
Dead flowers, seeds, nuts, and foliage abound in Tracey's studio.
‘Sometimes people ask me how much something is and I say "oh, no, I can’t part with that". Even a piece of old wire…. '
‘Sometimes people ask me how much something is and I say "oh, no, I can’t part with that". Even a piece of old wire…. '
Tracey's studio overflows with wild nature.
Tracey's studio overflows with wild nature.
Studio details.
Studio details.
'I think nature has really taught me a lot', Tracey says, when asked how she learnt her craft.
'I think nature has really taught me a lot', Tracey says, when asked how she learnt her craft.

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