To be a free spirit in all aspects of creativity is a vital life force to me.
–Tracey Lee Cassin
Tracey Lee Cassin in her studio
For every single artist who swears by his or her years of formal training, there are ten more who experiment outside the so-called rules to move the medium forward. Imagine what route Western art would have taken had it not been for visionaries like Monet, Mondrian, and Warhol, to mention a few big names. In its time, even impressionism was frowned upon — today, it’s hard to fathom why someone would have a problem with Monet and the gang. But, the rebellion of novelty often conjures up resistance from conformists. As Alejandro Jodorowsky once said, “Those who live in a cage think flying is an illness”.
The intention here is not to antagonize formal norms; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The precedence of one cultural movement acts as a catalyst for the next one. Academic and non-academic pursuits are two sides of the same coin. Some visionaries arise from within the confines of intellectual queries, others from the boundless passion for expression. However, in the case of the latter, the lack of constraints is an overwhelming stimulant. Take contemporary abstract artist Tracy Lee Cassin as an example. She has no formal training whatsoever, a happenstance she cherishes most fondly.
Internal Spirals, Tracey Lee Cassin, copyright by the artist.
Growing up in Nelson, New Zealand, Tracy was surrounded by artistic fervour, “Family creativity in its many forms surrounded me as a child and young adult. My early years were influenced by the presence of my grandmothers 'still life's', an uncle’s charcoal drawings, my mother's pen drawings, and her oil painting. As a teenager, my brother and father's custom spray paint art”.
Her artistic journey began in her 20s with the experimental use of watercolour paint. These early works were twice selected in a prestigious New Zealand art competition, followed by her first exhibition. Over the years, she expanded her output to feature various styles and mediums. She has created 3D art, mosaic, acrylic, pen and ink, watercolour, gouache, pieces with the inclusion of mixed media elements and printmaking techniques. She has been recognized with over 60 awards internationally for her work, and through this has had collaborative learning experiences and opportunities in art, photography and digital art.
Merging waves, Tracey Lee Cassin, copyright by the artist
Some years ago, she started working on oil seascapes that have since become her signature. She loves the way blending oils move as they try to capture the ocean light, depth, shadows, and movement. While painting the seascapes, she gathers inspiration from the post-impressionist twirls of van Gogh and the work of contemporary Australian photographer Ray Collins. Her influences also include Georgia O’ Keefe, Frida Kahlo, and contemporary French-American artist Duaiv. Due to arthritis in her hands, her style has evolved and she now uses a spatula for painting. When detail is called for, she resorts to brushwork to emphasize the finer points. In fact, her fascination for Frida Kahlo stems from the very same fact. How Frida battled her affliction and recovered to a place of positive expression is a source of contentment and hope for the Kiwi artist. When asked about her style and what she hopes to achieve in her work, she responded, “Often hidden symbolism, hearts, numbers, spirals, and faces appear in my work. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not. Emotions, energy and spirituality are the catalysts to my paintwork. There is very little desire for perfection or realism. But an extension to thought, via placement of an infusion of strength, hope and courage into what I create. I offer the viewer of my work a portal to those feelings”.
Tracey Lee Cassin