A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference - Lisa Muddiman-Gray

Frolicking with the Flow – Artists’ Corner Presents: Lisa Muddiman-Gray

Like her distinctive artistic ability, Lisa Muddiman-Gray’s path to the professional art world was an impulsive and unique journey. One that has resulted in her development of skills in batik, watercolour painting and the crafting of her own frames – an intricate segment that completes many pieces she has produced.

As is universal with students of the creative arts who have graduated into the professional arena, Lisa has her own story to relay starting with her days in the UK where she noticed her particular talent for art: “I remember being at school and winning an art prize, so I thought, this is for me,” she said simply of her decision to progress in the art world, but there’s nothing simple about the pieces she creates.

Following her education in “A-level Art at school [in the UK] and then an intense art foundation course for one year, which covered graphic design, fine art, ceramics, photography, fashion and textiles,” Lisa discovered she had a fondness for the fashion and textiles side of the art world.

'Heliconia'  (or Lobster Claw) batik in a whitewashed barn wood frame - A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference

This compelled her to advance to the next level in applying to do a BSc Honours degree in textile design. Learning the intricate details of textiles involving knitting, printing, woven textiles, quality control and textile history, comprised this four-year degree, which drew out her profound passion for the art form. “My third year [of the course]… was working at an African batik company in Manchester, England where we designed batiks that were printed and shipped to Kenya. That’s where I fell in love with the whole process of batik.”

The creative procedure of batik is a complicated design style and Lisa explained: “Batik is normally associated with fabrics. It’s the use of wax and the wax acts as a resist against dye…the fabric’s dyed traditionally with indigo coloured dye. Then you will find they crack the wax and re-dye it and the dye seeps through where the cracks are…other colours can be added later and printed on.”

Relaying her knowledge of the world of batiks, she further explained: “Indonesian batiks are often like smaller designs, more repetitive, lots of dots used, more subdued colours, often browns and yellows.” Influenced by her knowledge of global art and desire to explore the world, Lisa started her travels with her first destination as the BVI.

'Pink Hibiscus' Batik in a pink frame - A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference

Ironically, the allure of the region put an abrupt halt on her world tour “…the BVI was actually my first stop. After I decided this was where I was going to live for a while. I applied for a trade licence and I was still very heavily influenced by my textiles and I knew I wanted to paint, but I wanted to do fabrics.”

The artist has now lived in the BVI for 22 years, inspired by the colours and the water—scuba diving when she first arrived—all acting as attractions for her art work.

“If I had stayed in England I don’t think I would have been painting and owned an art gallery,” she said, indicating that the move to the BVI was a huge influence over the course of her life and career.

Despite her desire to continue with textiles, use of fabrics was prohibited in her new found business venture, so Lisa—knowing she wanted to continue with her skills in batiks—developed a technique where she utilised the wax on paper. Although Lisa speculates that others have attempted this, at the time, she considered it a novel approach, which developed into her trademark – batik on paper.

'Purple Bougainvillea' batik in a silver frame - A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference

When she paints, she melts her wax which is a mixture of paraffin wax—which is very brittle—and bee’s wax, which is soft. “I have my little combination,” she said. “I melt the wax in an old Baked Beans tin in a pot of water on a stove. The tool I use is a tjanting…it’s an Indonesian tool. It’s like a pipe with a little nib on the end. I dip that in the hot wax and draw with that on plain paper. The temperature of the wax determines the speed at which it flows so often I have very little control.”

“I may drop a couple of drops of wax, but those just become incorporated into the design. Then I apply my paint and I often saturate areas of the paper so it spreads the paint. Some areas restrict the paint flow where they are enclosed in with the wax lines and then in other areas it will just break free. I often feel that when I am painting, the painting creates itself.”

Seeing patterns in nature was a huge driving force for Lisa’s work and a lot of those intricate details became her subjects as is evident from her creations. As an agent for many renowned BVI artists like Jill Tattersall, Christine Taylor and Jinx Morgan, Lisa has found inspiration in their community.

Red Hibiscus' in a pale gold frame - A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference

Being a watercolour artist as well—a very popular art form in the BVI—she has found that their ideas and education, whether formal or self-taught,allows them to collaborate and encourage each other.

Nevertheless, she is more partial toward batik: “There are so many techniques and rules [in watercolour art]. I don’t remember having any proper lessons at school or college to teach me how to do watercolours. It was all self-taught and I wasn’t very good at following the rules,” she said. “I think that’s why I love the batik, because they’re my rules.”

'Heliconia' Batik in a pale green frame - A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference

The additional skill to Lisa’s repertoire, is her production of frames, which she has been creating for 7 years and form part of her art works as a personalised touch. The triangle framed works she is known for can be hung to their desired preference and have become a part of her tailored brand.

With all this in mind, Lisa has created a conspicuous trademark for herself in the BVI. It is highly likely that many residents and visitors that pass through have one of her creations decorating their wall.

Green Sea Turtle' Print from a watercolour with Indonesian wood block print background - A BVI Art Gallery with a Difference