Georgia Spain: Her Own Agenda

With a knockout solo show and new gallery representation, Georgia Spain is setting collectors’ tongues wagging.

Words: Camilla Wagstaff

Georgia Spain likes to think of each of her painting series as a family. Each work brings its own personality to the fore – a sassy aunt, a belligerent mother-in-law, a slightly inappropriate cousin. She’s particularly interested in how, much like a family, complex dynamics emerge as the works relate to, compete with, engage in, and converse with one another.

The UK-born, Melbourne-based painter has quickly risen to fame for her huge, gestural oil paintings that occupy the slippery spaces between figuration and abstraction. Frequently visited themes are also family adjacent, examining ideas around the human spectacle, theatre, relationships, and rituals.

“I see the canvas as a place to explore ideas and I work very intuitively when it comes to subject matter,” says the artist. “I’m learning to trust my instinct; to trust that there is a reason I seek out particular images even if I don’t quite understand it at the time.”

These images – which Spain sources from news, current affairs, films, and other texts – often contain groups of people in the midst of movement. She’s also drawn to looseness in the physical act of painting, expertly transferring expressive energy from hand to canvas.

Her works’ surfaces are richly layered and textured, revealing moments of control and chaos – at times, it appears her oils have taken on an agenda of their own. More recently, her work has drifted further from direct depiction; her figures and narratives have become more enigmatic and obscured.

Graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2015, Spain won the coveted Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2020, which included a two-week residency in Kangaroo Valley. Spain sees the residency as a pivotal moment in her practice. “I felt I made some personal breakthroughs in my work and deepened my understanding of myself as an artist,” she says. It seems the critics agreed, with Spain taking home the prestigious Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales a year later.

After a knockout show with her Melbourne gallery, Tolarno, in 2022, Spain picked up representation with Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide earlier this year. The body of work for her debut show in South Australia is drawn together by an attempt to capture and convey various emotional states, continuing Spain’s exploration and expansion of paint as the medium of choice.

“I’ve been looking at a lot of abstract painting and while I still see a lot of figuration in this work, I think the ideas have become broader and looser,” she says. “I’m thinking through ideas around abundance, bodies, excess, ruptures, erasure, togetherness, proximity, and action. Plus birth, life and death, of course!”

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 105, July-September 2023. 

Feature Image: Georgia Spain, Nervous endings, 2023. Oil on canvas, 222 x 152cm. Photo: Christian Capurro. Courtesy: the artist and Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Artist Profile: Abdullah M. I. Syed

Abdullah M. I. Syed unpacks the long and intertwined histories of Western contemporary art and South-Asian arts and craft practices.

Artist Profile: Aiko Robinson

With thick peachy penises and erect pink nipples, the intimate works of Aiko Robinson leave us longing.

Artist Profile: Brie Trenerry

During lockdown, when those close to her began watching SKY news, Brie Trenerry turned to art.

Artist Profile: Monica Rani Rudhar

Through her work, Monica Rani Rudhar feels she is able to touch what is not there, see what is lost and feel what has passed.

Artist Profile: Jan Murray

With equal parts contemplation and humour, Jan Murray gives status to the common puffer jacket.

Artist Profile: Kirtika Kain

Avoiding an aesthetics driven by victimhood, Kirtika Kain’s painterly approach to the identity of her caste, which continues to be dehumanised as untouchables, is an exciting explosion of joy, warmth and opulence, from which anger can still be felt.