In the studio with Genesis Tramaine. Words by James Ambrose

Firstly, I wanted to talk a little around your current exhibition at Almine Rech in Brussels, the show “Evidence of Grace” which is the 2nd solo show with the gallery, was created in the midst of this ongoing pandemic. Can you speak about its concept and how this series of work came about?  

Yes, I was studying Psalms 91, 51 & 23 daily in preparation for the release of the “Parables of Nana” show in London. During the opening of the show, we learned of the international lockdown, we learned that we were in the beginning. I rushed home, we all did. I went into prayer and asked that my family, friends and loved ones be covered. I came out of prayer anxious to busy myself. Found myself back in Psalms. I studied more about Saint David’ ( Author of the Psalms) and the portraits began to shape around Saints that revealed the gospel to me. The body of work is evidence of God’s grace because it was created during a baron season.

The paintings included in the show contain some of the largest pieces you have produced. When we first talked, you said you have plans for them to continue to scale in size?

Yes. I hope to. Let not my eyes grab more than my belly can consume, as my Nana would say. So I guess I should say I pray to [she laughs]. Truly, the gospel is in the detail of the work and that is present regardless of scale.

Looking back a few years, at what point did know you wanted to be an artist?

I've wanted to be an artist since I was a child. I took my prayers seriously, which means I began to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior about 4 years ago. I asked God if I could paint and pray, help and give, as an offering of service for the rest of my life. And the paintings began to mature. I committed to the relationship that painting offers spiritually, in Jesus name.

Installation View, Evidence of Grace, Almine Rech, Brussels, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech ©Genesis Tramaine. Photos by: Hugard and Vanoverschelde Photography

The 80’s graffiti scene in New York is something that is repeatedly referenced in comment on your work. Being born and having grown up in Brooklyn, along with the church, has the legacy of this scene also been a key influence on you?

I grew up seeing good graffiti and not so good graffiti as a Brooklyn kid. I also paused the television and drew my favorite cartoon characters or gospel singers. Black Woman University, the greatest creative influence in my life, fed me all types of lessons in art. To be honest, when I learned early in my career as an artist that I needed a bio, I tried to attach what I thought I saw in my work to words, so the "80’s graffiti scene in New York" thing was used as a description of my work before I met the Christ. It's been difficult to shake the language from the fruit of my labor since.

“I call myself a devotional painter,” this is a quote and title that really interests me, what does being a devotional painter mean to you?

It means that I paint as an offering of praise.

Your figures sit in their own space, often in a solitary state in front of bold, colour- blocked backgrounds. What leads you to depict your figures in this way and what influences the colour choices of the backgrounds?

I am grateful that the gospel forms as a portrait, it allows us to focus on one image. I think that the gospel forms as a portrait which allows me to create a focal point on the canvas. Color-blocking is intentional. It quiets the portrait. Color-blocking gives balance to the gospel - it gives the Saints space. Color-blocking gives room for the Saint to breath.

Installation View, Evidence of Grace, Almine Rech, Brussels, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech ©Genesis Tramaine. Photos by: Hugard and Vanoverschelde Photography

You mentioned that routine is something that you try to stick by, especially in such challenging times, what does a normal studio day look like?

A normal studio day involves prayer, lots of water and coffee usually, with Gospel music blasting. My paintings are laid on the ground over mats and I cast paint and I cast prayers. I listen, I dance; I let go. Sometimes I arrive at a gospel, shaped like a portrait. But I always arrive with evidence of God's grace.

What are the primary materials you employ in your practice?

Paint, Puddy and Prayer' in Jesus Name.

The term Yeshua (the Hebrew word used to refer to Jesus) is also often detailed in the list of materials of your paintings. Do you feel this is the most important “element” as such contributing to your practice?

Yes! Yeshua is the reason. Yeshua is my source and the sauce of the work! The Holy Spirit helps me by guiding my hands. In Jesus' name, I believe this to be true.

Installation View, Evidence of Grace, Almine Rech, Brussels, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist and Almine Rech ©Genesis Tramaine. Photos by: Hugard and Vanoverschelde Photography

What is it about painting and the act of creation that you love?

I am very good at it [she laughs]. Painting is fun for me, I've always had a natural knack for making stuff'. I love how challenging it is, I love how far my thoughts and prayers take me. I love how safe I feel in the creative process. It's a space where I don't have to be in charge.

After “Evidence of Grace” what are your upcoming plans for 2021? What are you working on currently?

Oh! I am currently reading the Gospel of John and I am so excited. It's been very challenging thus far which usually ignites excitement in my work. Curiosity keeps my kitchen hot with prayer. I am the current artist-in-residence at the Rubell Museum. “Sanctuary” is on view at the Rubell Museum in Miami. God has my hands busy within several assignments that I plan to share soon enough.

Can you see your practice expanding in time and evolving beyond painting into different mediums that can continue to spread your message?

I pray that God enlarges my territory. I am willing to do what God calls me to, to spread the good news'. Whatever God calls me to, I will do my best to answer to. I like being surprised.

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Photos By Ashley Dennis