You have said that your "work is grounded in nature." Can you expand upon how your work is informed by a close relationship to nature and observed processes of change? Could you say that this is paralleled by how you embrace the materiality of the painting process?
Though I don't necessarily seek out transitive qualities while I'm in nature, I do spend a fair bit of time looking at the natural world. It happens that the qualities that I find appealing in small objects (leaves, flowers, bark) as well as in the larger scheme (trees and rivers) are the tangible results of weather and the passage of time. I am often captivated by the compositions available in nature - often a random array or some interplay of light and color appear as an elemental gestalt.
Whatever I pay attention to while in nature, I seldom aspire to a realistic representation of it in my art work. My artistic response to nature is primarily an effort to express anew some lingering detail or cumulative impression through a process which regardless of any conceptual overtones is recognizably organic once the paint hits the canvas. I don't deliberate the process but occasionally I do find it interesting to consider in retrospect my collaboration with whatever media I happen to use.
Is the manner in which you title your work important? They seem to act as jumping off points for the viewer to enter into your work through . . .
I have done many River works over the years in a variety of media and I have also used the title Rime previously for a painting that referred to the stark contrast between the marble fountain of antiquity and the endurance of the natural spring. Rime also means a coating of frost and for this river series based on spring melt, it seemed a good fit. Each piece in this current river series happened to remind me in retrospect of a previous work. So, in this instance, recycling and recombining titles helps me at least, keep those associations in mind while providing additional and optional information for the viewer.
How do you view abstraction? Do you find it important to contextualize your work within theories of abstraction?
I view abstraction as creating a new visual experience that results from a transformation of the subject rather than from a realistic translation of it.
My work is most often a response to something in the natural world. I appreciate and highly regard accomplished abstract artists such as Gerhard Richter, Helen Frankenthaler, Arthur Dove whose range of work includes some measure of representation or recognizable reference to nature or humankind along the way.
Can you speak to the role of travel in your studio practice? How does travel/ a sense of being transitory inform your engagement with nature?
A few years ago, I based a year long installation project on the Whitemud River Valley near where I was born and raised. It allowed new works to evolve over a long period of time and resulted in travels abroad as well as to familiar areas including the Grasslands of Saskatchewan.
For the greater portion of my life, I lived either on the bank of a river (both the North and South Saskatchewan) or in very close proximity to it. And, my recent travels to England and Germany and Wales included a great amount of time exploring rivers among other excursions both rural and urban - the Swansea area of Wales being of particular interest.
Travel does contribute to the greater continuum of my engagement with nature, though I seldom contemplate why or how it all happens.
Kelly, in the past you have referred to the space between a painting and the viewer as an interleaf (a live wire of perception) – could you expand on this idea?
When I view a work that captivates me, I find it intriguing to consider how the visual world can be so clear without being articulate. Some understanding or affinity is evident and can often lead to a deeper understanding of oneself or a place, along with a keener perception of the work of art.
In a conversation with John Chalke, I discovered we shared a mutual admiration for the Whitemud region in south Saskatchewan. His knowledge of the earth and clay was astounding to me, but it was not surprising considering I had been captivated by his work for years. What did surprise me was how it made me see my own work (paintings of that region) in a new way, too, as happens when some affinity or recognition is sparked. It affirmed my passion for the materiality of creating art. It is not essential to understand the meaning of a work to gain something from its significance.