When Kathryn relocated from Bristol, which had been her home for over 25 years and seen her development from young artist to independent professional she had to re establish herself. 2010 saw the opening of West Quay House, just off Poole Quay where she started over without artistic infrastructure but with new horizons. This will take you back to those early days, questions posed by a local journalist as she employed a local PR company for introductions.
Kathryn commenced Project Horizon in September 2011. It consisted of visiting the same place (the cliff top near Canford Cliffs library in Poole and West Undercliff promenade, below) at approximately the same time, every day for nearly two months to view the impact on the available light of changing weather patterns and as the days became shorter.
Question. Why did Project Horizon come about?
Answer. Garry Fabian Miller did a project where he photographed the Bristol Channel from the roof of his motherʼs house over a year but he did it within a range of landscape; a panorama. What I liked was the idea of the composition being the same but the light changing so there was always something the same about the series of work. Ten years ago, I experimented with this repeated image where I would have the stretcher [the canvas] the same size and have the same composition but give different qualities to the image. It was quite a simple composition of a horizon line about a third up from the bottom and there would be a different colour above the line and a different colour below the line. I would be looking at possible colours and impossible colours. That is to say, colours which you would think could not possibly exist in nature. Actually, when you look at the same composition repeatedly in different light, you do see some really whacky colours or interesting combinations of colours together. I was also interested in doing a series of works with a similar composition or similar factors running through it. What I have found is that when I limit myself to, for example, black and white imagery that can be more powerful than having lots of factors because I am concentrating or focussing on fewer factors and there are therefore fewer distractions. In other words, I can sometimes produce something more powerful from fewer choices. In Poole, the opportunity to come down to the cliff top every morning at roughly the same time seemed to stir up my interest again.
Question. Your paintings have very broad appeal. Did you embark upon this project for yourself or for your viewers?
Answer. (Long pause) Both because Iʼm a member of the public as well as an artist and when I go into a gallery or someoneʼs home, I like seeing a series of images whether they are photographs of the kids or a view out of the back window. I feel that people are drawn to series of images. I wasnʼt so regimented that I had to go every day. If I didnʼt go one day, it didnʼt matter. When I was in the swing of getting up every morning and going to the cliff top I did feel that I was missing out on days when I didnʼt go. I hurt that I didnʼt go. From the artists perspective, I would have liked to have been stricter with it – to see the infinite changes which take place every day. Ideally, I would have loved to have done it over the period of a year. But then the idea takes over from the end product.
I donʼt feel that I have completed the project I had in my mind all those years ago. Not that that matters because the imagery was only ever going to be the starting point, it was never going to be the finished composition. The project has created an exhibition which, hopefully local people are going to find interesting and it has enabled me to do some paintings which I think are affordable. Also, my original idea was to hang the whole project in the Clean Studio and in fact, once all the paintings were finished, that wasnʼt what happened.
Question. Is your perspective of a vision as an artist different from your personal perspective?
Answer. With Project Horizon, from a personal point of view, I found it more exciting to be down on the beach but up on the cliff top it was better for the ideas. You would expect the artist to experience what they want to paint so for me it would be down on the waterʼs edge looking at the light reflecting on the water up to my feet; being in it and absorbing the feeling of it rather than voyeuristically looking at it from hundreds of feet away. I conducted the project both ways where I would stay up on the cliff top while the light was coming up but then I would go down onto the beach and I would spend another couple of hours there.
Question. When you are looking at the weather and the light falling on the landscape or the water are you also thinking how that might translate to oil on linen?
Answer. I take a camera with me but I donʼt photograph as in documenting what I see, I photograph in a similar way as I would paint in terms of the composition so I would only photograph something if I thought it would be an interesting starting point for a painting. When I paint, I donʼt try and capture what had happened at that moment but I do look at things as if they were going to be a painting, with, for example, an horizon line a third of the way up. I do tend to look at things for inspiration so what I see, I photograph and that is the notebook or the sketchbook or the reminder for the painting when Iʼm in the studio. I took about 2100 photographs over the two months and when I sorted them all I had about 40 or 50 ideas. These ideas create the starting point but one idea might produce 20 paintings because as you paint, the process and mark making changes whatʼs happening in the painting so you push it in a direction which can be completely opposite to the starting point. Iʼve still got two or three years worth of paintings in my head. I donʼt think you could put a painting next to its photograph and know that it started from there because you donʼt know how itʼs changed in the meantime. The value of the photograph is that itʼs a starting point for painting.
Question. You always say that you donʼt tell the viewer what to see in your paintings rather that the viewer must see whatever it is they can see. But is it important to you that they recognize an experience?
Answer. Just engaging with the painting, thatʼs whatʼs important. Often, I have produced a painting which has gone in an altogether different direction from its starting point. I know that that resulting painting has come out of my head, Iʼve made it up, used whacky colours turned it inside out and upside down and it looks nothing like its starting point. Sometimes, maybe years later, I might ‘seeʼ that painting somewhere in nature. And you can take it as evidence or proof that you know what youʼre doing because itʼs happened somewhere. Itʼs confirmation that youʼre doing it right. Itʼs just a bit weird when you know youʼve made something up and then you see it and it seems the wrong way round that you should paint something before you see it. So I donʼt NEED viewers to have recognition but if they do recognize one of my paintings in nature then itʼs further confirmation that Iʼm getting it right..
Question. When you are faced with a blank linen, what are you trying to achieve?
Answer. April 2012 I am looking for different mark-making techniques or opportunities to carry on painting. I might start with what Iʼve learned about blending for example but then experiment by bringing in something else. The painting, then is created by mark making rather than trying to create a beautiful image. Itʼs whether itʼs the process or the final image which is the important thing. While Iʼm still painting or just after itʼs finished, the process is more important because I canʼt really ‘seeʼ the finished painting until itʼs not near me – maybe 20 years later. If itʼs still near me, I will keep wanting to work on it but if itʼs in someoneʼs house that I go to see years later, then I will appreciate it as if someone else painted it or I will see what the person who now owns it sees in it. And sometimes, I will think ‘how on earth did I do that?ʼ. But I know that however it came about it has helped me create all the paintings I have done since.
Question. Do you have favourite colours?
Answer. It changes all the time as I discover different paints and what I can do with them. Iʼm getting a lot of pleasure from indian yellow at the moment. Itʼs a dark yellow but itʼs transparent so it brings a warmth into other layers and glazes. I put magenta over quite a lot of stuff and it unifies the painting and brings it together. I never know how itʼs going to work. I donʼt have favourite colours, I have weapons to make my paintings look alright. I tended not to use white but I have started to use it. I like to try to bring unusual colours to something. I donʼt think two people see the same colour so thereʼs quite a lot to play with.
Question. A good proportion of your paintings are very dark. Are you in a different frame of mind when you paint dark?
Answer. No. My problem is that I overwork things because I will get an idea down which works but the quality of the finish isnʼt good enough so I put more work into it to get the depth of colour and the changing of the light. The more work that goes into a painting, the more difficult it becomes to achieve both the quality of the mark making and the layering. My husband sometimes tries to stop me from over-working my paintings.