This month Helium Gallery is proud to be hosting Auckland artists Kirsty Black’s latest exhibition; 47 Winks.
47 Winks is a show of lyrically abstract paintings which use playful shapes, multiple layers and washes of vibrant colour. The works create a space for the viewer to indulge in daydreams and let imaginations run wild.
In anticipation of this exhibition we have asked Kirsty a few questions which give an insight into her process and practice.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
Growing up, my family travelled extensively and I was immersed in stimulating, often multicultural environments including vibrant and intoxicating South East Asian cities to adventures in dramatic geological landscapes in South Africa. My mother was also very creative and modern in her tastes, with a love of bold, bright colours and abstract art. Ultimately, this background has left a lasting impression as well as a mental catalogue which I often draw on in my work.
What is happening in your art practice at the moment?
I’m lucky enough to have a fabulous new, airy studio which has allowed me to concentrate on some larger canvasses with a fresh, vital colour palette.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have, can you describe a typical day?
My husband and I have a new puppy so the most important ritual is walking the dog on the beach before heading to the studio, otherwise chaos ensues. This time also allows me to mentally plan my day. Then with a pot of strong coffee I (loosely) select the colours I intend to use and will spend some time reflecting on the paintings I have on the go, deciding what they need. I also spend quite a bit of time hauling the pup off the shelves and out of the paints!
What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever created?
Probably ‘Lobster Crèche’ - I’m particularly fond of the colour combination and composition of this painting. I’m also proud that it was a finalist in the Molly Morpeth Canaday Awards in 2017.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Storytelling is a family tradition, something we all love! Both my grandfathers were especially good at spinning a tale and in an increasingly homogenised world I like to create pieces that have the potential to let the imagination loose. I also want to convey a sense of fun.
How do you end up with the subject matter of your paintings? Do you have a subject matter?
The subject matter for my paintings is fairly loose because my work is abstract in nature. However, I consider my art to be a form of storytelling and liken the process of choosing the overall theme to the game we used to play as kids, when somebody started a story with a few lines and the next person picked it up and carried on around the circle until a wild, often fantastical yarn was created. Each painting is essentially a short story within the theme.
How do you come up with titles?
I love coming up with titles - I think they add to the sense of fun that I’m trying to create. I studied playwriting at university and for me the title sets the stage for the story, for example ‘Snug as 2 Bugs in a Rug’ is the first line of the story which the viewer can put their own spin on.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I would love to try my hand at sculpture and particularly admire the work of Anish Kapoor. The way he appears to effortlessly transform materials that are hard to manipulate into fluid shapes is inspirational and their presence within a space captivating.
When you are working do you listen to music, the radio or TV?
My studio backs on to bush with a lot of bird life, so I like to listen to their antics, especially first thing in the morning, or while I’m plotting the direction of a painting. Otherwise I tend to listen to a selection of CDs. I just need to make sure that my choice suits the mood of the piece, or there is the definite potential to ruin the painting! Happy Mondays, Look Blue Go Purple, Hoodoo Gurus are some of my favourite painting bands.
What paint do you use? Do you have a favourite brand?
I mainly use a combination of Matisse and Golden Fluid Acrylics. I like the chalkiness of Matisse, compared with some of the other brands which I find too plasticky. With the Golden Fluids I’m attracted by their versatility and vibrancy. I also like the acrylic paint pens and oil pastels for any mark making elements.
Do you work on one piece at a time or several?
I usually have 2 or 3 paintings on the go and will work on one for the better part of the day. The other 2 are propped up on a viewing shelf so that I can reflect on what they need while working on the other piece.
Do you have a motto or creed that you live by as an artist?
Paint what you love (mine is colour) while being mindful that painting is my job and should be treated as such.
What is the best advice you have been given as an artist?
I’m lucky enough to be friends with some well-known, established artists who are very generous with their encouragement and advice. Most recently an artist friend commented that my style suited larger canvasses and perhaps I should concentrate on bigger pieces – which is what I’m doing.
What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?
Find your style, develop it and have fun doing it. Also, remember not everyone will like your work and that’s OK.