STUDIO ARTIST INTERVIEWS

KATE MCKAY

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an artist?  

 

I’ve always been interested in making art ever since I was little, and I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family who encouraged me to pursue it. I completed my Fine Art degree in 2013 and haven’t really stopped making and showing art since! I honestly think I can only label myself an artist because I’m persistent with it.

How do you describe the work that you make? 

My painting practice explores the connections between imagined concepts of nature and the self. Through my work I investigate how humans construct ideas about the natural world by creating sublime and artificial landscapes. My paintings are about my own imagination of a natural space, as opposed to a depiction of a site situated in our physical reality.

 

What’s your earliest memory of making art? Do you feel like the work you make now has a connection to that moment? 

My earliest memories of making art are from when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I made several little illustrated books which featured short stories of witches, fairies and animals. Like most kids I was obsessed with magic and desperately wanted my fantasies to become real. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become increasingly interested in channeling and exploring these inner worlds that we are so in-touch with as children.

 

When did you realise you needed a studio space? Was it a conscious decision or something you’ve always understood to be a requirement for being an artist? 

I don’t believe you need a studio to be an artist, though it certainly helps having a larger space and separation from home life. I realized I needed a studio space when I had several large paintings I wanted to make which I couldn’t in my apartment (which is too small). When I’m making large works I need distance so I can see the work in its entirety. There’s a lot of walking back and forth when painting big! Also you need storage space which again is restricted with where I live.

 

I also love being able to go to a studio which is separate from my home life. It makes me feel more motivated to work (with its lack of reminders of chores I need to do!) and the community is great. Bumping into other artists at the studios is a highlight for me, even if it’s a generic exchange of hello. Artists experience a lot of solitude as part of their job and so it’s uplifting to see others when you’re by yourself all day. I love talking to others about their practice and getting feedback on my work which you can’t do when you’re at home. It’s really inspiring and makes me work harder!

 

Can you tell us a little about your process? What does a day in the studio look like for you? Do you spend entire days in the studio, or do you flit in and out? 

 

I work part-time so can’t be at the studios every day, but I try to commit to working a few full days a week there. When I’m in the studio on my full days I try to get there around 9am and work till 5 or 6pm, so a typical work day. Usually at the beginning of the day I’ll go in and assess what desperately needs to be fixed with a painting and I’ll usually start there. I tend to make the most drastic changes to a painting in the morning so I have the rest of the day to figure out how to ‘make it work.’ I usually listen to music or podcasts while I work and paint for several hours with a few breaks to stretch and eat. When starting a body of work I generally have source imagery which includes drawings and photos. After a lot of deliberation I’ll make an initial first layer in monochrome of the image either free-hand or using a projector. The subsequent layers of painting usually build up over a few months as I work between multiple paintings. It’s a really slow process but I have a lot of patience!

 

Outer Space is situated in the cultural hub of Brisbane, with major institutions and commercial galleries within walking distance. Does this impact your experience of the studio? If so, how? 

Outer Space being situated where it is allows me to feel connected to the larger art community. I enjoy visiting Milani Gallery and GOMA/ QAG which are in walking distance from the studio – visiting galleries instantly gives me inspiration and motivation to keep making work. However the most important thing for me is still working in a studio with other artists.

 

How important is a location to studio spaces? What are the essentials you have in mind when looking for somewhere to work? 

Somewhere relatively easy to get to from where I live that has good public transport around it (like Outer Space).

 

Finally, why is art, and being an artist important right now? 

 

This is a tricky question! Art is important to me as it can provide a means of escapism and allows me to find stillness of mind. This approach to art is what I’m interested in, especially in our current circumstances. I hope people can find quiet solace in my paintings as a way to counter the constant anxiety caused by current world crises and social media.

Outer Space acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land where this project takes place, Meanjin, and pays respect to Elders - past, present and emerging. 

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