Increasingly housing estates are encroaching into bushland, and increasingly artists are giving voice to our natural environment. One such artist is Prue Kirkcaldie who is exhibiting her latest body of work, progressivethinking, at Qdos Arts in Lorne. In her three dimensional paintings and wall sculptures, Kirkcaldie depicts symbols of the Australian bush and housing developments, to explore notions about Australia’s unprecedented population growth and our perceptions of permanence.
I asked Prue some questions about her art practice and here she discusses her processes, her ‘influencers’, and her use of matchsticks which give her work a distinctive aesthetic.
What is the main medium you work in? Why do you like this medium?
I use canvas, oils, plywood and balsa wood. I work with these mediums because they allow me to tell stories about the human condition. The mass produced balsa wood sticks are my metaphor for the human race. I like to work with equal sized balsa sticks. I glue them to canvas or board then I return each stick to its individual state by sculpturing them one by one. Taking something that’s mass produced and returning it to an individual state is my vehicle for storytelling. I’m very interested in Australia’s unprecedented population growth, mass production and the loss of skills that come from changing politics around these issues.
How would you describe your work?
My work is completely unique. I purposefully don’t follow genres. My work is three dimensional, light sensitive painting and sculptures about issues I feel strongly about. This particular body of works is about the destruction of our bush environment to make way for mass produced housing and gardens. I’m not saying we can’t do it. I’m just saying we should think very carefully about how we do it. It’s like sitting a test if we get this right we get to keep all that we value – if we don’t …
How important is art to you?
Art or images for me is the visual emotional content of life. Throughout the ages images and art have shaped the way humans think about themselves and the world around them, and have represented the core values of a society.
Can you tell us about any challenges you have had in your art practice?
My challenge is self belief and the feeling that what I have created is never good enough.
What sort of research and or reference materials do you do use for your work?
I take things in everyday by osmosis. I read books and I am a keen observer of life around me. I take a lot of photographs, although I don’t copy photos in my practice as it influences my work too much to the literal. I search the web, I ask questions, I love getting into philosophical discussions about life and politics.
What are your plans and processes for making art?
Always planning by the week before an exhibition. This exhibition was a year in the planning and creating. My process is the generation of ideas and the massaging of those until they are workable as art on various levels. I then draw out the works in pencil, glue the matchsticks to the canvas, carve them, sand/gesso/sand/gesso, then begin to paint. Some of my paintings have as many as 50 layers of oils on them.
Has there been a highlight in your art career?
Yes, going to the VCA in 2003 and 2004 as part of their ‘after-hours program’. It provided the paradigm shift I was looking for and I got to show my work in the prestigious VCA gallery and again in their student gallery.
Did you have an inspirational teacher or have any artists been an inspiration to you?
There were some great artists teaching us at art school, John Drawbridge and others. There were also three post grad students (who all went into the film industry) who influenced me – they could draw like the wind. Other artists are my influencers: people like Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Andy Goldsworthy whose work I love for its innovation and originality but don’t want to copy, Alexandra Calder (fabulous kinetic sculptural artist who lived in France), plus many more. I’m particularly interested in the contemporary Chinese artists. I love the way some of them bring together ideas/craft and originality. We are so stuck in the west for ideas. Everyone seems to be copying a genre of some kind and not many artists bring a new layer or add a level to that genre. So work tends to spiral out of control and over the top in the artist’s effort to get noticed.
Have you ever made an art trip overseas?
In 2009 I attended an artists’ retreat in France working in the abstract genre. I also attended the Biennale in Venice and went to all the great galleries in Rome and Paris. The world wide stage is inspirational.
If there was one piece of artwork you could have in your collection, what would it be and why?
Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (Chicago) by Anish Kapoor. I love it because of the idea he has presented to us – infinity. Every time you look at it, it changes. It is limitless – that is an enormously powerful idea.
Where are you based?
Melbourne and Angelsea.
How do you start your typical working day?
I walk to the studio with my favourite friend Buster (one little black dog). I attend to emails then get into the day and leave around 5pm. You have to be very disciplined.
When are you at your most creative?
When I’m relaxed and in Spring for some reason.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
To love and live life to the fullest – don’t waste a day!
progressivethinking is on until 15 May at Qdos Arts, 35 Allenvale Road, Lorne.