Artist Q & A – ‘In the Flow’ by Katherine Wood

Catching up with the lovely Katherine Wood is always a pleasure, and we were super excited to see her latest body of work for ‘In the Flow’ currently exhibiting at Red Hill Gallery, 61 Musgrave Road, Red Hill Brisbane.

AC:  You’ve added some new paintings to the gallery for this new exhibition, being works of different animals with a figure climbing. Can you elaborate on the symbolism of the hiking man?

KW:  Katherine’s Symbiosis series depicts the idea of working with your subconscious (the animal) and that through the power of ones mind, one can accomplish anything (the human).

There is a natural force steering us; a desire, general energy or strong will. However, in most cases our subconscious mind stands in our way which produces doubt or negative thoughts.  This ‘doubt’ depicted by the confronting animal is something we are forever trying to tame.  Here the attention of the viewer is turned from the enormity of the animal (our fear) to the lone figure (confidently climbing and defiantly conquering it).  Although we are small in the bigger scheme of things, if we choose to remain strong, harness our positive energy and thoughts and remain reflective and be in the moment then our ‘fear’ can be mounted and that we can achieve anything.

Each work is of a limited edition giclee reproduction of a worldwide distribution of 60 each.

AC:  The colour palette of some of the new paintings in the collection are soft and subdued. Was this to create a certain mood for the paintings?

KW:  Primarily I use earthy colours with the use of the colours conveying an earthbound primordial quality.  These colours underline the expression of natural potency of the natural world and in  particular its atmospheric conditions.  The introduction of the recent subdued colour palette is softer in creating a more gentle energy that brings with it a sense of calm. It is what it is and everything is going to be okay. The sky is portrayed with blending brush strokes in a comingling of hues which capture the inconstant nature of the atmosphere which is juxtaposed with the earth that is painted in a thick and static manner which comments on the permanence of the earth.  Here again a play on the beautiful contrast of surety and change. Katherine continues to express the intangible into the visible, thereby bestowing the viewer with the means to explore emotions and sensations in an aesthetically alluring manner.  “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” Echart Tolle

 AC: Has moving from South Africa to Australia impacted the way you create art in a way you hadn’t initially anticipated?

KW:  Yes, definitely. In South Africa we lived in a small coastal town called Knysna. We renovated a gorgeous wooden cottage in a forest where my husband built my studio and both our daughters Satara and Meagan were born. Sadly last month Knysna was devastated by a fire, taking over 1000 homes in its wave of destruction.  Our home of over 10 years being one of them.  I feel subconsciously  I am no longer afraid and that I am ready to embrace our life here. My work has definitely. expanded in relation to subject matter. Introducing the theme of the ocean (being the symbol of change) and that of the animal “symbiosis” series (with the idea of conquering your fear). My work since being in Australia has definitely. become more experimental and confident and I feel like there is still so much I need to learn and do. I am so excited for the future here in Australia and so grateful my daughters get to live in such an incredible country.

AC:  What piece of advice have you been given that’s been most helpful to you?

KW: My high school art teacher told me to always remain true to my own style of art (not to try to please everybody) and not to try and be something that you not. I also love the advice of these quotes; “Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend it’s whole life believing it is stupid” – Albert Einstein “You don’t have to explain anything to anybody about anything” –  Abraham Hicks  “Let your hard work be your voice” –  unknown “Storms make trees take deeper roots”  – Dolly Parton “The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wandering. Idiots are always dead sure of every damn thing they are doing in life” – Vasudev

AC:  You often feature thick impasto textures in your paintings. What inspired you to create this theme in your pieces?

KW:  Canadian painter Lawren Harris once said, “Paintings come out of themselves.” I truly believe this and it is how I approach my work. Most of my paintings are spontaneous and they simply evolve from the process of painting. I like to work in layers. Creating ongoing, illusions of space. By using this thick impasto technique it reinforces the idea of space, breaking the very two dimensional quality of the canvas surface taking it almost into a 3D illusion reinstating the infinite and at the same time reaffirming that there is nowhere else other than the here and now – the final destination.  This texture pulls the viewer even further into the painting and at the same time adds a very tactile experience. Katherine Wood creates paintings that are half way to becoming real a cloud and being paint – something like us – stuck between frequency of the ego and the soul. Are we real or are we just energy? One can see on one hand this is actually paint textured across a canvas – but on another attempting to portray a cloud – the reality of it questioned and so with both energy in the hanging.   The contrasts of smooth vs. texture, the infinite abstract sky verse the realistic tiny symbol of man or tree and the play between dark and light all create a dramatic stage to pose the question of what is this life really all about? And so; “The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires. Thus always the human condition faces a beautifully empty canvas. We possess only this moment in which to dedicate ourselves continuously to the sacred presence which we share and create.” Frank Herbert

AC:  What is something about yourself that not many people would know about?

KW: When I started my art career over 20 years ago, I initially painted under a pseudonym of Thrianka Wood for over a year as a professional artist as I didn’t have enough belief in my work.  “My mind used to poison me, but now it is my medicine.” I use to think I was a vehicle for my art but now I realise my art is a vehicle for me. Just in the simplicity and purity of using my art as a means from which to transcend from this reality. It is my meditation that becomes a product of my own pure energy. Working together we mutually benefit. The more I do it, the more in love with it I become and the knowing that I can tap into that space just by holding a brush is a very feel good space to be in. In allowing myself to consistently and consciously ask myself “how am I feeling” becomes my daily routine and through that a very rewarding living in the now.  I am so grateful I get to make beautiful things and in an essence these allow me to create a beautiful life.  Through art I have come to realise we are creators of our own existence, through painting my thoughts silenced and the oil becomes a voice for that of my silenced mind – a pure beautiful state of energy captured on canvas.

 AC:  In your landscape works, we’ve noticed a pattern of a little tree or man somewhere in the painting. What does this represent to you?

KW:  Everything is made up of energy, we can never be disconnected from everything around us because we are all the same thing.  That sky is part of us and us it – connected.  The parody in my work is that as alone as that figure appears – and alone as we may feel (we are born alone, we die alone) we are all ultimately one and the same thing we are everything and everything is us. When and if we learn to respect this, great change can happen. I use the sky as my main theme as it is infinite. And not only infinite but also infinitely changing – the perfect subject of abstract expression.  As is the universe within each one of us.  I am no longer who I was yesterday in fact “I” have ceased to exist all together.”  And so the basic thread that runs through all of Katherine’s artwork is an attempt to portray to the viewer their relevant insignificance and that to lead a life with less ego is a happier life (this is achieved through the metaphor of the little man or tree).  Katherine’s artwork “In the Flow” is a body of work that is on a quest to answer the question “what is the individual self?” and how can we ultimately achieve the idea of “no self” which would allow us to find happiness. “The world is a vast and mysterious place in which we as individuals are such tiny, intense little beings.  We are participating in a fabric of being that we do not understand.”   Frank Herbert

By paying more attention to nature we are able to become more conscious. By being in nature we are able to step outside of ourselves -ultimately we are just an extension of it.  We are not separate.  If we don’t do this we become engulfed in our ego.  The ego is driven by many human emotions to name a few; shame (feelings you are less than), guilt (feeling you need to repair something), envy (wanting to destroy) and jealousy (wanting to compete). We need to conquer these to ultimately achieve happiness.   In this body of work “In the Flow” Katherine reflects an ideal that allows us as individuals to contemplate a place of no self.

AC:  What is it about the ocean that excites you and influences your paintings?

KW:  There are so many aspects to the ocean that are exciting.  Its daunting width and depth, simply stands for life itself. It may be quite calm, but it can become raging and even deadly in an instant, with the waves representing the sudden obstacles life throws our way. I love the oceans calm presence and sense of space, a place to reflect on the past, and to dream and hope about the future. A place to look ahead and imagine what could be waiting on the horizon, actually or metaphorically. The sea can mirror our mood, as if it knows we are feeling sad, despondent and bleak. Or as if it knows we are full of rage and fury. Or as if it knows we just need to be seen and to be heard and to be in the presence of another.  The ocean has become one of my favourite symbols since moving to the Sunshine coast.  It is  a symbol to represent life and its hardships. It stands for the soul, the subconscious, emotion, nature, a primal state, nature, the “good” parts of existence, dreams, fantasy and more. Alternatively different from portraying a peaceful ocean.  I use the imagery of the ocean to portray the inner conflict of a person; and the image of the stormy ocean, the high, crashing waves represent overwhelming emotions, that threaten to “drown” the person.  The beach symbolises the meeting between your two states of mind – the rational (Sand) and the emotional (Water); or the place of transition between your physical self and your spiritual self. And even so the “threat” of the looming wave seems so real the silhouette of the man confidently, calmly walks on. Taking anchor in the peace of one’s mind and so reflecting on the idea that if one can find control of your thoughts so can you find control over any of life’s hardships. The ocean also represents the subconscious, the unknown parts of the mind, the dark, hidden depths of the ocean standing for unknown, unexplored thoughts, emotions, feelings, that are not visible on the surface. it’s a symbol for the person facing his own subconsciousness, going deep into his own emotions and his mind. The ocean also stands for the soul. The tranquil, inner part of oneself, that lies at the core. The images of the still, Deep Ocean represents the deepness of the soul. What I find to be the most important parallelism between the sea and life in general is the unpredictability of both. A sudden change in weather brings upon giant waves that make it impossible to swim forward, and the only solution is to go back to shore, much like a sudden obstacle in life makes it impossible to move forward and the only solution is to go back a few steps. The point of course is to not give up, and keep going, even if ultimately it doesn’t give you what you worked so hard to achieve.  A wave is unstoppable, a force of nature that sweeps over everything in its path. It indicates strength and inevitability, but also a lack of thoughtful discrimination and futility of resistance. The sea as is water is fluid and can slip through one’s fingers, refusing to be grasped. Similarly, so is life; impossible to contain and clearly define.  To me the ocean represents the idea that for one to move forward we need to master the idea of persistence (that this life is not discriminatory) but that we need to keep trying.

Katherine Wood’s current collection of artwork is on exhibition at Red Hill Gallery, 61 Musgrave Road Red Hill, Brisbane until Sunday 30 July 2017. Make sure you visit the Gallery and its amazing team.

©  Red Hill Gallery

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