Ahead of Australian artists, Kathryn Dolby and Elynor Smithwick's duo-show Moving, Still, the Otomys team sat down with Kathryn to discuss the ideas behind this collaborative exhibition.
OTOMYS: Moving, Still is a collaboration between yourself and Elynor Smithwick. How did this process work for you?
Kathryn Dolby: Before we began painting for this show, Elynor and I had been chatting a lot, sharing interests and influences when we found a common thread with the work of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard. Elynor shared with me the book In and Out of the Garden by Klaus Ottmann, which explores the creative dialogue between Bonnard and contemporary American artist Jennifer Bartlett. The book also introduced to us The Poetics of Space, a concept first devised by Gaston Bachelard which explores the interplay of imagination, feeling, memory and fantasy within a space. Our dialogue snowballed from there as we both became excited about a body of work that felt deeply connected to both our personalities. In the book, two artists from different places and time periods are connected through their love of art, life and nature, similar to Elynor and I. Our work came alive through impassioned discussions about the role of nature not only throughout our everyday lives, but also within our imaginations. We are both captivated by the endless power and mystery of nature, and hold a strong gratitude for all that it provides. The paintings that we envisioned were not just literal scenes but insights into the metaphysical presence of nature.
OTOMYS: Your paintings depict intimate and delicate impressions of outdoor life, with paintings in a range of scale. What is the significance of scale within your works for Moving, Still?
Kathryn Dolby: The key word you've used there is 'intimate'. I see the little 40x30 works as being a series of intimate moments, whereas my larger pieces are an extension of those moments. The larger works dive in deeper to the themes explored in the smaller works and are created with bigger, bodily gestures. Elynor and I decided early on that we'd like to create a trail of small paintings that work as a conversation, mapping our dialogue in a continuous line. The larger pieces slightly break away from that as we follow more personal explorations, but we've kept the size ratios the same to create an element of harmony.
OTOMYS: Within this body of work serpentine silhouettes of tall gum trees are juxtaposed with idyllic fields of green grass and blue sky. Are the landscapes you create representations of real locations or are they inspired by your imagination?
Kathryn Dolby: Yes, the landscapes begin as scenes of my backyard viewed through the window while nursing my newborn. This was a time of repetition and constraint that allowed me to engage with nature with a new perceptive; I was forced to observe nature from within the domestic sphere. I spent many hours staring into a garden of swaying trees and green grass, making note of shifts in the colour of the sky, light and shadow, form and movement. During this time I contemplated how this context altered my relationship with the outdoor world. The window came to symbolise a sense of curiosity and desire. These works reflect the dialogue between the inside and outside world.
As the body of work developed and I moved out of those quiet days inside, my paintings become more intuitive and reliant on memory. As I reflected upon the subtle shifts in weather and the delicate sensations found between the indoors and the outdoors, my paintings became more blended.
February 22, 2023