In conversation with Kathryn Dolby

OTOMYS: Whilst some of your work is more representational than others. Would you describe yourself as an Abstract Expressionist painter?  


Kathryn Dolby: I don’t really like to box myself in to one particular art movement, as I feel my work crosses over and fuses a few… But in saying that, I think I am mostly aligned with abstract expressionism. The need to express emotion and find some kind of expressive release with paint is at the heart of my practice and is what keeps me returning to the studio, but it begins there as a foundational base that I then branch out from. I explore ways of imbedding more meaning through crossing over into representation. I’m very much interested in the relationships and tension between the two. The subconscious and the conscious, the real world references and the imagined or emotive... 



OTOMYS: What is it like working as a full time painter and a new mother? 

Kathryn Dolby: It’s honestly extremely challenging as you’re presented with serious time constraints and general exhaustion! But on the other hand it has also fuelled me incredibly and I think my work has kicked into a new gear ever since I became a mother. I’ve had to learn to paint faster which I think helped to breathe new life/energy into my work and there’s so much heightened emotion to draw from. I realised early on that in order for me to be able to manage both parenting and continuing a solid art practice, both areas had to feed into each other interchangeably. I don’t shy away from this at all but celebrate and encourage my daughter’s influence. 



OTOMYS: As an artist living in Northern New South Wales in a charming, small  country town, how does a typical day unfold? 

Kathryn Dolby: On my designated work days I usually need to begin with exercise to kick myself into gear. There’s a back road next to our home that winds through lush evergreen trees that create a canopy over the road. I walk or run for a few km along this while listening to music or a podcast, before heading back into my home-studio with a coffee. I find that morning ritual helps me to clear my mind and enter the studio buzzing with endorphins. Sometimes in the studio I’ll spend more time looking and shuffling paintings, looking for interesting relationships that spur me on to the next before I begin painting. When I start physically laying colour down it usually happens quite fast from the build up. 



OTOMYS: How has your art for the upcoming solo exhibition departed from  previous collections?  


Kathryn Dolby: Each collection responds intuitively and honestly to a particular time I’m experiencing. So that naturally shifts with each exhibition but I do also like to push myself and reinvent ways of expressing similar feelings. I’m always on the hunt for how I can better imbed meaning or convey sensation. In some of the works for this show I’ve continued to explore oil paint further and also push elements of representation like with the inclusion of block towers. I’ve been looking at works by Morandi and Tuckson lately too. I think maybe elements of still life are starting to make an appearance because of my love for Morandi. I’ve also begun pushing my consideration of the frame in some works, which is something I’d like to play with further down the track. 



OTOMYS: I understand you have been an artist’s assistant to Luke Sciberras,  Guy Maestri and Ben Quilty. What does this role entail and how do  think this experience has benefited your art practice?


Kathryn Dolby: Ah yes, so this experience began as a professional placement for my Arts Industry Studies unit at university. It started as a week long stint in Guy’s studio where I did odd jobs like cleaning his workshop, cleaning brushes, helped with stretching canvas, ripped rags, he also asked me to begin the first layer on some of his paintings. Then we went on painting trips to Hill End where I learnt about landscape painting. I was also introduced to a lot of incredibly inspiring & generous artists who made me feel welcome & home. There were many gallery openings! Studio visits with Janet Lawrence, John Olsen, Carlos Barrios. I actually modelled for Laura Jones, Ben Q and John Olsen as they painted and drew me. It really was an incredibly inspiring time. It just cemented for me that I was on the right path and that even though it can be a very difficult industry, art is what makes me feel most alive. I remember Ben saying to me that we all have a story and it’s just about figuring out what that story is. It’s something that has stuck with me while I’m in the studio, unravelling the truth of my own narrative & place in the world. 



OTOMYS: What or who continues to inspire you?  


Kathryn Dolby: Colour, nature, the seasons, home, my family, the state of the world, structure, chaos, calm, happiness, despair, love, the unknown…all of life’s apparent contradictions. There’s a great quote by Jeff Koons “Everything in your life is source material.”



OTOMYS: What are your most profound realisations about the world in 2021? 


Kathryn Dolby: The world is changing rapidly and there’s such a diversity of challenges that we have to face now, so it’s a tricky question. I think about how there have always been challenges throughout history and I have hope in the fact that we seem to find solutions eventually. I think learning to slow down in our fast paced world is positive and necessary. Also I think everyone is under more pressure so it’s more important than ever to be kind. Lastly, no matter what happens in the world, Art & creativity has and will always endure as medicine for the spirit.

August 26, 2021