Artist Statement -
‘I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.’ - Georgia O’Keeffe
Is a colour less beautiful, less powerful, as it falls from a tree to the ground? As I walk to the studio and see the Tibouchina and Blue Ginger petals light up the concrete footpath with shades of purple and blue, I think about this quote by Georgia O’Keeffe and how I too find colour deeply evocative. For me, these colours are found in my immediate environment, within and outside of the home, the backyard and the landscapes I travel through with my family.
I think about how colour not only evokes a sense of the seasons and weather patterns, but also shifts in time and emotional states. They can become signifiers of a time or place, and I’m interested in how they can settle in your mind and trigger memory. When I hone in on colour in the landscape and then transfer that intuitively into a painting, I feel the noise of the world take a back seat.
Exhibition Essay -
The Blues by Emma Finneran
The first colour words to appear in English, and most other languages, were words for white and black. Next was red, the colour of wine and blood, followed by yellow and then green. Blue appeared last. The Greeks and Romans didn’t even have a word for the colour blue. For Homer, the sea was ‘wine-red’. Blue was associated with the barbaric Celts who supposedly dyed their bodies blue for battle, women with blue eyes were thought to have loose morals, and descriptions of the rainbow in Ancient Greece and Rome omitted blue altogether. But although the colour was not named, it very much existed.
Sometime in the 70’s, against an intense backdrop of productivity, a 27-year-old Joni Mitchell needed space from her success. So, she decided to head for Europe. Her main seat of exile was the azure island of Crete, where she took up residence in a cave amid a hippy community in the fishing village of Matala. It was from here that the moody elusiveness of her album ‘Blue’ began. Uncomfortably direct, her vulnerability plain for all to hear, Blue became a document of a woman’s life in flux, a diary of physical and emotional displacement set against a landscape of restless travel and the powerful decision to mother through absence. When asked what her concept was for the album, Joni calmly paused and just said: “Blue. ‘I am blue’.”
I’ve always imagined paradise to be some calm shade of blue. Like, a landscape of hallucinatory hues of cerulean: a place the imagination can travel freely. Like that feeling you get when you’re stuck staring out the window, considering the sky, only to find a blue oasis of calm launder over you. Windows are like archways are like portals are like thresholds. Paintings are windows. Yves Klein spent a whole year painting rectangular canvas’ in his potent ultramarine and called them windows. To him, blue represented infinity, infinity represented the divine, the divine represented ultimate calm: and where calmness is present, so too is the colour blue.
Colour is the best way to speak with no language, the best way to access something non- verbal. A way we can intuit, understand and weather the playful seasons of our moods in silent perfection. Like when you catch the union of sky and sea, baby with mother, colour collaborates and corroborates the drunkenness of life, still, life.
There are three psychological primary colours – red, blue, and yellow. They relate respectively to the body, the mind, the emotions and the essential balance between these three. Blue is the colour of the mind – it affects us mentally, rather than physically. Strong blues are said to stimulate clear thought, and lighter, softer blues are known to calm the mind and spirit.
Blue is the colour that governs the throat chakra. The throat chakra relates to speech and hearing and encourages spiritual communication. Opening the throat chakra improves clairaudience: what is inaudible. Clairaudience, the literal meaning being ‘clear-hearing’, is the power to hear sounds that exist beyond the reach of ordinary experience or capacity. It is believed that if you can hear clairaudibly, then you are connected, in the highest form, to the entire universe. The universe, if we are to picture it, is blue. Completely, divinely blue.
Imagine being completely, wholly connected to a universe that is completely, wholly your own – a paradise indescribable through words. A hued Arcadia where your nerves and feelings lay down in total surrender. Like a painted passage to the divine, Kathryn Dolby’s paintings are windows are archways are portals are thresholds. For all their cyanic calm and power, her paintings act as wordless notes. She preserves and transports intimate observations about the present into the future with every gesture made; and, as the future becomes painted in the present, the painting becomes an archive, a memory, a portal, a window into the past. Her colours croon inaudibly into the subconscious. Kathryn’s blue is sad, funny, poetic, revelatory, achingly candid and suffused with playfulness. Like the Ancients before her, there is no adequate word to articulate Kathryn’s blue - maybe like Joni, and like Yves, Kathryn understands that only from the heart can you touch the sky, the sea, the divine, the blueness of our universe.
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.
Photographs courtesy of Steve Law.
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