Faces in fiction– October 2004
I held my first exhibition
at Thistle Hall, Cuba St, Wellington from 4-10 October 2004.
The works are all oil on canvas bar the large Woolf canvas "Have
Black Cats got tails?" which is oil on hardboard and the two abstracted
works from the Bastien Le Page series "Seeking Abstraction"
(collage , coloured card on paper) and "Hacia Miro" (oil
Here is the "blurb" that went with the work at the exhibition
for anyone who wants to understand why those topics became the focus of
In the summer of 1980 I discovered "Pas Meche" by Jules
Bastien Le Page in the National Gallery off Princess St, Edinburgh, and
I used to run away from my boring job in a basement at the Royal Bank
of Scotland to eat my sandwiches under his soulful
stare and tatty boots. This boy is one of the great fictional loves of
my life and I took the opportunity in a fabulous season of art lessons
with tutor Rosemary Stokell (Tel: 384-4088 rosemarystokell@ xtra.com)
to study this painting, working towards abstraction and back to Chagall.
I added self-portraiture and painted from left-handed sketches to form
a series of four paintings expressing the joy of artistic discovery (Les
enfants au dessus de l'eglise) looking back (Je l'ai rencontre a cote
du chateau fort) the fear of ill health (Falling apart) and of the future
(Where to from here?) Then there is the late-blooming passion of "Bloomsbury".
Reading "To the Lighthouse" in the summer of 1995 I fell into
the space between the words of Virginia Woolf. I wanted to find out about
a life that could conjure prose so near to poetry it broke language like
expressionism did form in the visual arts. I discovered a woman haunted
by her family and their deaths, particularly her mother Julia and her
life-long obsession/passion for her sister Vanessa. One of the many authors
writing about the connections between Virginia's family and her fiction
wrote of Vanessa, "Wherever you cut Virginia Woolf - open her diaries,
her letters, her fiction - there is Vanessa" . The largest picture
in this exhibition, painted over 4 years, was my first attempt with oils
and the impetus towards painting and this exhibition. The other 6 pictures
on this theme are all attempts to play with pushing layers forward and
back, trying to capture the haunting feeling I get about Vanessa's face,
morphing her with their brother Thoby's face, and of the obsession I,
too, felt caught up in when reading Virginia's work and about her life.
Because all the subjects I chose to paint are from the past I have used
photographs and film to work from. I hope that I have used these media
to form a body of work that reaches inside and transmits the way I feel
about these subjects to you.
I am currently working towards another exhibition (hopefully at the same
venue) for early 2006. Entitled "Farewell to Cuba" the
sketches are being drafted and will comprise, buildings drawn with the
left hand, some portraiture and possibly some work from overseas
too but that depends on travel hopes for this year! I intend to
keep working with oil on canvas as I love this
medium and have much to learn, but there may be
some pen and ink work and oil pastels.
There is also a series I have strongly in my mind working with my hometown
in Perthshire, Scotland, combining the buildings there with the colours
and landscapes of New Zealand, trying to blend the disparate qualities
of where "home" really is for me. This may be a couple
of years away yet.
Body of work -November 2006 exhibition
Figuring it out - 2009
Top of page
Top of page
A Body of Work – November 2006
Welcome to my second exhibition
at Thistle Hall. Entitled “A Body of Work” the pictures come
from life drawing workshops with Rosemary Stokell, (
firstname.lastname@example.org ) , a weekend at Inverlochy House with a mannequin
and cherub (Roberto Paulet email@example.com ), sculpting with Kristelle
Plummer, also at Inverlochy House ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), sketching
in Thailand and swimming with turtles earlier this year in Malaysia.
What ties this work together is the decision to play with some different
techniques and manipulate oil paint without brushes. I was lent a book
by a friend in my art group entitled “Discovering the Inner Eye”*.
This artist works with throwing watercolour over ash to obtain a very
loose, semi-abstract style. As I work in oil paint I tried to adapt what
she was doing in another medium which presented several interesting problems,
least how to block the work out that I didn’t want covered in thrown
Using duraseal and masking tape I managed to achieve some interesting
results when the puckered remnants were pulled away from the dried paint,
first with the figure work but, perhaps more interestingly, with the turtle
shapes. These “turtles” were found at a wonderful hotel in
Hua Hin. They are topiary trees full
of bougainvillea. I was fascinated by the quality of flight these structures
took in the half-light and their slightly menacing appearance. For me
they became flying turtles, caught between air and water and I combined
the line work with some of the saturated colours I experienced whilst
swimming with real turtles in the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia in March.
I used coffee as I fell in love with the wonderful colour and sheen it
gave to some other work I had done earlier in the year.
Whilst at the Auckland City Gallery recently I saw one of the best Colin
McCahon paintings I have seen to date; Landscape Theme and Variations
(Series A) 1963. The colours inspired me and the simplicity and beauty
of the form of the picture. While I was looking at it I could see my “turtles”
rising out of the hills and the large work “Variations on a Theme”
was a visual memory from this first visit. Then I went back a month later
and decided there should be a closely observed work from that 8 panel
hanging, using all the panels and not just the four I had chosen. This
last 8 canvas piece is therefore an exercise in closely looking at the
work and making the turtles rise out of his creation to form something
that I hope will become my own piece of work (as I write this canvas is
only in the draft stages).
The mannequin and “Leonardo” group of pictures came out of
a workshop over one weekend at Inverlochy House with Roberto…….
. The tutor helped me achieve the antique quality I was looking for in
a blind sketch I did of the cartoon of St Anne and the Virgin (National
Gallery London) by sprinkling coffee all over the paper and squirting
the work with a spray gun. I went home and worked on a couple of the sketches
I had done that weekend and then took that work onto the canvas adapting
some other figures and self-portraiture done in Rosemary Stokell’s
All these disparate canvases, held together by paint-throwing, dribbling
and coffee sprinkling, come
together to provide my second show which I hope you enjoy looking at as
much as I have in creating the work.
* "Discovering the Inner Eye; experiments in water
media" by Virginia Cobb
Figuring it out - 2009
Faces in fiction - October 2004
it out –
Welcome to my 3rd exhibition here at Thistle Hall.
Though not the planned series of paintings I had in my head to be starting
on in 2007 these works arrived easily from the business of Tasman-hopping
between Sydney and Wellington for most of that year.
The routine proved easy for sketching, harder for painting. I sketched
hard out at the Sydney Arthouse cabaret scene on a Tuesday night at “Dr
Sketchy’s” CBD venue http://www.DrSketchy.com.au
, then at life drawing sessions on a Thursday and Friday at the Julian
Ashton art school on the Rocks, or the Brett Whiteley weekend studio life
classes and at an art collective in Newtown on the odd Monday as well
as a couple of weekend life drawing workshops back here
in Wellington with Rosie Stokell at the Alpha St art studio email@example.com
The drawings were bundled back into the suitcase and brought to the studio
here in Wellington where they started to pile up ominously and it became
clear to me half-way through 2007 that they were begging (one or two of
them) to be blown up and taken to canvas.
Being in a strange country in small segments over a 10 month period allowed
freedom to look closely and lingeringly at the art and world around me
Visually, I became intrigued with aboriginal dot
painting; at the potential of dots to form surface depth which linked
in my memory to Seurat’s “Bathers” that I’d first
seen when 17 at the National Gallery in London, to Lichenstein’s
large “cartoon poster” art and the awareness of how television
images are formed using dots.
So it seemed natural that the loose line work I continue to use in my
sketches would incorporate some resonance of all this intimate looking
at wonderful aboriginal work in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
Charles Blackman has a painting in the NSW gallery which I loved and my
large work containing a collection of my sketches is painted in tribute
There is a sculpture on Pitt St in Sydney’s CBD which
I used to see on the bus and it triggered a long-gestating idea I’ve
been trying to work out of how to pull my work out from the surface of
the canvas. So one morning I brought a tool I never knew the purpose for
in my toolbox from Wellington and set to work punching holes in cardboard
causing the traditionalists at the Julian Ashton to wince from behind
their easels as I started sewing with wire I bought in a craft shop.
I have brought two of these to canvas and am working on another 3 as I
write. They give almost an imperceptible 3-D effect which I’m pleased
Following a similar principle discovered when first pregnant, that the
world around suddenly seems full of pregnant women, when you begin working
differently you start to see a whole bunch of people working in a similar/different
way; from a wire worker I bumped into at my studio working a floor above
me with fence wire
to make chandeliers to the wire sculptures outside Te Papa to a cutting
my daughter’s boyfriend brought to show me of Obama made from the
negative space of a crazy wire structure sunk into a block in regimented
rows to a sculpture in a gallery in Berlin made from builders’ framing
This last large,free-standing sculpture was front-lit which threw the
shadow of the face on the wall in a reversal of my hope to make 2-D, 3-D.
Inspired by this I came home in July and have made a small wirework of
my own from “The Minder” which I’ve sandwiched between
perspex in order to use light to throw the image up on the wall.
Coffee has featured again in a few sketches (a couple never made it here
as they’ve been sold before I’ve managed to frame them) and
on canvasses too.
Enjoy – and I look forward to bringing some of the ‘planned’
paintings beginning to form in my head at
the end of 2006 (before I started to “Figure it Out” instead)
to these walls in another couple of years.
(Click on the above image for a radio interview with Karen)
A Body of work - November 2006 exhibition
Faces in fiction - October 2004
Top of page