"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small..."
"As we got further and further away, it [the Earth] diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man..."
James B. Irwin,
Kate Shaw is our first Artist in Residence for 2015, proudly sponsored by the Turner Galleries Art Angels and the Central Institute of Technology. She was born in Sydney and currently resides in both New York and Melbourne. The title of her exhibition refers to the Apollo astronauts looking back at Earth and realising how small and fragile it appeared from space, and how much smaller again man was in the universe.
Kate Shaw paints to set up a new way of considering the landscape, and in doing so creates a tension between traditional romantic landscape painting and conceptual or abstract ideas about the landscape. She is concerned with environmental issues, such as global warming, land degradation and pollution. Her use of acidic high-keyed colours creates landscapes that are both sublimely beautiful, and a global warning. Kate acknowledges that she is aiming "for a sinister or unnerving element as I think we are quite afraid of nature. The toxicity of the colours is relating to artificiality, pollution and also the potential for nature to be unnerving and bizarre."
[Kate Shaw, The Shaw Thing interviewed by Fleur Mitchell, www.theblackmail.com.au 2010] Her colour palette is also influenced by her memories of the colours of a place.
Other dualities can be found in her paintings. They are both macro and micro worlds; the poured and marbled paint patterns are reminiscent of larval eruptions, landslides, tree roots, glaciers or sucking waves. She is creating worlds within worlds. Kate's use of depicting 'reflections' in her landscapes evokes on the one hand a landscape reflected in a lake or river, and on the other a Rorschach ink blot. Her landscapes can also be seen as both representational and abstract, with the lenticular prints appearing as abstract fields of colour that transform into a landscape as the viewer moves.
Her paintings usually start with paint pours, allowing the paint to swirl and find its own path. If a cliff or mountain is mimicked then she encourages these forms. She uses a combination of collaging and layering effects, ultimately creating a work that appears to have remarkable depth, but the finished resin surface is very flat and smooth. She noted that "The paintings aim to convey ideas of nature; alchemy and creation by operating on one level as a landscape another as abstraction." (ibid).