“It was such a relief to finally be able to devote most of my time to painting.”
ART lovers at Inverell’s town gallery noticed a vibrant new palette in two popular 2018 group shows: the colourful, highly organic work of Kate Owen.
One of her bold abstract canvases took home an Inverell Art Prize award, and another was acquired by the gallery during its contemporary exhibition. Yet despite this flush of attention it’s been a long journey back to the canvas for this North Star artist.
And now, she’s about to open her first solo exhibition at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, as the centrepiece of the High Country Handmade Showcase.
“I have always been ‘arty’ as have my two sisters,” Kate said.
“We all created art from a young age and I did art all the way through high school, earning the art prize in my senior year in 1988.
“I went on to do fashion design at college in Sydney and work in the industry for quite a few years before opening my own business in Moree designing and making bridal gowns and special occasion clothing.”
Not long after the turn of the millennium, Kate embarked on large-scale oil paintings, but admits to putting the brushes down when she “got busy with children”.
Her creative outlet as a young mother was through running gift, homewares and café businesses at Goondiwindi.
“I have always done something with a creative bent, however, I knew one day I would get back to my art,” she said.
“Along the way I did a few workshops here and there, mostly in acrylics in order to teach myself how to use them as the practical side of me liked the fact that they dry fast and are easy to clean up!
“A few years ago I made a promise to myself that I would get back to painting when my youngest son went away to boarding school and I no longer had children at home.”
That was at the start of 2017, and ever since Kate has devoted as much time to her art as possible in order to improve and evolve her work.
“It was such a relief to finally be able to devote most of my time to painting, if only to free my mind of all the stored up ideas and express them on the canvas,” she said.
Life of its own
When asked about her painting technique, Kate said she leaves a lot to happenstance.
“I try hard not to concern myself with the final outcome before starting, because ultimately it is the process in getting there that creates the outcome which is never apparent to me from the start,” she said.
“Some paintings have many layers beneath which gives the final work more complexity, especially when glimpses of previous layers are left.
“I also love collage, I never throw away any bit of painted paper that could just be perfect at some stage for a particular work.”
Kate admits to being inspired by French painter Henri Matisse, a master at fluid form and bold use of highly-saturated colour. She’s also long been a fan of American illustrator Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar.
“When I want to create a body of work that has a particular theme I print pictures of photos I have taken and choose images that have particularly strong shapes,” she said.
“I look at these then put them away and then go to work on the canvas with just the memory of what I’ve seen.
“This is a technique I learned from Catherine Cassidy who I greatly admire. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with her in Sydney last August.”
A particular inspiration for Kate is Elisabeth Cummings, the multi award-winning and highly collectible Australian artist.
“Her use of colour, line, texture and scratching back creates incredibly in-depth work,” Kate said.
“She states: ‘When I get going the painting has its own life and starts demanding certain things of itself’.”
“This resonates with me completely as often I feel that the painting controls me and not the other way around.”
Kate Owen’s solo exhibition The Happenings opens at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, at the High Country Handmade Showcase, March 3.
Feature image by Grace Cobb.