If you’re anything like me, you may have noticed how colours can shift, enhance or alter moods and atmosphere. For artist Kathryn Stevens, colour has become an enduring fascination, prompting her to experiment, examine and make stunning discoveries about how colours behave set against each other, and how best to use this in her art.
“It’s been a journey,” she says. “I don’t think I ever had that initial moment where I decided I was going to ‘become an artist’. It has been a gradual understanding of what that means and what my identity as an artist is. For me, encouragement through my education and support from different tutors, family, gallery owners, other artists and supporters have lead me to this point where they have seen something in the work I make.”
Kathryn began to understand the true impact of colour when visiting a Gerhard Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern. “I think it’s the most inspiring exhibition I have seen – the best thing ever!” she exclaims. “I totally fell into this whole other way of looking at paint and colour and technique.”
The showcase gave Kathryn the thirst to explore “the material of paint” more and more, rather than “the outcome of the painting”, and her artwork became increasingly abstract.
This led her to a deeper exploration of colour. “I enjoy experimenting and discovering how different colours and mediums react and work together. Colour has always been important, but through seeing some of Richter’s paintings in the flesh made sense of why.”
As humans, we naturally attempt to impose an order on what we see, and to me, many of Kathryn’s works conjure up underground landscapes – caverns and curious rock formations, pools and splashes of light breaking through. It’s as though Kathryn is mapping previously uncharted territory, and in a sense, that’s actually the case.
“I approach all my canvases as experiments and explorations,” she explains. “I use experimental methods in my work – some shapes are painted on, some are poured, and the conversations and the way the colours and texture react are unpredictable most of the time. So I am constantly learning.”
She aims (to my eye, successfully) to create “a sense of depth and space in each painting. There are conversations between surface textures and the illusion of space created on the canvas by using a combination of colour, tone and shape. Some shapes made by the pours of oil paint and turps may resemble clouds and in some others the change of tone and depth in the painting may suggest a horizon and a distance.”
Kathryn also uses a varnish in most of her paintings, which “alters the way you see the colour and layers on the painting.”
At it’s heart, Kathryn’s approach is one of trial and error. “One of the biggest lessons I learnt is that if some paintings don’t work out, that’s okay!” she says. “At one point I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to make ‘a good painting’ with every painting I started, mainly because I felt I didn’t have time to mess up. I wasn’t giving myself enough space for failing and learning. That wasn’t a very healthy attitude to have, especially with the way I work. It takes time and needs space. I have to allow myself to make mistakes and let go so I don’t much control over how the painting takes shape.”
She believes that it’s dangerous to think you know it all. “You lose creativity and freedom to look at things in a different way when you think you have nothing left to learn. So I try to stay in a place where I am still learning and still vulnerable. I don’t want to lose the mystery.”
Sometimes, she admits, “just turning up to the studio is one of the hardest things, but once I get there and I’m in that creative space, it suddenly makes sense again. It feels like part of my identity. That is probably the one of the best things.”
She adds: “I believe we are all creative in some way, part of it is having the courage to take the next step. I’m still learning everyday about what it means to be an artist.”
Kathryn has exhibitions coming up at The Old Lifeboat House in Porthleven, Cornwall, at the end of July and at The Crypt in St Ives, Cornwall during the first week in August. At the end 2016, she will have some work in a mixed show at Artwave West Gallery in Dorset.
Find more of Kathryn’s work at www.kathrynstevens.co.uk.
Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.