The John Dory - 02
• A welcome• Introducing artist Kathryn Camm
• Finer Pieces • Christmas is coming• Our thanks to you
Welcome to the second edition of the John Dory.
The first few weeks of Finer Space's live existence have been exciting, insightful, and challenging, as we navigate all that is new. Thanks to all of you for providing feedback, advice, suggestions and support.
In this edition, I am very excited to feature a more in-depth conversation with one of our artists, Kathryn Camm. We explore her process, inspiration, and influences as I probe her incredibly perceptive and contemplative musings. A very worthwhile read!
This edition also includes a section titled 'Finer Pieces', which features a few tidbits of interest ranging from literature, to art, to music, to events and beautiful walks. These pieces span time and cultures, with an emphasis on the small business, the independent, the not-for-profit and the social enterprises.
A wee reminder that if you are hoping to get a print for Christmas (drop the hints), or are planning to get one for a lucky other, the last day for ordering falls upon Thursday, 6th of December.
Again, I just want to reiterate our thanks for all the support and feedback we've received since launching Finer Space. I can't tell you how much it means.
Artist in the Spotlight
Prelude: I truly enjoyed receiving Kathryn’s answers to my questions, and peeling back the multiple layers of experience, matriarchal influence and, more broadly, social and cultural perceptions that have together shaped and formed her practice has been fascinating, as I'm sure you will agree. I've got to say, it’s also been such a pleasure to work with Kathryn. Her complete dedication to her arts practice is inspiring, her work authentic and deliberate, and on top of all that she is a lovely being full of positivity and unbridled energy. She is certainly one to keep an eye on moving forward. Enjoy the conversation below!
Fiona: What did creating art mean to you growing up?
Kathryn: Creativity was really encouraged when I was growing up. My father is a musician, my brother a dancer and my mother can only be described as a master maker - from honey to soap to wool spinning, sewing and crocheting. Everyone in my family has their own creative process and we were always encouraged to have busy hands - “I’m bored” didn’t exist in our household, and still doesn’t. My first introduction to art was through craft and play, and I think the earliest things I created with intention were all utilising the techniques of sewing. These skills have been developed but still exist in my present practice.
You grew up in rural NSW. Did the environment of your childhood have any influence on how or what you created? Or were there any people in your life growing up that particularly influenced you?
The main influences have been developed through the traditional craft techniques that my grandmothers and mothers learnt from living in rural places and have in turn imparted on to me, such as the spinning of wool. The women in my family are by far the most influential to me in life and in my art. These women really gave me an appreciation for the utilitarian within an arts practice and the importance of acknowledging some of these ‘crafts’ as legitimate forms of art that have generally been associated as women’s work.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey in how you ‘found’ or developed your distinctive creative aesthetic?
I think my style began to develop when I moved to Tasmania a few years ago, and it was here that I gained some confidence in what I was doing. My drawings always looked ‘not quite right’ - there was something unnerving about them. I eventually reached a point where I realised this was actually really important to me and what I was trying to express through the work. Sex has always appealed to me as a topic because I felt it was a universal experience that still has many taboos associated with it, namely female sexual experience and pleasure. In 2017 I decided to enrol in Honours in Fine Arts and this really pushed me to embrace some of those strange and unnerving interpretations of the body that initially I was scared of exploring. My aesthetic develops with every finished work and my confidence is slowly growing. I think many female artists find it really hard to back themselves and legitimise what they are doing. I have found that with age I am getting better at this.
What is your process when creating - do you plan compositions, or follow a more intuitive approach?
I have many journals that I keep all around the place; they are full of drawings - lead, pen and ink. They are initial, expressive and unplanned. From this I choose the designs I like the most and translate this to my finished works. The journals have become a catalogue of designs and thoughts for me, I re-visit them often and I take them with me when I travel.
Tell me more about your use of embroidery. What is it that you like about using that technique? How does it connect with your subject matter?
Needlework is in my blood. All of the women in my family have engaged with it and they taught me how to use a needle and thread. The connections between needlework and women are dense, there is an idea that needlework is in fact a painful and arduous experience and this can be likened to the female experience of sex, menstruation and childbirth. I have also explored the way needlework has been greatly attributed as ‘woman’s work’, and how this attitude has been a big factor in the exclusion of women throughout history in the art world. I also think the saying “idle hands are the devil’s playthings” rings true to me. I love the occupation of time that comes with these embroideries, the busying of hands, and the old idea that if women didn’t busy their hands with these tasks those hands may creep into the wrong places. This is a big factor in my use of the hand in my works. It is the maker and the pleasure giver. It links back into the idea of autoeroticism and owning one's pleasure.
The themes in your work fascinates me as sometimes providing a contrast between the soft feminine and the more strong, almost confronting feminine. Are there feminist intentional undertones in your works? Can you tell me a bit about the ‘why' in regard to how you choose your subject matter?
Autoeroticism is a big theme in my work. I think for too long the female experience has been represented as pretty, appealing and beautiful. Women actually exist as a complex dichotomy, our bodies are a site of immense pain, we bleed, we excrete and we labour. Yet they are also a site of overwhelming pleasure, they engorge, they invite and they climax. The figures I depict aim to explore this dichotomy. At a glance these bodies could be writhing in agony or ecstasy, but are the two really that far apart?
Your work often brings to mind that of Egon Schiele for me (which I love!). Is he an influence? What is it about his work that inspires you?
He is a massive influence. His view of the body and the way he explores it imperfectly is so inspiring to me. I think it is the imperfect nature of his figures that allow for so much expression and feeling - when I look at his works I can immediately pick up on the mood of the subject. He drew his models when they were uncomfortable, in an embrace or expectant. I think he is so important because he documented what his model really “was”, not how he wanted them to be. This is a much more honest depiction, and that’s what I hope to achieve in my work as well.
I am currently working on a few different things. I have recently been fortunate enough to visit the human specimens library in the Menzies Centre where to my shock and amazement i saw teratomas inside ovaries (incredible, look it up). Essentially the ovaries contain stem cells, which have the ability to make any part of the human body inside the ovary. Sometimes they mutate and create teeth, hair, skin, muscles and bone. I am currently re-creating as many of them as i can using human hair, polymer clay and egg shells. I am not used to using these materials but am really enjoying the challenge. This show will be part of MONA's summer FOMO festival. I am also a featured artist in QVMAG's Marjorie Bligh exhibition where myself and a team of other female Tassie artists are able to view and engage with extraordinary women's life's work and respond to it. More recently I have been working on my entry for the Tasmanian Women's Art Prize, which is one of the largest stitchings i have ever undertaken - wish me luck!
I'm listening to: Baby, by DakhaBrakha.
DakhaBrakha is a theatrical Ukrainian folk quartet created as a project of the Kyiv Centre of Contemporary Art (DAKh), in Ukraine. I find their song Baby, from the album Light, to be incredibly powerful, original and authentic. They did a great live recording in the KEXP studio (a nonprofit arts organisation based in Seattle): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1KdGDEkj_U
I’m admiring: Arundhati Roy.
I've been a long-time fan of Arundhati Roy. Best known for her novel The God of Small Things, she is also a wonderfully out-spoken political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes. Kirsty Young's interview with Roy for the BBC Desert Island Discs is a permanent fixture on my podcast list: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08k1h2f
I enjoyed reading: Charlotte Wood's article Helen Garner's Monkey Grip makes me examine who I am, for the Guardian.
Much loved Australian author Helen Garner’s book from the '70s, Monkey Grip, is set in Melbourne and presents a gritty and honest examination of life for a group of young adults. It has just been re-released in hardback though Text - an independent, Melbourne-based publisher. Charlotte Wood's article encapsulates all that I dearly love about this novel.
Walk: The Coastal Walk, Mornington Peninsula
Ocean beach after beach after beach.... a much needed escape from the city.
Christmas is coming
If you haven't ordered your print yet then do so now! We'll take the last orders on December the 6th so that they arrive to you in time for the big day, and then we'll re-open orders in the new year.
You are the reason it’s possible for us to be here, so we want to make Finer Space is as easy to access, use and enjoy as possible. We appreciate any suggestions or questions to help us smooth out any wrinkles and better adapt the way we do things to suit you. There's always room for improvement! Or, if you have any burning questions about buying, framing, displaying or art, we can address them in future editions. Get in touch at email@example.com.