Berry Artist of the Week – KAYE DEVLIN

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

How long have you been an artist?

In my dreams, probably always, but in reality I took my first drawing lesson in the mid 1980’s. I continued part time study of art techniques and history in the 1990’s while working full time. In 2005 after retiring from my work in the Public Service I gained formal qualifications at CY O’Connor TAFE in Northam WA. Since then I have been able to devote more time to my art.

How did you get involved?

As a small child I loved looking at pictures in my grandmother’s encyclopedia and beautiful drawings by the likes of Nora Heysen and Donald Friend in my father’s army books. At school I often got the prize for drawing - just drawing, not much else! Other than that, I think it is an inborn instinct. It was certainly instinct that told me I should learn how to draw correctly, and I will never regret that, or forget my wonderful teachers. I love to paint and draw and cannot stop.

Have you entered any competitions or exhibitions? If so which ones.

I have entered numerous competitions over the past 15 years, both metropolitan and regional, with varying degrees of success, or otherwise. My works have received 64 awards, including Best in Show, Best Overall, First Prize, Runner Up, Second Prize, First and Second Prizes, Acquisition Awards and Highly Commended – in categories such as Watercolour, Drawing or Painting. Some have yielded a prize and a sale, some just prizes and some only sales. Competitions where I sold works but didn’t receive a prize include Cossack, Minnawarra and City of Stirling Art Awards. At the Ellenbrook Open Art Award I received a prize but no sale, while competitions such as the Northam, Tammin, Bruce Rock and Wheatbelt Art Prizes, Dalwallinu Arts Festival, and York Art and Craft Awards have yielded both prizes and sales. Of course, many more times I have come away empty handed, but I keep the thought that every show gives more exposure to my work.

What do you love about art?

Before I had seen any good quality art in real life, I enjoyed seeing beautiful pieces in books by masters such Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Giacometti and Modigliani, and sometimes works by early artists at the WA Art Gallery. A significant moment for me was in 1996 while in Canberra. I was unexpectedly taken to the National Gallery and found myself in front of Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles”. This beautiful work gave me a lesson that all the years of looking at reproductions could never do. In real life I found it an amazing piece, full of colour, depth and a form of meaning. Another such experience, at the Tate Gallery in London in 1994, when I found myself looking at the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci gave me the same feeling, and a lesson in truly magnificent art, albeit simple drawings on paper.

What is your motivation?

My subjects usually come from the natural world. I rarely paint any man-made structure and find that if an emotional connection is made with anything I see or think of, success may follow. I also put many pieces in the bin.

How would you describe your style?

I have a loose, free, contemporary style which seemed to be there from almost the beginning of my art lessons. I work very intuitively, both with the subject and the materials used. When I start a piece that seems to be working and I get into ‘the zone’, I continue giving the painting what it needs until I feel the piece is completed, no matter how long it takes.

Who/what are your influences?

Many artists give me joy when I see their work, such as Australian artists Joy Hester, Brett Whiteley, Charles Blackman and Robert Juniper. Living artists whose works inspire me are John Olsen and Margaret Woodward. Other artists such as Goya, Turner and Picasso inspire for their use of colour, mediums or placement of shapes. My works are influenced in many ways by Etruscan and Byzantine art, Roman frescoes and mosaics, stained glass, rock art and cave painting. My art has evolved and borders on the abstract, with representation always present.

What are some of your favourite personal works?

Strangely perhaps, I have never really had favourites among my own work. In recent times, however, there have been pieces that I am very happy with such as the collage “Birds of Paradise”. This piece was entered in the City of Gosnells Art Award in June 2019. Local writers were invited to select works to write a poem about, and “Birds of Paradise” was chosen. Although this work did not receive an award, or find a buyer, the poem was very special, making me look at the painting with new eyes. I saw things in it I had not realised were there - but the writer did.

Another piece is “The Goodbye”. This charcoal, watercolour and ink work was created in response to me moving from Toodyay to Mundaring. Entered in the Northam Art Prize in September, the judges selected it to receive an Acquisition Award, and their comments were very moving to me. They had seen and felt the emotion I was trying to convey.

What is your creative process?

Concepts for my paintings can come quickly or may take many months to become clear. I sketch from life constantly, and usually commence a piece using lines taken from these. I especially like to work on paper using liquid mediums, mainly watercolour or ink, incorporating other materials such as pigment, collage, pastel and gold leaf if the painting needs it. While the world around me provides the subject, I respond by using colour and texture to create an image that depicts the real, yet shows that it can be an illusion of reality.

What are your goals ?

In some ways I have never felt that I am an artist, but instead will always be an art student, learning and discovering as time goes by. So while continuing to strive to make artworks that are more abstracted, better than anything that has come before, and acceptable in the places I would like my art to be shown - I would really love to find new, innovative ways to work with materials. I have been described by art lecturers as “an experimental artist”. This process of work is when I am the happiest, especially if the painting works and takes on a life of its own.


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