Kerry Gulliver, Relievo Exhibition

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Kerry Gulliver is a talented local artist inspired by the shapes, patterns and colours in nature. Kerry constantly experiments with new techniques and often quite unusual painting “tools”,  and her completed works are striking and unique. NERAM will be the venue for Kerry’s latest exhibition, “Relievo” … her works will be on display from December 7 . 

Hi Kerry. I believe you were interviewed by FOCUS quite a while back – around seven years ago, I think! What’s been keeping you busy over this time period?

Since then I have participated in several group shows and have had a solo exhibition (at NERAM in 2015). This solo exhibition was based on a trip to Tasmania with an artist friend. Tasmania is a very inspiring place for a landscape painter and while there, I took a lot of photos and did thumbnail sketches, from which I created larger works on my return. While I tend to paint more abstracted landscapes, I found myself coming up with more figurative interpretations (in acrylic paint on paper), with a bit of John Glover thrown in as an influence.

I also went to the Flinders Ranges, but am yet to translate the studies done there into larger works, and I regularly visit family at the coast and in Sydney.   

The works for this coming exhibition at NERAM in December have mostly been done since the Tasmanian works, but some were started beforehand. Tasmania was a bit of a tangent for me stylistically, but the works for this exhibition are closer to my usual approach.  

While I spend as much time as possible in the studio on larger works, I also do a lot of experimentation on paper on a smaller scale, and many of these are studies that I will expand on at a later date. This enables me to get ideas down quickly, while trying a lot of different approaches and techniques on a smaller scale.     

What part of the New England do you call home, and what do you love most about it?

I live on the outskirts of North East Armidale, on a lovely undulating bush block which fortunately has not been fully cleared in the past, so it still retains a lot of its old eucalypts. I am on a ridge and love and am inspired by the views from my home. I am also near the Pine Forest and walk there regularly with my two dogs and have a great studio which has views on four sides.  

It is a very private block, and I love the peace and quiet. 

While I have established a certain amount of garden and planted a lot of trees, the introduced plants blend in well with the natural landscape, which is still relatively bushy, with openings through to distant vistas. I am close to town, which is convenient.  

Armidale is a great place to live in, as it is not manic like the city, and it has a great art gallery. I lived in Sydney for years and after some time, I started hankering for life in the country. Armidale was a good choice for me, as I spent most of my childhood in the New England, and NERAM was also a big drawcard. It’s also close to the gorge country, which is great for painting trips.

How do you feel your art practice has evolved in recent years?

For the last eight years I have been doing a lot of low relief work, where I have built up the surface with moulded felt and plaster. I have always included a lot of patterning in my work, and I found that the low relief technique really suited this approach. I guess I am working toward a certain style of landscape painting, which I can tantalisingly envisage in my mind. Each new technique I discover hopefully brings me closer to this goal. It’s a constant treading of a long path.

You describe your artwork as semi abstract landscapes. What is it that most captures you about a scene you’re painting – is it the shapes you see, patterns or colours, for example?

Colour and light in the landscape are a great inspiration, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons, when the colours are greatly enriched. Everything looks more 3D, as the forms are lit from the side and the shadows are stronger, creating an element of drama that you don’t see as much when the sun is overhead. 

I like the repetition of shapes and textures in nature; it’s a constant patterning, and along with the daily and seasonal cycles creates a great sense of rhythm. Many aspects of my work come from my imagination, and I like to combine this with elements of the viewed landscape.

How do you decide what to paint next?

No matter where I am, there will be a visual prompt which jumps out at me. It can be a scene, a pattern in a rock, the shape of a shadow, a combination of colours, or the texture on a man-made structure.  

I also find stimulus from looking at art, whether in galleries, art books and magazines, or from people creating art around me. 

I also find the colours produced on the retina after looking at bright lights to be evocative, and hope to use this more in the future as a basis for work. Colour has its own language, and an understanding of it can make a work, whether abstract or representational, very powerful.    

What are some of the materials you like to use in your work to create interest and texture?

I mainly use acrylic paint, to which I often add felt, plaster, pumice, sand, and collage. I like to use canvas, paper or board as a support, though some of the works are done on moulded felt. 

I am constantly on the lookout for interesting implements at hardware stores, with which I can achieve different effects. I glued beads on a paint roller for instance, and this has produced some great textures. I use kitchen spatulas a lot to scrape into the paint. I sometimes soak fabric in paint and lay it on the canvas and peel it off when dry. It creates a wonderful effect that you can’t achieve with a brush. I am constantly experimenting with different materials.

Considering you’ve loved drawing and painting since you were around 12, there must have been many things you’ve learned about art and creativity since! If you could go back and speak to your 12 year old self, what’s some advice you’d give?

Keep persevering and learn from the many inevitable failures, instead of feeling defeated. Don’t give up when paintings can’t be resolved, as a good percentage of what painters produce don’t work. This is a regular part of creating art, and often days of work can be painted over in a few minutes after much frustration. This can also be a way to push through and discover new techniques.  

I would say to her to keep working toward a vision or goal and realise there are many tangents on the way. Also, to find her own style and spend time in developing and moulding it, so that she can look back on her life and not feel that she could have devoted more time to doing what she loved.

You share your passion for art with others and hold classes/workshops too. What are some of the upcoming sessions you’ll be offering?

I love teaching art, and I learn a lot from my students in the process. With one of my groups, who are mainly younger artists, I am doing a workshop based on Pop Art. The bright colours and contemporary imagery can be refreshing and though we won’t be using screen printing, which is a commonly used technique in Pop Art, the poster/comic book style can be achieved through paint, masking techniques and photo collage.  

I love teaching techniques such as sgraffitto (drawing into wet paint) and frottage (similar to brass rubbings) and am happy to share my skills with anyone.

You also have an upcoming exhibition at NERAM. Tell us a bit about the works you’ll have on display, and the dates we’ll be able to view the exhibition …

They are mainly works from the last four – five years, so they are a bit varied. However, the main link with most of them is that they are low relief – hence the title of the exhibition, Relievo.  

They are basically landscapes, but some are more abstracted or stylised than others. I have always been attracted to relief work from all periods of history, whether on ceramic pieces, in tombs and on walls, carved into stone, or assembled from found objects. I love the way light picks up the edges of the shapes and casts a shadow. While a lot of the works are purely from my imagination, some are inspired by my environment and the coastal areas around Port Macquarie.

The exhibition opens at NERAM on Friday 7th December, 6pm – 8pm and will go for two months, until early February 2019.

Where can we see more of your works, or find out more about you?

I have a website: kerrygulliver.com where you can view a lot of my works from the last 10 to 15 years. Please come to the exhibition.

Thanks Kerry.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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