In this new body of work, Northern Rivers-based artist Kathryn Dolby has sought to bind multiple experiences of water that occurred over the past two years, on boards that were in varying stages of progress over that duration. Through her pregnancy, she began painting the ocean spurred by an incredible urge to be by the sea – where water became a meditative visualisation for water birth, and also the two major floods that occurred when she was full term. The powerful experiences of the flood and of birth demonstrating how simultaneously destructive yet also healing and life giving this compound is – at once providing calm refuge with the meditative motions of the sea and also clearing a path in surges.
Dolby’s paintings are blurred, morphing, shifting, slipping landscapes painted from deep visceral memories, propelled gently by the words found in Olivia Laing’s novel, To the River: “The Slipping Landscapes of a Dream.” In her practice, Dolby’s preference is that her work ‘suggest’ and ‘evoke,’ enjoying to blur the bound between abstraction and representation – and the freedom to play and tease at those sensations rather than painting a direct copy of the real world. It is her hope also that through the abstracted, ambiguous elements of the paintings, the work can extend beyond her lived experience and into something that can be carried by the viewer into their own world, memory and colour associations.
“I’m interested in the power, strength and also lightness of water. With thinned down, fluid layers of paint, fleshy tones of the body morph into waves, mountains into water, sky into sea, memories swirling, fading, and morphing into something new. Ripples through the subconscious like an untamed tide, intense and also gentle, solid and soft, liberated and new. These works are an ode to the power of the elements and their influence on our experience of the world”.
~ Kathryn Dolby (2023)
As always, colour is a huge influence on Dolby and her memories are replete with colour triggers from particular moments in time. The thick volcanic red mud from the floods that drew a line through the trees and landscape for weeks afterwards, magnifying the green tips of the trees against the sky. Choosing to focus on the green tips, the renewal of the trees and the hint at new life it suggested, it felt palpably more hopeful and light to focus her energy there. There is a kind of flood line that links and moves up and down the works – some of the lines are milky while others are muddy.
The initial challenge of uniting works that were created over such a long span of time, with significant gaps between painting sessions was resolved by the artist’s habit of moving from board to board until they all cohered through layering, with the layers of memories, until the thread connected together in a clearer way. The result is a determined, honest, considered and deeply feminine offering from one of our most talented emerging artists. Kathryn Dolby continues to push and evolve her practice, richly imbuing her work by life as she lives it.
– Amber Creswell Bell 2023