Kathryn Last | Issue Ten Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

I was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario Canada and moved to Peterborough, Ontario to study Visual Theory at Trent University. Once I had completed my undergrad, I had intentions of leaving Peterborough, but I decided to continue my schooling at the university and I am currently enrolled as a master’s student pursuing a research creation project there. I was never formally trained at an art academy, but I have always created and taken art classes along the way. Studying the theoretical implications of art making and exploring how history and culture intersect with visual art has really influenced the way that I approach my own artwork. I currently live in Peterborough, and my studio is here as well. I go back and forth between Peterborough and Toronto quite often because I miss the vibrancy of the city, and most of my family is there. Living about two hours north of the city, has its own magic. Time seems to move by a lot slower and that pace is very conducive to writing and creating.

I was always a creative child growing up, I think largely because I am an only child, so there was a lot of space where I could cultivate my own creativity. My parents are both artists, so I was raised in a very liberal household, and really encouraged to express myself. I am always so grateful for that. There was this sense I had as a child that I always needed to carve out a space for myself to create whether that was a spot on the floor or a little desk attached to my bunk bed, it was just instinctual that I needed to create and I needed a space to do it in. This will to create continued into my adult years, and my process evolved so much from installation work to mixed media, back to painting and everywhere in between. It wasn’t until this past year that I decided I would become an artist full time. I had been working full time as an art director for many years, which was an incredible job and it taught me so much about the art industry but I always felt something was missing. Becoming a self sustaining artist has of course come with many challenges, but this is the first time in my life where I feel like I am pursuing a passion that I have nurtured my entire life.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

As my artwork progressed, I started to think about how to conceptually frame what I was creating and I began to try and decode my own work and figure out what I was trying to say and what the work was trying to tell me. I have always approached the act of art making with a very open mind, and I believe that my work has evolved with me and is a reflection of my own experiences, past and present. What I have come to realize is that I am a very nostalgic person. Time always seems to be at the centre of my work, not so much as a constraint or a literal depiction of a clock but as a very productive force that is in constant state of becoming. Time is much more than just a number, it is something that we cannot quite comprehend, it is duration and temporality, it is both fleeting and tragic, beautiful and evocative. The freedom in my work is felt only because there is a

certain level of control. I explore these themes through creating my own visual language allowing each brushstroke to convey a feeling or emotion, moving beyond the confines of language and thus moving beyond our western notion of time in the process.

What art do you most identify with? any specific influences or research areas

I most identify with art that challenges and disrupts our classical notion of art and art making. I am certainly drawn to abstraction but more specifically the movements of abstract expressionism, expressionism and surrealism. It is so hard, because art is inherently subjective, and so it is really based on what you feel or connect with as a viewer. I am compelled by artwork that has a theoretical narrative behind it; that is both a piece of art but is also able to move beyond itself in a way that traditional art cannot. I mentioned earlier that I am currently enrolled as a master’s student and my project explores the intricate relationship between word and image; examining what it means to write about images and how these images are never “complete” without text. One of the reasons that I am so captivated by abstract expressionism is because it challenges language and our concept of time, proposing a way to move beyond non linguistic signs through image making.

What prompted you to participating in our art for advent project?

I was searching for a compelling project to do over the winter months and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it was that I was searching for, but I knew there had to be something. I came across the Art For Advent project for Murze. I had already been following the magazine on social media so I knew that they were posting excellent content and thought that I would just apply. Initially I was of course a little nervous about the commitment to creating each day for 24 days, but this was already something that I was doing very regularly so I thought it would be able to manage it.

How did you find the Art for Advent project? What was your routine for making?

I found the Art For Advent project to be both exciting and terrifying all at once. In a strange and beautiful way, the daily submission of work provided more freedom because I wasn’t able to go back and forth with myself wondering if a work was complete. Instead, I was relieved of this inner, often strenuous dialogue. My approach to art making had to shift in order to accommodate this deadline, and it forced me to work more organically, relying on pure intuition. As weeks progressed, this became a project about the self. I was given the opportunity to see each painting that I created and make observations I hadn’t before on the types of colours or forms I was drawn too, exploring how each work differed from one day to the next. There is so much that we can learn from just taking the time to observe and reflect on our own practice through such a fascinating project like this.

The other compelling element to this project was that you were part of a collective of other artists submitting works completely different from your own, and that felt really special, to be able to share that with other artists.

My routine for this project had to be regimented in order to complete each painting on time. I had picked up a myriad of materials to use during the 24 days ranging from oil paint to acrylic and canvas to board. I had mapped out which materials and surfaces I wanted to use each day, but it didn’t always turn out the way I expected, so I was grateful to have such a variety of tools to work with. I would wake up around 7am have my coffee and start creating. I would start sketching in charcoal first, and playing around with various colour swatches, it really depended on the day. Some days I would start right away on a work with no hesitation, other days I wasn’t as confident and things were not flowing as well. Once I completed a work, then I would spend a good hour staring at it, wondering if It was good enough to send in, wondering if there was something I needed to change, wondering if I should start all over again. Basically agonizing over my inner critic. Some days I would paint all day until the very last second, others it would be quick and gestural, it all depended. Once I said to myself I’m finished, then came the task of archiving the work, photographing it and naming it. I’m a stickler when it comes to photographing, I think because I had worked at a gallery for so many years, there was a certain standard I was always taught to achieve. But the proper lighting is an art form in itself. Next I uploaded the photographs to my computer and spent another hour staring and pondering which one was best. Lastly I named the work. I know I didn’t have to do this, but for some reason this part was important to me. I made sure to upload the painting to social media as an additional step because it felt even more like a virtual exhibition when making it public.

Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? what is your most essential tool?

That’s such a hard question because there are so many important parts to my studio that I cherish including the natural light. I would probably have to say a pad of watercolour paper and my golden paints. The watercolour paper is so crucial in drafting up ideas and playing with colour. Golden paint has the best pigment for acrylics in my opinion and I always have this paint in my studio. My most essential tool would probably be my hands. I do have a large collection of paintbrushes, palette knives and fun tools in my studio but I will often just end up using my fingers.

How do you navigate the art world? Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

It’s interesting because I used to work in the art world when I wasn’t a full time artist and there is a lot of that world that has nothing to do with the actual art, and more to do with the commodity of it all. Now that I am on the other side, I approach this space through a more critical lens. On the flipside, this is one of the most exciting times to be an artist and share your work. I think you just need to trust your instinct and know what you want. I have a lot of really exciting projects planned for 2020, but probably one of the most exciting is going to be my solo exhibition this summer for my master’s thesis at Trent University. I will be exhibiting all works from this past year in the show. I am also working on an installation project called Series 30 that will be exhibited in the summer as well.


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