Last Saturday morning I went to talk to Kerrie Lester about the course she’ll be running at Daku in September. We are very excited that one of Australia’s top contemporary artists is coming to Daku – it really is quite a coup for us.
What an amazing place she has, full of her artworks and the marvellous bits and pieces she’s collected over the years. She describes herself as a ‘bower bird’, picking things up from all over the place. The objects then appear in her paintings, forming the landscape in which her figures appear.
Landscape to Kerrie doesn’t necessarily mean a realistic depiction of trees or streets. Rather, it’s a series of suggestions about that particular figure’s setting. A seesaw and a jumping dog make the landscape in “Playground”; a beach and a few boats are the landscape for “In a hurry.” So how will this work when she comes to Fiji? She explained it like this:
“Oh, we’ll go out and see what there is. It’s all about getting an impression –I don’t paint from what I see, I re-arrange it.”
So, I wonder, will everyone need a lot of green paint for all the tropical backgrounds?
“No, not necessarily. They might paint the air, and that might be red. Painting landscape is about reacting to the surroundings, and everyone has a different approach. You can’t set up one standard. And green is a very difficult colour to use – a lot of painters say that. I went to PLC and we wore green blazers so maybe that has something to do with it too!”
I’m catching the excitement and the laughter she brings to her painting as we talk. She relishes humour; she loves the larrikin side of Australia and seeks out the funny aspects of everyday situations. Her figures reflect this – whimsical little people going about their daily lives bathed in a light-hearted spirit. She makes it look simple, but she’s been painting for 36 years. “It takes 20 years to be a painter – it’s a learning experience, you don’t go to an art course and come out a painter. I’m still learning now.” So what can she teach them in a week? “I can give them the joy of discovering they can do it. I can show them how to see things, and to believe that their mark on the canvas means something.”
It’s shaping up to be a fabulous week.