Monday, July 18, 2011

A Conversation With Kas McMahon

The artwork of Kas McMahon, an artist from Australia and a current resident of Dublin, Ireland, mixes strong female characters with a delicious sense of humor. McMahon is currently part of a group show 'Summer Madness' at View Art Gallery in Bristol, UK. McMahon talked with ArtSeen about her artwork and her artistic methods. 

"Oh Louise" 2010
Can you tell us a little about your artwork and your artistic process?

I work with acrylic paint on canvas. I have a little sketch book jammed with ideas waiting to be painted. Although, ideas usually develop when I'm lying in bed in the dark, so I write quick notes on my phone.
I create a rough image using photoshop,this is quite involved and typically takes a few weeks.
I then print out loads of photos and crank up the rock. I find working in silence unhealthy for my poor fragile, pretty, mind. Then its finally painting time!
It is really slow work but I absolutely love it. Usually a piece takes 2-3 months. I've found the more I paint the higher my expectations, and so, the longer a piece takes. It would be wonderful if it was the higher my expectations the quicker I become but its not. So, ah well, fiddle dee dee, potatoes.

"Untitled" 2009
What inspires you as an artist? Why do you 
create art?

Everything that I have done and seen and love plays a part in what comes out onto the canvas.

I have a background as a jeweller and a glass artist. I think the decorative and delicate elements of these mediums are most prevalent in the details of my current work. Working with glass has also instilled an awareness of the power of light. I am continuing on working out how to transfer this appreciation into my paintings. I have started experimenting with Chiaroscurro and I'm finding that approach really working with my style.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

I mostly focus on strong women, often in absurd situations, meeting your gaze and daring you to judge them. I enjoy that juxtaposition of stern beauty and unexpected objects. I've also been told that there's a strong sense of surreal humour throughout my work. I paint what I like and I like a stiff measure of eccentricity, beauty and funny.

"Golden Delicious" 2011
Are there any artists that inspire you ? If so who would they be and why?

Oh god yeah. I wouldn't be able to do this without other artists. Their drive and the quality of their work continually inspires and encourages me to push myself. I love the work of John-John Jesse, Femke Hiemstra, Liz Mcgrath, Alex Garcia, David Stoupakis, Lindsey Carr, Martin Wittfooth, Alex Gross, Allison Sommers, Jon Enigma Jaylo, Pamela Wilson, Natalia Fabia and Sergio Mora
to name but 13.

Slowly getting to know some of my peers has been fantastic. Artists that have taken the time to talk to me and answer my questions have made an immense difference to my practice.

Gustav Klimt and Louise Bourgeouis have also been huge influences since I discovered their work in high school.

For you, what do you think the role of the artist is?

To be driven to develop ideas and put 100% of ourselves into our creations.

"Muscle Crown" 2010
What’s the best and worst part about being an artist? How do you stay motivated?

The best parts are: Seeing a painting come together over months of working on it. Doing something that makes me feel proud of myself. Finally having the perfect channel for this huge creative energy hat I was born wearing. Looking good in hats.

The worst parts are: Self doubt. Getting stuck and really struggling with an image and wanting to stab the canvas repeatedly with my paintbrush. Working long, long hours and my back hurts and my shoulder muscles feel like they are ripping off and my hands throb. Galleries taking 50% and not answering your emails.

I love what I do and often I'm so excited by what I'm working on that I can't sleep. So I paint willingly and eagerly. I work on one piece at a time. My eagerness to start my next piece helps keep me motivated to finish up those last tedious bits that are driving me nuts. When I need a push to spend another day in front of the canvas I remind myself that I am at my happiest painting. That always works.

And finally, what advice would you give to emerging artists?

Work your ass off. Always be pushing yourself. Experiment. Don't hold back. Always attempt things even if you dont think you can pull them off. Keep a book of ideas. Keep an image bank for inspiration. Seek out opportunities and publicity. Spend time with people, books, music etc that inspire you. Take time out to talk to other artists -for your own sanity. Get your work out there.

In 2010 McMahon had one of her artworks selected to be showcased in the Royal Hibernian Academy's Annual Exhibition in Dublin, Ireland and was featured in Aesthetica Magazine's Creative Work Annual. For more information about McMahon and her artwork you can visit her website or you can follow her on Facebook.

All photos provided by Kas McMahon.

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