Flowers’ pow­ers

Auck­land artist Kather­ine Throne’s works ex­plore what blooms have to teach us about con­nec­tion, com­mu­nity and our­selves.

Homestyle New Zealand - - PEOPLE —— ARTIST PROFILE - IN­TER­VIEW Alice Lines PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Larnie Ni­col­son

Grow­ing up, Kather­ine Throne al­ways loved cre­at­ing things, but then she got sick and missed three months of school, and had to drop her art class. She thought that was the end of it, and ul­ti­mately went on to get a de­gree in jour­nal­ism, but, of course, des­tiny awaited…

So Kather­ine, how was it that you came to be an artist?

I kept my bag of paints and pas­tels for years, but the op­por­tu­nity never arose to use them till my hus­band Craig and I moved to the US in 2006. I didn’t have a work visa, so I en­rolled at art school to study in­te­rior de­sign. I started taking paint­ing elec­tives — and I was in heaven. I’d found a new lan­guage and was to­tally en­thralled by how marks and ges­tures could ex­press all this en­ergy and emo­tion.

Two years into the pro­gramme, I switched my ma­jor to paint­ing, but then about a week later, af­ter six years of wait­ing, we adopted our baby daugh­ter. My sec­ond daugh­ter ar­rived with an hour’s no­tice on the eve of my first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion — my girls know how to pick their mo­ments! — but we some­how mud­dled through. I got a Bach­e­lor of Fine Arts, then went on to do my Mas­ter’s.

What draws you to flowers as the sub­ject for your work?

I think it’s the power of the mo­tif. My Mas­ter’s the­sis was about the his­tory of in­te­rior de­sign, through which I learned about the demise and den­i­gra­tion of dec­o­ra­tion at the hands of mod­ernism. Dec­o­ra­tion is fem­i­nine, re­lated to the earth, birth, nur­tur­ing and life, and its most iconic mo­tif is the flower. At the end of the 19th cen­tury, this was a huge threat to the power-hun­gry, in­dus­tri­alised mas­culin­ity of mod­ernism, and the fem­i­nine and ev­ery­thing re­lated to it was pretty much erad­i­cated from de­sign lan­guage. Paint­ing the flower is cel­e­brat­ing and cham­pi­oning all that’s fem­i­nine — the beau­ti­ful, the emo­tive and our con­nec­tion with the earth.

Where else do you look for in­spi­ra­tion?

I’m a big reader, and at the mo­ment I’m in­ter­ested in the­o­ries of con­nec­tion, be­long­ing and men­tal health. I love be­ing in gar­dens but am most drawn to the parts that are slightly over­grown and ram­shackle, where the au­da­cious, un­ruly spirit of na­ture is left to ram­ble. Flowers seem to be such a won­der­ful metaphor for the hu­man spirit: the loud and gre­gar­i­ous say take me as I am, while the shady and quiet are just as happy go­ing about their busi­ness. They are what they are and don’t give a damn what any­one else thinks, yet they ex­ist and thrive as a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity. We can learn a lot from them.

What are the works we can see here?

This body of work is for my November ex­hi­bi­tion Of This Earth at All­press Stu­dio. When we moved back to New Zealand a few years ago, I was blown away by how all the houses we were look­ing to buy were painted white in­side and out, and at the same time there was mas­sive trend for house­plants. It seemed that although we love the clean lines and tech­nol­ogy of all that’s mas­cu­line, we crave the or­ganic and the nat­u­ral.

My solo show Wallflower at All­press Stu­dio last year was about re­turn­ing the flower to walls, but this year I wanted to fur­ther ex­plore our con­nec­tion to the earth. As well as a cel­e­bra­tion of the fem­i­nine us­ing the flower mo­tif, it’s also about un­der­stand­ing our re­la­tion­ship with the earth — the ground­ing en­ergy, soul-nour­ish­ing joy and rooted sense of con­nec­tion and be­long­ing it of­fers.

What’s your typ­i­cal process?

It’s al­ways the same: lay­ing down lay­ers of blocks of colour that depict shadow and light — whether I’m work­ing from an ar­range­ment in my stu­dio or from a pho­to­graph. At some point, I de­cide how the paint­ing will go, and if I want to tighten it up or keep it loose. I know if I’ve tight­ened it up too much be­cause the vi­tal­ity dies — it can be a fine line.

How do you choose your colours?

Dur­ing my early paint­ing classes, we had to use lim­ited pal­ettes in the tra­di­tional colours — si­en­nas, um­bers and ochre. I use a pretty wide pal­ette now, but al­ways mix in the neu­trals, which gives my colours a deep, earthy hue that works well with my sub­ject.

What do you en­joy about paint­ing?

Ev­ery­thing: the chance to re­search and for­mu­late an idea, work­ing out cre­ative ways to ex­press the idea, the thrill of mak­ing marks that to­tally en­cap­su­late an emo­tion or en­ergy, the chal­lenge of solv­ing a puzzle when some­thing doesn’t work, then shar­ing that piece of cre­ativ­ity with some­one who’s ex­cited by it. It can be in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing spend­ing hours and days on a paint­ing you’re de­ter­mined to fix, only to cut it off the stretcher bars when you fi­nally ad­mit it’s a lost cause. But you learn from it and that’s what pulls you back to get it right next time.

I think my love of paint­ing is also about the craft — the marks, nu­ances and per­son­al­ity of the artist that re­main vis­i­ble. I’m drawn to art­works where I can feel a con­nec­tion to the artist; I want to re­late to the work or think I know that or feel that too. I’d like to think that my paint­ings of­fer oth­ers a chance of that. Again, it’s about con­nec­tion.

LIFE’S WORK Kather­ine says she heads to her garage­turned-stu­dio the minute she gets home from walk­ing her chil­dren to school and stays un­til pick-up time. “I in­vari­ably turn up to school with green paint on my face. Hav­ing a home stu­dio is won­der­fully con­ve­nient, but also a bit dan­ger­ous. I’ll get the kids into bed, then zip out to the stu­dio to ‘quickly’ fin­ish clean­ing up. Two hours later, I’m frozen to the bone, have paint on my good jeans and am still mak­ing a mess.”

JOLLY GOOD SHOW With two or three paint­ings on the go at once to keep things mov­ing be­tween dry­ing times, Kather­ine works across a spec­trum of ab­strac­tion to rep­re­sen­ta­tion. All of the works pic­tured on these pages are from her re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion, Of This Earth.

LOVELY, AC­TU­ALLY Kather­ine uses oils but says she’s al­ways en­joyed the chal­lenge and fresh­ness of wa­ter­colour, so has started us­ing a di­luted vinyl-based paint that she can use like wa­ter­colour to put down ini­tial lay­ers. “It dries fast and has a lovely vari­a­tion to the oil lay­ers that go on top.”

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