Friday, December 4, 2009

Interview - Kirra Jamison

Willow Weep - Gouache on Paper (2009) by Kirra Jamison (SOLD - I already asked!)

The sea was red and the sky was grey, I wonder how tomorrow will ever follow today (2007), acrylic, pen and ink on polyester, 200 x 150cm.

I Believe in This (2007) - acrylic, vinyl and pen on polyester, 220 x 180cm.

Not even I Can Save You (2009), acryclic, vinyl, pen and gouache on canvas.

I often I find myself overwhelmed by the world of fine art, and I guess I lack the experience and knowledge to really confidently say I like or dislike a certain artwork (let alone pluck up the courage to actually buy something!). I guess I just don't feel informed enough to be clear and decisive about these things! For this reason, it's rare that I find myself completely 100% taken with the work of any particular artist... but after scouring through her back-catalogue, I think I can confidently say I want a Kirra Jamison painting in my life!! (And sooner rather than later!)

Kirra's work is just magical. Each piece seems to have an enchanting story to tell... and woven between the layers of deep colour and pattern is an incredible sense of depth and mystery. I REALLY love her recent gouache paintings on paper - Willow Weep is just so mesmerising... I'm not surprised these stunning pieces sold out at Kirra's recent show at Sophie Gannon Gallery.

Kirra is based in Melbourne and has a studio in Northcote. She has been exhibiting for only 3 short years (having graduated from art school in 2006), yet she has a loyal local following, and her shows are eagerly anticipated by collectors convinced that Ms Jamison has a bright future ahead!

Read on for an insight into Kirra's incredible work and creative influences!

ps) Kirra's boyfriend Dane Lovett is also an amazingly talented artist... well worth checking out too. Something tells me we'll be seeing a lot more of this talented pair...!

Kirra 2009.

Slow down, you move too fast - Sophie Gannon show, October 2009.

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you are doing now?

I was born in Sydney and raised in Byron Bay. You could say I had the quintessential new-age upbringing, and fortunately one that was very supportive of the arts. As an only child I spent most of my time drawing, painting and sewing. I think there was little doubt about what direction my adult life would take.

I started an undergraduate degree when I was seventeen. And although I dropped out every chance I got and spread it over four different art schools, thus far I have a Bachelor of Fine Art with (first class) Honours and half of a Master of Fine Art under my belt. I’ve been exhibiting regularly for the past three years.

Belong to me (2009), acrylic, gouache, pen on canvas. 220 x 183cm.

It must be incredibly tough starting out as a young fine artist – what challenges have you faced since finishing your studies, and what advice would you have for young artists hoping to find representation and exhibit their work in Melbourne and beyond?

You’re right, it can be tough and there are no guarantees. It could take two years or it could take ten years until you get a break. You’ll need a thick skin and a lot of conviction to keep going. Also you need to be prepared to work hard and endure long hours alone in the studio.

I’d encourage any young artist to apply for shows in artist run spaces. It’s a good idea to look into ARI’s in your own state but also in other states to increase your chances. These are the places to get your work seen by a wide audience and with a little luck you will start getting curated into some bigger non- commercial shows. Important stepping-stones for me were my solo exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane and 2007 and being part of neo goth: back in black at the UQ Art Museum.

Kirra at the University of Queensand Art Musuem - the Skull Painting of Kirra's was printed onto the doors of the gallery for the 'Neo Goth : Back in Black' exhibition in 2008. I LOVE the print. And also Kirra's skirt. Nice ensemble!

How would you describe your work?

Whimsical, hopefully magical and a little bit dark.

Yours Til Midnight (2007), acrlyic, vinyl, pen on polyester. 220 x 180cm.

Dream Catch me 2 (2009), acrylic, vinyl and gouche on canvas, 195 x 195cm.

What is one of your favourite pieces and why?

Sadly, I’m yet to own one of my own paintings. But if I could have afforded to, I would have loved to have kept one of my new gouache works on paper - either Willow Weep or Livin’ on a Prayer. I started making these about six months ago and I’m still really excited by them. Plus they take many hours, days and weeks to make so they are particularly hard to part with.

Livin' on a Prayer (2009) - gouache on paper

Kirra and friend proudly display Livin' on a Prayer (sideways) !

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I work in a studio in Northcote about 15 minutes from home. I (try) to arrive there by 9 or 10am. Then it’s lights on, music on, kettle on. Then I’ll check my emails, get all my errands out of the way; phone calls, post office, ordering materials ect.

I paint for around six hours a day. I like to have a few different paintings on the go at any given time. So depending on my mood I’ll either work on something very slow and repetitive with a teeny tiny brush, in which case I barely move an inch all day or I’ll paint something loose and more physical, where I’ll be up and down a ladder all day.

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

At the moment I’m looking to 2010 to be the year of the side project. My partner Dane Lovett and I have been dreaming up some design based collaborations that we hope to launch over the next 12 months.

Tea or coffee whilst you work?

Loose leaf black tea from a pot, please. With fresh ginger and plenty of milk and sugar. And keep it coming.

Kirra works in her studio

Studio and Materials

Music or silence whilst you work? (if music, which?)

Music. On high rotation this month is new albums from The xx, The Lemonheads, Casiotone Painfully Alone and Crayon Fields.

Kirra's works in progress (2006 - 2007)

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – nature, travel, books, the web etc?

I source images from every imaginable place. I have a huge archive of images filed in my studio. Every painting that I make stems from little snippets of images in this collection. I like the idea that nothing comes from nothing.

It’s a completely eclectic mix, not specific to any one time or place. From children’s books, American Indian crafts, botanical illustration, Art Deco textiles, Art Nouveau Wall papers, German folk art, Chinese paper cutting, Japanese graphic design.

My work is very much about removing something from its original context and allowing new meanings to be evoked. I think this process of making new relationships or connections between existing images is my way of processing and making sense of the world.

Which artists / designers / creative people do you admire?

Dead and living in no particular order… Makiko Kudo, Charley Harper, Linda and John Meyers of Wary Meyers, Henri Mattise, Lotte Reiniger, Michelle Jank, Hayao Miyazaki, Alphonse Mucha, Jim Henson, Sonja Delaunay.

What are you looking forward to?

At the moment I’m totally excited about an editioned sculpture that I am making for 2010 Melbourne Art. Moving from 2D to 3D has been very challenging. I’m learning from scratch all about casting and mould making and it’s totally inspiring. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product!

Melbourne Questions -

Your favourite galleries to see the work of emerging artists in Melbourne?

There were some real gems at VCA Graduate Show last week.

TCB, Gertrude Street, West Space and Blindside always have something interesting going on. My favourite exhibitions in ARI’s from the past year were both shows by Melbourne collaborative Safari Team.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Wabi Sabi Salon in Collingwood.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

At the Collingwood farmers markets, stocking up on groceries for the week ahead. It always puts me in a good mood.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Min Lokal in Fitzroy …yummiest coffee and Bircher muesli.

Whoa, we're halfway there (2009), acrylic, ink, pen, gouache and vinyl, 132 x 122cm


  1. an instant inspiration overload! thanks for this great interview. love kirra's work :)

    kind of saddened to hear that she can't keep some of her pieces, but of course it's a great sign.

  2. ok. Thankyou for this one. talented, interesting,visual,inspirational,story tellling...want to know more..

  3. I adore Kirra's work! Would love to own one one day!

  4. That was a fantastic interview, very inspiring. I love her work and I really enjoyed reading that. Thanks!

  5. wow what an inspiration. such beautiful works. it was great to see the pic with the people next to the paintings to get an idea of their scale. must see one in the flesh!! great interview. thanks lucy x

  6. what a great interview

  7. best interview i have read in a while. love kirra's work.