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It’s hard to pigeonhole Kathryn Fenton as one type of artist. “I am a strong believer that one’s art should evolve and this can only happen if the artist continually questions the process which in turn produces various innovations”. This attitude towards her profession has propelled Kathryn into challenges and towards opportunities that have made her the artist she is today.
Over the past 25 years, Kathryn has dabbled in all corners of the domestic and international art world, creating momentum as she goes as a filmmaker, animator, graphic designer, art-therapy teacher and painter. Kathryn is a celebrated painter that has exhibited widely around Australia. Her work, described as “expressionist, allegorical, otherworldly”, has been acknowledged by prestigious awards including being the finalist for the past seven years in the National Still Life Art Prize and the recipient of several awards in the Coffs Harbour and Sawtell Art Prizes.
Kathryn received mentor-ship from passionate teachers that steered her toward the arts engaging her in drama, play writing and art classes during high school. After school she went on to study fine arts, graphic design and visual communication at the Queensland College of the Arts in Brisbane taking film making as an elective.“The passion and drive I had for it was all consuming in the following years“. Following college Kathryn worked for the Queensland Education Department as an animator on children’s educational films.“I had my sights set on furthering my career in film making and worked hard to secure a scholarship at The Australian Film and Television School in Sydney”. After graduating the three-years diploma Kathryn enjoyed a successful 18-year career working as an editor and filmmaker on documentaries and feature films.
While in Hong Kong on an assignment shooting corporate documentaries, Kathryn had a lot of exposure to masters of great contemporary Chinese painting. “This stirred a huge desire in me to return to my painting practice in earnest. Back home I joined the Australian Brush painting Society and praise my mentor and tutor Andrew Lo for creating a mental shift in my perception and philosophy on art”.Andrew, described by Katheryn as “the Punk Rocker to this gentle art practice” had a positive impact on her development, enjoying his leadership and unique teaching methods.
The formal graphic design training had left Kathryn with a reflex muscle in her arm to paint representationally “I wanted the means to move away from all this and add movement and abstraction with my painting“.Kathryn experimented with a variety of different mediums “I engaged in some life changing workshops with great Australian Artists such as David Fairbairn, Susan Archer, Judith White, Wendy Sharpe, Luke Sciberrus and Colley Whisson.”Today, a lot of her landscape work is allegorical “I am obsessed with the ethereal light that comes with the dawn and upon dusk and big sweeping skies and horizons in general. They set the stage for the drama and backdrops for my figures woven into the landscape in an abstracted form”.
Wanting to leave the viewer with a take away, Kathryn spends hours doing research prior to doing her preliminary sketches.“It may be an idea from a piece of poetry, mythology or ancient history, or from my own photography. For the past two years I have been preoccupied with 17th and 18th European painting, particularly the Baroque, Neo classical and Rococo eras. I am sure two recent trips to Italy and Spain were a catalyst and inspiration for this current body of work“.
As such a successful contender in the National Still Life Prize, over time her still life painting has been influenced by the Renaissance movement and later many movements from Cubism, Fauvism to Hyperrealism.“I’ve gone full circle in some ways and wanting to capture those atmospheric biblical backdrops to set the stage for the quirky juxtaposition of modern-day objects reflecting my ideologies on contemporary society. In the end my work in this art category is more in the vein of Surrealism”.
Her two main styles of painting include the more popular style of figurative Renaissance/Rococo landscapes and her Plein Air Australian landscapes. Kathryn has found that her figurative landscapes really resonate with clients “it gives me great joy as they express and encapsulates so many of my values, loves, hopes and philosophies on life. For example, one of my oil paintings, ‘In the Company of Venus’ was firstly inspired by a French 18th century painter for his stunning use of vivid blues and greens contrasted so superbly against the luminous pale flesh of the figure Venus”.
Kathryn has been using water-based materials including watercolour, ink and acrylics for several years. “I currently paint a lot in oils, but depending on the subject I can use mixed media such as oils, acrylic and charcoal and when I paint plein air landscapes I often use gouache, ink and pastel”. To bring more movement and spontaneity to her works Kathryn frequently uses a process that she has found to work well. “I paint a contrasting scene as an under painting in acrylic and charcoal lines then overlay the final work in oils as I love the subliminal effect of an underlying dialogue within the painting. ‘The Seduction of Leda’ was painted in the same process and its juxtaposed colours and vibrancy has also resonated with viewers”.
The love for and inspiration she received from nature leads to her spending hours immersed in its beauty. Every year she spends time in New England Tablelands painting the rolling landscape that remind her of the moors of ‘Wuthering Heights’ in Uralla and the Armidale Gorges. “I have a fondness for them is because they are done with spontaneity and an economy of brushwork and lines capturing the essence of the vistas in such changeable light and weather. It’s raw and honest work that I can’t hide behind. Not often an easy discipline to master.”
True to her character Kathryn has bold plans for the future. “I know the pure joy and wonderment I get from producing my art and I am finally in the best position now to share this with my clients and viewers on a national and international stage”.She dreams of sharing her stories of optimism and work in notable galleries and collaborating with various artist that she admires.“As fate would have it, being represented with my online agent, Art Lovers Australia has been a godsend. They have given me the best gifts of mentor-ship, accessibility, great exposure and the courage to believe bigger than I thought possible in my journey as a professional artist”.
In addition to this, she wants to fulfil her aspiration to spend time working in the Australian outback. “I have a great desire to seriously go outback around Australia for several weeks at a time painting plein air in our camper trailer capturing the magnificent vast landscapes of our extraordinary country like so many artists before me. I feel it’s a spiritual pilgrimage I have to get out of my system at least once in my busy life”.
This talented woman is a gift to the arts world and to the Art Lovers Australia community, the sky really is the limit for Kathryn Fenton. “Finally, to leave on a resonating quote from the great artist Degas.