Interview With Julia Kennedy-Bell

We met up with Julia Kennedy-Bell to find out about her, her work, and her inspirations...

Please tell me a bit about yourself, how did you get into art?
I'm a painter, mostly, and I work in media and installation. I grew up in Sydney and went to COFA (College of Fine Arts). Since I've been out of art school, I've developed more of the installation side of my work. My mum said that I always drew; in my spare time I would sit down and doodle something. That's pretty much what I'd do all day! I did it all through high school as well.

Others have described your art-making practice as formalistic. Can you tell me a bit about this? Does your style involve a lot of pre-planning?
I think I’ve always had a formalistic approach, but it came to light at COFA.

I discovered abstraction and non-objective work. I realised that this is what I had always been doing, but now knew what it was.

My work is usually based on a composition I've already worked out. In the past, I used to draw up the composition before I started working. Now that I work more with photography, I'm always trying to find that vision of the starting point.  As I go along painting I adjust the work, depending on how it’s working out. But yeah, there is definitely structure in the starting point.

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How are you with materials - do you like to experiment with new mediums?
I really like how materials can influence the way you look at something. When you have a painting, and you know it's painted, and it’s on a wall, it's a painting. But when you start to play with the materiality of different mediums then they start to influence each other. They interact. It's like having another association of something that's not a painting. It has a stance of its own.

Tell me about your work with copper. Is that a difficult medium to use?
The copper is a bit tricky as it's quite flimsy. You have to get it right in one go and then paint it, and if it does move at all, the paint tends to crack off. So I started to use aluminum, which is a bit more flexible. You can put a primer on it and the paint won’t come off. I wanted to start working more with the illusion of flat surfaces. (You're referring to your works on the walls that seem flat but come out of the wall?) Yes, particularly with geometric work, it can be sort of an optical illusion. So you think you're looking at, and in fact you are, looking at something in three-dimensional. I wanted to play with that.

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Have you ever been stuck for inspiration?
I have. For a few years after art school I felt like nothing was working, which is when I started the paper installations. So I moved to another medium and that seemed to get me unstuck. I used to make some tiny little construction pieces that I used to play around with when I was at uni but I didn't really take it seriously. Then I remembered being in my studio and thinking, maybe this will clarify what I'm doing with my painting, as I'm always working with geometry. I started making a few things and then I started painting them. That helped clear up my (inspiration block), but they're also very interesting as they are. In a room they are huge: a 3D painting.

Any current projects at the moment?
Well I'm actually taking a residency in Berlin. So I've taken some photographs of some experiments I've been doing, for a new paper work. I'll take those with me when I go and I want to develop a new installation when I'm there. I'll be focusing more on light and structure... How light can create form as well. Having a flat side, and then the light of the shadow going up the wall.

What are you specifically excited for in Berlin?
Everything about it really! I'm excited about the art culture there. It's not like going to London where you know all the big galleries. It's a bit more grassroots roots. Living in Berlin, I hope I'll get more of that local knowledge.

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Are there any historical artists that you would reference when it comes to your own art?
I like the way Frank Stella used materials. I like all of those painters from the sixties, those famous American artists. The geometric works. There's something about me that really loves order.

Have any exhibitions or residencies particularly influenced you?
I did Culture at Work in Pyrmont and they're an art and science collective, (for example) any artists who might have a bit of interest in cosmology could be linked up with somebody in their research board. So I worked with an architect. We had a few discussions on how to create structures on balance, weight, all the formal side of working with things like metal...and that's why I started doing those copper works. That was my first attempt at working with copper, and not just metal but three-dimensional works as well. 

You can see all of Julia's works for sale here.

From Julia's studio in Berlin

From Julia's studio in Berlin