Interview With Kirsten Duncombe

The delightful Sydney-based artist Kirsten Duncombe creates colourful and captivating abstract works. We caught up with her a few weeks ago to discuss her process and what inspires her. Art really encompasses all areas of Kirsten’s life, when she isn’t creating, she works as an art teacher and has recently commenced a Masters of Studio Arts at UNSW.

Where do you find inspiration?
Luckily for me, I was introduced to Sydney artist Marisa Purcell at the beginning of 2014. Marisa offers private lessons and workshops, which I attended throughout 2014 . I have been inspired by her beautiful and extraordinary large scale abstract works, as well her attitude towards art and abstract art in particular.

I am inspired by all forms of artistic communication - I am inspired when other people have managed to crystallise states of feeling and being into a book, movie, poem, painting or piece of music. This is the magic of the arts, and the power of the arts to connect people and reduce the feeling of separate-ness inherent in being human. One of my biggest influences lately is the book ‘Tantra song’ which contains beautiful images which are used for meditation.

Which artists influence your work?
I am inspired by artists through history, including Helen Frankenthaler, Victor Pasmore and Miro. I love discovering contemporary Australian artists, and at the moment I am particularly impressed by the work of Tom Polo, Tonee Messiah, Laura Jones, Coen Young and, of course, Marisa Purcell. I love minimalist works, and the Japanese aesthetic has been of particular importance to me.

What materials do you prefer to work with?
I love acrylics, they are fast drying, not as toxic as oils, and seem particularly suited to my ways of working. I use Golden brand, which has an incredible range of colours and mediums etc. I love working on canvas paper, it has a lovely surface which is again suitable for my working methods. I prefer polyester over canvas, the surface behaves the most like paper, which is really my number one love. I have some Flasche vinyl paints also, which create amazing bright opaque colours. I use pastel pencils and crayons for details. I use a variety of brushes, and create my collage shapes using a pair of scissors.

Where do you create your art and what is your workspace like?
I have a room in my house which has lots of natural light and a large window facing the garden. It’s not a huge room, however it fits in everything I need for the moment, and provides the great advantage that I can work easily at night when my children are asleep, or when they are playing in the garden, or generally creating mayhem in some other part of the house.

What challenges have you faced working as an artist?
As an artist you really have to market yourself, and i think that can be really challenging. Also, it's not a career path renowned for its earning potential! I need to make sure that I can generate an income stream from other sources and still have the energy and time to dedicate to my art making.

Do you have an image of what you want to create in your head before you begin painting or is it an organic process?
Sometimes I have a vague idea - usually I think of some colours to experiment with. But the way I paint is very much an organic process, and I am always surprised (sometimes dismayed!) at how different the final painting is from my original vision. Also, I use a lot of water in my process, to wash away layers and reveal layers underneath, and the way I spray and drop the water on really leaves things open to chance.

What would you like people to take away from your work?
I consider my works to be landscape-type spaces that are physically rendered in paint and collage, however they are on another level representative of the internal landscapes of the human psyche. I aim to create works that are strange, beautiful, unpredictable, and perhaps slightly frightening. Like the precious and brief life each of us is allotted.

As an art teacher do you ever gain inspiration from your students?
I am always inspired by watching young people create art. I am probably more inspired by their attitude, their open minds, their perseverance and their ability to take artistic risks as much as anything else. Almost every day as an art teacher I see extraordinary and beautiful art objects being created.

Do you have any upcoming projects or goals?
I am about to embark on a Masters of Studio Arts at UNSW Art and Design, so I am excited about meeting new people, and producing work with the guidance of new teachers. I plan to continue to make art, and to find new ways of using paint and collage, and perhaps other materials, to hopefully create works that feel authentic and have integrity.

You can buy Kirsten's works here.

Words: Sarah Lord