The Glasshouse Regional Gallery will be transformed in January, with contemporary art in all its bright, vibrant hues, breathtaking forms and imagination showcased at its most fantastic. Kate Rohde is just one of the artists whose work will be on display …
Hi Kate. You currently live and work in Melbourne … How does this very arty city help inspire your own art practice?
Melbourne is incredibly rich in culture and artistic institutions, so I’m really spoilt for choice in experiences. Just wandering through the permanent collection of the NGV is very inspiring. Because I’ve always lived close to Melbourne, I’d never realised until I was in my 20s how lucky I was, and that it had so much to offer.
As I mentioned, I love going to the NGV, but also there a many small galleries and museums that are unique, from the historic house and antiques of The Johnston Collection in East Melbourne, to contemporary house museums like the Lyon house and Justin art house, which are actually family homes which are open to the public so they can experience contemporary art in a residential setting. I’ve worked with The Johnston Collection several times now, and many of my large vase artworks have been inspired by items in the collection.
You use a lot of unusual materials in your work. What are some of your favourite products to work with?
Nowadays I use a lot of resin, but I also have a number of craft materials that I like to work with. When I started making sculptures, I had no experience using traditional sculpture materials or techniques, so I started working with things that were easy to handle and not too expensive. Over time as I got more experienced, I started to incorporate more technical things like the resin, but some of my favourites are still very crafty, like acrylic hair, glitter and fake fur.
The natural world and humans’ interactions with wildlife appear to be two big influences on your work. Why are these things important to you?
I grew up on a rural property next to a forest and being an only child until I was seven, the family pets were also like friends, and I got to see many wild animals wandering through our paddocks. I loved seeing them, but I also wished they were brighter, and more exciting, dangerous beasts. Most of the books I had about animals featured the classic lions, tigers and bears, all very dramatic animals, and I loved the many patterns, forms and textures they had; everything that I saw locally was very “brown’’ and safe.
As I got older and started making art, I was influenced by things like old fashioned natural history museum dioramas, and National Geographic magazine, both things I personally really enjoyed, but I realised it was a second hand experience of the natural world, which is how many city dwellers experience nature … And in some ways it’s preferable, as you are presented with the ideal moment, or perfect specimen without any discomfort or disappointment, which may be experienced when seeking it out in the wild.
Why do you think you’re so drawn to such bright colours in your work?
I’ve always loved bright, lurid colours since I was young – perhaps it was being surrounded by so much earthy brown and green. I had a set of 72 Derwent pencils, and my favourite colours were always the aqua and magenta, so I think there’s always been an attraction to those intense, saturated hues.
When I first started making faux museum dioramas and specimens, I was quite concerned with making them appear natural and correct, but after I while I realised I had this vast array of colours and materials at my disposal, and it seemed way more fun to take artistic liberties with them and invent my own fantastical specimens.
You’ll be one of the extremely talented artists whose work will be showcased in the exhibition Neon Summer. What particular pieces will you be exhibiting?
The pieces I’m exhibiting in Neon Summer were developed for two exhibitions in 2015 and 2016. There are several sculptural vases, which were originally created for my presentation in the 2015 Rigg Design Prize at The National Gallery of Victoria, titled Ornament Crimes. There are two wallpaper designs, Crystal Candy, which was also part of the Rigg entry and a second, Luminous Animals, which was made for a solo show at Craft Victoria in 2016 called Luminous Realms, which collages images of the vessels to create the wallpaper pattern. I like to use imagery of things I’ve made in the wallpapers, so that they are as original as possible.
How much do you enjoy being a part of group exhibitions?
I like group shows a lot, as you get to meet other artists, which is nice, and it’s generally less stressful when the focus isn’t solely on you and your art. I especially enjoy when I get to travel for exhibitions too, as you go to places you wouldn’t think to go on holiday, perhaps. One of the most unexpected places I travelled to for a group show was Vilnius, Lithuania, somewhere I’d never think to go in Europe, but really interesting and different.
What other creative project ideas do you have bubbling away at the back of your mind?
I pretty much work from project to project, so it depends largely on what’s on the schedule for the next few months. I make jewellery as well as art, and I have an exhibition next year of precious metal jewellery, so I’ll start working on that very soon. I like moving between varied materials and techniques, as it keeps it interesting, and I continue learning about new things.
Where can we see more samples of your work, or find out more about you?
I sell vases and jewellery through Melbourne store Pieces of Eight, which have a very good online store and artist profiles, as well as my own site www.katerohde.com
In early 2018 I also have some work in a travelling exhibition arranged by the Australian Design Centre in Sydney, which will travel to a number of galleries around Australia for three years, including Port Macquarie Glasshouse Gallery.
Thanks Kate. Photos by Graham Baring.
Neon Summer will light up the Glasshouse this summer! Neon Summer Gala Opening Night – Dec 1st, 6pm. Live entertainment; complimentary drinks and canapes.
Tickets $25 (U15 free).
Neon Summer Artist Forum – meet the artists! Dec 2nd, 10am. Free! Bookings for both events essential. glasshouse.org.au