Our series continues where we ask leading specialists about themselves and their field. Today we're in conversation with a favourite artist, (and Cucumber fan) London-based Kate Lowe.
Before beginning her art career, Kate worked for 20 years in advertising.In 2003, Kate began her formal art education. Kate says, 'My work is, by and through nature, experimental and iterative.I use drawing, photography, painting, collage and film, often in succession to explore personal consociations and connections.'
Kate was both artist-in-residence and then Director of the ReCentre Art Residency, and founder of a new creative community, the Pollen Collective, an association of 21 mid-career professional artists.
She is currently a resident artist at Kindred Studios in West London, where she is also a Trustee. You can find out more about Kate's work and thoughts on her website.
What is your favourite childhood memory?
I grew up in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s and spent much of my time “playing outside.” We had a wide circle of family friends and most weekends we would take a trip into the countryside and hike and a picnic. My favourite excursion was to a huge green field that ran beside some railway tracks. We would save our coins and place them on the track and wait patiently for the train to roar through and turn our change into smooth discs. I remember the excitement of the train, the whistle, and the wind as it rushed past and then the delight when I found shiny metal circles waiting on the hot tracks.
Memory and nostalgia are both strong sources of inspiration for my art practice. Here is one of my paintings, titled ‘Crushing Pennies.’ 95 x 120 cm Oil and collage on canvas. Private Collection.
Who are your 3 favourite female artists and why?
For relatability, I am a life-long admirer of Louise Bourgeois. During her seven decades of making art, she explored the body, the psyche and motherhood in a radical and diverse practice. I remember entering one of her ‘Cells’ at Tate Modern after having my third child and being overwhelmed with the sense that she had embodied the somewhat confused state of postpartum. To connect with an artist through their work is a powerful experience.
Although I work across a variety of media, paint is the material that I am most drawn to. Cecily Brown is a British painter who is roughly the same age as I am, and I have long been a fan of her large scale, gestural paintings. I particularly loved her solo show at Blenheim Palace where she created a modern body of work which responded to the pastoral paintings, tapestries, and decorative arts in this stately home. Brown’s bold reinterpretations and responses to the historic narratives were full of colour, movement, and even whimsy; her work is continually evolving and continues to inspire me.
There was a recent exhibition of work at The Barbican in London of the work of Carrie Mae Weems. She is an African American artist who has had a career spanning many decades. She explores identity, the body, social justice and power in her photography, performance, installation, and film. I use photography and text in my own work, and I admire Carrie Mae Weems’ ability to distill both unique and universal themes into images.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the family I have created and supported while building a career and getting a Masters degree in Fine Art. I hope that my decision to switch careers and return to education in my 50s has set an example for my three (nearly grown) children.
What are you working on now and where next?
I am currently working on two exciting new bodies of work. I did a wonderful artist residency with a textile artist from India in March of this year (Rachna Garodia). We spent two weeks at Mawddach Residency in Snowdonia and worked together in a joint studio for up to ten hours a day (interspersed with long walks and hikes in the mountains of Northern Wales.) We are now collaborating on a new series which will combine weaving and painting as a way of exploring our relationship to the landscape.
I am also developing a series of small paintings about my great grandmother, made from historic photographs. Jenny Franklin Purvin was one of a few Jewish women to become prominent in both civic and communal work in Progressive Era Chicago (in the 1920s and 1930s). She campaigned to make Chicago’s beaches clean and accessible and was a strong advocate for summer camps and outdoor experiences for children. I am painting from archival photographs using handmade substrates. These works explore several themes including my lost connection to Judaism, working mothers and the importance of time spent outside.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a mid-life career change into the creative arts?
Don’t hesitate - do it. Art schools are filled with mature students (mostly women!) and if you find the right program it is a rare opportunity to explore yourself and to learn a new way to communicate in a an increasingly complex world.