Kristen McClarty is featured in the 66th issue of the South African Artist Magazine in April 2022.
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Kristen McClarty is a self-taught artist based in Kommetjie. She grew up in Zululand in a creative maker home, and started painting (and textile/stitched work) at a young age. "Despite my love for art, I studied and practiced tax law for 14 years. I left the corporate world in 2009 to refocus on family and art. I painted my surroundings in acrylic, plein air or from my photographs, combining painting with my own poetry. A commentary on the past and present of the space. I started printmaking in early 2016, printing with Alma Vorster. Since 2017 I have worked independently, joining The Printing Girls in early 2020. My focus has been on relief and dry point intaglio, with a dabble in monotype. In January 2021, I moved to woodblock and I think it is where I’ll stay. Process and authentically connecting with my materials is important to me. I must see the evidence of the wood in my print. I bow down to the natural grain and choose a block to best show off what I plan to carve on it. I believe in the connection from the eye to the brain and through the hand, to the plane that I work on. A translation and transfer of my energy to the piece of art."
See available artworks for sale by Kristen McClarty
Read the Interview:
Which artists, books or music have inspired your work?
My inspiration comes from a wide range of artists and mediums, each sparking some interest or relevance in my own art practice. I admire the work, style, and process of the Scottish artist Joan Eardley (1921- 1963), with a focus on a space or a theme that is never spent. Each time it is revisited, a different aspect speaks.
The work of printmaker Jemma Gunning from Bristol excites me. She works mainly in lithography and intaglio, recording the fading heritage of her area. Broken buildings and empty spaces that nature has repossessed. Her work is dark and loose, but at the same time precise and balanced. Some of it reminds me of the printmaking and charcoal work of Kentridge, the artist who drew me into printmaking in the first place and whose work keeps evolving and speaking. What interests me in other artists, is what they are thinking and how that translates into their body of work. I am also drawn by process and how that is evidenced in the final piece.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
JH Pierneef is the artist who catches me every time. His technical range, subtlety of dirty natural colour, use of grey blues for shadow, skies that tower and tumble, his venture into cubism and certainly his translation of the landscapes into woodblock prints, are all things that keep me thinking. In relation to his relief printmaking work, his cutting style, flow, and evident cutting lines appeal to my love of process in the finished product.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
I would have to go with William Kentridge. What he says is relevant to me, speaks to me, his thoughts interest me. His work stirs me. I’d go with something that I would love, one day, to be able to do myself, a very large-scale printmaking piece, probably “Reeds” or one of his untitled waterfall monotypes. Both mid 90’s, dark and highly contrasted, velvety lines, red thoughts, circles, scratches.
Pick three artists who you would be honored to exhibit with and why
Willemien de Villiers – both her stitched work and her paintings and mark making, rhythmic and symbolic, are beautiful to me. World class. I am very excited that she agreed to exhibit in our planned group show next year.
Emma Willemse – her work is powerful, and her thoughts are evident in the body of work, seen as a whole. Intriguing, deep conceptual work. I would love to spend real time with her, talking through ideas and concepts, building up a body of work that talks for me. Exhibiting alongside her.
Karin Daymond – painter and printmaker from Mpumalanga, concentrating on landscapes and light, shadow. I admire her low contrast colour graduation, her understanding and evidencing of perspective and depth. That I miss the inland probably plays into this.
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
I have always made things and art. It was part of the way I grew up, the culture of my family and the place I spent my formative years. I never considered having a career in art as a young woman, partly because my time making art at school was controlled and hemmed in by rules that I didn’t enjoy. So, I followed what seemed the most appropriate course for a girl who had thoughts and wanted to make a difference: law. But at the same time, I never stopped making art, even when I was working in a large corporate. When I left that career after 14 years, my art seemed like a natural thing to pick up on, and I soon had paintings in galleries, finding myself producing work that was in demand, trying all the while to pull my way of thinking into the work.
Taking a year off gallery work to rebuild our home, and my subsequent move into printmaking, was the first big step in my art career as it allowed me to refocus on what I wanted to express. The next big step was my move to woodblock, an authentic medium that allows me to work to my strengths. Upping the scale all the while, and then once again bringing my painting background and approach to my printmaking work.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
In terms of achievements that are recognized by others, being a Top 10 Finalist in the StateoftheART Gallery Award in 2021, has been a highlight. This has been personally important as it affirmed my journey and art practice. It gave me access to different artists, working with a new team and ultimately access to a market that I didn’t have. Apart from that, the slow and steady progression I have made, though hard work and staying close to myself, and the many sales of my art through wonderful galleries and from my studio, is an achievement that I’m proud of and this is starting to facilitate relationships with people I like to work with.
See available artworks for sale by Kristen McClarty