During a recent trip to the town of Margaret River in the South-West of Western Australia, I stumbled upon the Dilkes- Hoffman Pottery and Art Gallery, a few kilometres out of town on Caves road.
The functional Pottery belongs to husband and wife team, Tova Hoffman and Rod Dilkes. Tova produces distinctive, contemporary pottery embellished with a ‘Persian’ gold and silver lustre. The concept of Tova’s designs on her pottery, sculptures and moulded ceramics is inspired by aerial views of the landscapes and seascapes of South-Western Australia. Her designs are a tribute to the beauty of the forests and to the unblemished beaches of the South West. Tova’s ceramics are stunning and very hard to resist, but I have a passion for colour and what drew my attention was the paintings on the gallery walls.
The gallery showcases the paintings of the well-known Margaret River artist Karin Luciano. One could call her the ‘Artist in residence’, as she has the use of a painting studio in the gallery and does gallery duty once a week on a Sunday. Karin is also represented by the Jahroc Gallery in Margaret River. I was lucky enough to have a chat with her. On learning that I am a Trainee Gallery Guide at AGWA, Karin graciously welcomed me into her gallery-studio and happily answered my questions about her artistic background and her creating processes.
Karin Luciano discovered her passion for art less than two decades ago. Other than completing a short art course while residing in a dusty Outback town called Derby in North-Western Australia, Karin Luciano is a ‘self-taught’ artist who has won many awards. She does remember being inspired and encouraged by her teacher, Mark Norvel, an artist who works intrinsically with the Aboriginal Mowanjam community. Karin has had 26 solo- exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney and overseas; and as many collaborative exhibitions including three international exhibitions in Singapore and an artist-in-residency in Palencia, northern Spain.
Karin Luciano owned and operated her own gallery in Margaret River for seven years but found it too time-consuming, which limited her precious creating time. Karin prefers the solitude, peace and quiet of working late at night in her home studio, which is a shed in her backyard, as her style of painting, she says is super-messy.
“The silence of evening allows me to express a depth of self-expression that cannot be accessed in the daylight.” Her work can be described as – intuitive narrative art.
She is inspired by her life and extensive travel experiences, and also by the grandeur of the Jarrah forests and by the river. Sunsets and moon- rises fascinate her. In Karin’s words:
“Art for me is intuition, my works are emotionally based and serve as a mirror to the soul, and it is constantly changing and evolving.”
While notes of psychological and emotional depth are unmistakable, fun and spontaneity also play key roles in her work. Seventeen years ago, while travelling around Australia, Karin became captivated and absorbed by original Aboriginal Wandjina Spirit rock painting, and by the Kimberley landscapes. She discovered that the vibrant inks she had been experimenting with, could reflect the surreal colours of the bright red earth, the clear turquoise waters and the brilliant blue skies of Northern Australia. This was a Eureka moment for her,
“ This is what I want to do with my life – to be a painter.”
Karin has been practising as a full-time, professional artist since 2000. She describes herself a ‘Colourist.’ And she tends to focus mainly on one colour for a period of time, or for a particular body of work. She also likes to use subtle metallics, and most of her paintings have embellishments of 23carat gold or silver leaf. Karin describes her style of painting as ‘action painting.’ She has been referred to as the
‘Jackson Pollock of the South-West”
One can clearly see the influence of his art in her work. Karin loves to paint as BIG as possible, and in bright, vibrant colours, allowing the paint to drip and run freely while she manoeuvres the canvas. She uses all sorts of mixed media and I (quote) “unusual techniques.” She prefers to work with her canvases laid down on trestle tables or directly onto the floor.
Karin starts a painting by texturizing the surface with a thick moulding compound. Her methods of painting include: Applying thick layers of acrylic or glass paint on the canvas in vibrant colours, in an impasto style and then spontaneously dabbing, or sponging back the surface.She not only uses traditional artist paintbrushes but also feathers, sticks and whatever comes to that could assist the creating process. She often uses the ‘sgraffito’ technique, scratching the surface of the painting with carving tools. One painting could have up to 20 layers of an image upon image.
She may spray water or squirt inks onto the canvas and, or scatter salt into the wet paint. This allows the mediums to combine organically with each other on a thick textured surface.
Her painting methods create organic energy and the dynamic engagement of the artist throughout the painting process.
Karin has a passion for music and poetry, and she frequently incorporates both in her paintings. She has been described as one of the most original artists of the Margaret River region
I would like to conclude with this quote by Karin
” My paintings start as an uninhibited release of emotion, a sacred place where I focus and express myself freely. My practice has always been geared towards the process, the final outcome of my work is never entirely visualised or imagined and begins its life as a colour combined with emotion. My paintings resolve upon completion with a hidden poetic narrative when through a single moment the desired sense of feeling is exposed and simultaneously acknowledged – uncovering the final composition “
I felt the connection – colour and texture can personify mood, emotion and a sense of ‘being.’