Kate Shaw’s Psychedelic Landscape Paintings Highlight Creation and Destruction
At first glance, Kate Shaw’s landscape paintings are colorful hallucinogenic scenes from nature bursting with vibrant colors and whimsical swirls. But look a little closer and you begin to see the cracks coming through – cracks that resemble the discourse between humans and the natural environment. Where initially the paintings seem lively and bold, a fun representation of the world around us, they soon become acidic in their vibrancy, juxtaposed against the serene, muted color palette of the real world.
This is the exact effect Shaw wants her work to have on viewers. “My practice aims to convey ideas of nature, alchemy and cycles of creation/destruction,” she says, where the works touch on contemporary issues like the ever-present dichotomy of our relationship with the world. “I am concurrently exploring the sublime in nature whilst imbuing a sense of toxicity and artificiality in this depiction,” she adds. Artificial is the word that stands out the most. Though the works are eye-catching and initially fun; they soon take on a darker narrative that bring up notions of global warming and pollution. Once these ideas have been embedded, the word artificial seems to hang around and points its finger at the destruction of nature.
Shaw reflects on the contradiction “between our inherent connection to the natural world and continual distancing from it” in her pieces where we are both at one with our surroundings. Yet at the same time we are a completely different entity that is separated by technology and our apparent loathing to look after the planet.
Descending from Melbourne, Shaw attended RMIT University in 1994, but it wasn’t until a trip to Central Australia in 2004 that Shaw realized her artistic voice. She says the trip helped her to combine inspiration and ideas about the “materiality of paint” and the ways in which it could form connections with the world through depictions of landscapes and immaterial scenes. “The sedimentary layers of rocks literally looked like the paint I was playing around with in my studio, and it started from there.”
What Shaw’s talking about here is the “paint pouring” technique she uses within her work. She pours paint and ink together, which move in harmony to create silhouettes and shapes that look like natural phenomena such as mountains, lava flows, and avalanches. The swirls created by the mingling paints resemble natural processes in psychedelic form and, once the paint has dried, Shaw adds detail with collage pieces and cuts. She looks for shapes that might pass as branches, trees, and other natural scenes, before finishing with an airbrush and resin.
The result sparks both awe and discomfort in the viewer, tapping into our carnal connections with the world around us and our inability to do anything effective to save it on a personal level. Our relationship with nature is two-fold. On the one hand, we are forever in awe of it, marveling at its sublime size and age. But on the other hand we are also terrified of it, creating a distance between nature and ourselves. This is the exact relationship Shaw taps into in her landscape paintings. Producing not just stunning pieces of work, but work that really captures our connection with the world. Paired with her work is the track “Blue Note” by Antigone. Enjoy while viewing the gallery below.
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