Kim Leutwyler, Visual Artist
First impression of Making Modernism:
Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith were trailblazers in their depiction of modern life from the female perspective. Their correlation to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe surprised and delighted me, particularly their similarities in the use of colour palette despite the the fact that they were working continents apart.
How did you get into painting? Did anything inspire your entry into artmaking?
I studied ceramics, sculpture, printmaking and textiles which have all moonlighted as my favourite medium. The main obstacle I faced after University was having very limited access to the giant kilns and presses required to create new work. When I found myself in search of a creative outlet I turned to painting because of its accessibility coupled with its primarily masculine history in the western art canon.
Can you tell us about female artist you find inspiring?
There are so many female artists I find inspiring, it’s hard to narrow down. I’ve always loved Cecily Brown’s semi-figurative abstract paintings. She explores themes of sexuality and identity, and I’m particularly enamoured with the way she handles paint. Her work is often compared to abstract expressionism, a male-dominated style. For that reason her work has often been met with criticism, but her perseverance and confronting painterly style is very inspiring to me
Can you tell us about an exhibition or an artwork you’ve seen that moved you?
Robert Rauschenberg is a major source of inspiration for me. His ‘Collection’ combine painting was the first artwork that made me stop in a very crowded museum and stare for nearly an hour. I visually consumed it from every angle and digested it into my brain. I later learned everything I possibly could about his unique style and queer perspective. I regret not reaching out to him before he passed away to say how much his work has meant to me.
How do you feel about an exhibition with three women?
I’m pleased to see an exhibition that focuses on female experience and perspectives through the conceptual framework of modernism.
What are some of your favourite galleries to visit?
Although I do love glossy galleries filled with contemporary art (Saatchi Gallery in London, White Rabbit in Sydney, etc.), I have a special place in my heart for the home-grown galleries run by artists and enthusiasts. China Heights is a really cool space at the top of several flights of stairs in a Surry Hills building, and I enjoy the artists they display.
If you could pick two women to show your work alongside at AGNSW who would you choose and why?
Oh my goodness that is a really tough question to answer! I’d love to show my work alongside portraits by Romaine Brookes. She was a lesbian artist born in 1874 who painted her friends and lovers in all of their androgynous glory. Her subdued colour palette would contrast starkly with my own, especially since we both have a pseudo-realistic style. It would be interesting to then incorporate the work of Donna Evans, who presented ‘sexual deviants’ in such a way that 90’s popular culture viewed them as unfeminine, aggressive, and unattractive as a result of their body hair, age, muscles etc. Unlike Evans, I depict a more sumptuous side of that world in which women modify their bodies, take on various permutations of androgyny, and are celebrated for it.