Artist Inquisition: Kate Gorringe-Smith
Kate Gorringe-Smith has just curated an exhibition at Brunswick St Gallery. She likes shorebirds, books, art (duh!) and Melbourne.
We had a chance to chat to her about all of these things. Here's what she said.
Tell us a little about your group exhibition.
In 'From a Home to a Home: a Story of Migration', 16 artists consider human migration and refugee stories through the lens of shorebird migration. Every year millions of migratory shorebirds spend the summer on Australia's shores, annually migrating to breed in Siberia and Alaska before returning south. They have a biological imperative to respond to the tug of their two homes - a notion that provides a beautiful starting point to consider the challenges facing human migrants whose hearts feel the tug of both the home they have left and the one where they have settled.
How did you first get involved in art - were you one of those little kids who always loved being creative, or is it something that came later?
I did always love being creative! And my Mum was always making art too, so it seemed a natural thing to do.
How did you select the works for this exhibition? What are the themes you are looking to explore?
I have been using shorebirds in my work for several years now and thought the themes that they suggest for me - ideas around migration and notions of home - might resonate with other artists, especially those with their own migration stories. I asked Multicultural Arts Australia if they thought any of their artists might be interested in pursuing the theme, and they put me in contact with about a third of the artists and the others are either artists they knew or artists I knew. All the works, apart from Pimpisa's sculpture, were made especially for the exhibition - so I didn't select them, they were made specifically. The exhibition's coherence comes from the way the shorebird theme resonated with all the artists.
How does living and working in Melbourne influence you?
I guess I am very lucky to have been born and bred here, so I feel very free in terms of what I can introduce to the public - speaking of art that is. Melbourne is also such a multicultural city, which is wonderful, and means that artists from any background can practice here and find a supportive audience. Melbourne is also a great hub for art - as a printmaker I am very lucky to have wonderful facilities such as the Australian Print Workshop where you can use their fabulous presses and other equipment. And as Victoria is not one of our huge states, it also helps enable work between regional and city artists. Last year I was involved in shows in Portland and in Foster and although both galleries are at opposite ends of the state, neither is more than a few hours' drive away from Melbourne. All this makes for a hugely fertile, vibrant and co-operative art scene.
Who or what do you turn to for inspiration on days when creativity just isn’t flowing?
I love to visit museums and galleries. If I am working on a particular subject I also look at non-fiction books on the relevant subject or find experts to talk to, or if my subject is environmental I try and get out there to see what I'm talking about. Earlier in the year I was making work about the endangered grassland species of the Victorian basalt plains and my friend, who just happens to be an expert, suggested I visit one of the remnant grasslands in a cemetery out west. That was a very inspiring field trip!
What is your favourite artwork and why?
It is too hard to choose a favourite!! I love John Wolseley's work - he is one of my main art heroes. I think I do have favourite media though - I love all forms of printmaking, and I keep books by my bed on drawing and paper-cutting. I love seeing work on Instagram too - there is always something engaging and surprising.
Is there a piece in this exhibition that you’re most drawn to?
I love all the works because I have been stunned by the depth of feeling that every artist has brought to the core theme. I get that the whole shorebird thing could be seen as a bit odd or obsessive but each artist saw the poetry in the notion of these tiny creatures drawn to make such epic migrations, and I love their responses - from very personal migration stories (Khue, Minh and My Le), to exploring notions of freedom (Pimpisa and Nakarin), to considering the birds themselves and the threats they face (Helen and Pamela). En En's engages very physically with the wetland habitat, Vicki's resonates with the local birdlife back in PNG, Kyoko's is dreamy and whimsical and Cui Xiao's mono prints speak of the journey. It has been such a privilege to work with all the artists!
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
I think 'Just do it' has to be pretty high up there.
What's the worst advice you've ever been given?
I can't really think of any purely terrible advice I've received. For most advice I find its time often comes in eventually, even if you don't understand or dislike it at first.
What question do you wish we'd asked you, and what would your answer have been?
Why are shorebirds so awesome? Well I am glad you asked! What is my word limit??......
From a Home to a Home, A Story of Migration runs until the 8th of December. Check out Brunswick St Gallery for more info.