Award-winning Australian artist Kate Shaw is known for her surreal landscape paintings that take after nature, reflecting upon the contradiction between our inherent connection to the natural world and continual distancing from it. Her work reinterprets notions of what constitutes landscape painting, both within an art history context and a contemporary social context, with prominent themes in her work including alchemy and environmental change.
But though her landscapes seem like imagined dreamscapes, in actuality they lean on Shaw’s reflections on her surroundings. Based between Melbourne and the US, her paintings are also very much inspired by her travels around the world. “Most of the time I really need to experience a place before I make work about it,” she explained in an interview with Lost At E Minor. “Recently, I did a residency at SIM in Iceland that allowed me to travel to some amazing places there. The lava flows and melting glaciers create incredible sculptural forms, which inspires how I translate this into the paintings. I am very visceral.”
Other times, she is inspired by what she calls “scientific facts”, such as that illustrated in Isao Hashimoto’s work, ‘1994-1998’. “With these works – for the exhibition ‘Nightingale’, for instance – I chose different locations were nuclear testing had occurred and tried to imagine a nuclear flash moment.”
According to Shaw, her interest in landscape painting sparked after a visit to Central Australia. “A visit to Central Australia in 2004 really helped me coalesce ideas about the materiality of paint and how this could connect with the material world through landscape,” she says. “The sedimentary layers of rocks literally looked like the paint I was playing around with in my studio, and it started from there.”
Her work has been exhibited around the world, anywhere from New York and San Francisco, to London and Hong Kong. But you can also peek inside her landscapes through Instagram: