On the Couch with Kate Beynon

Kate Beynon oncWho is Kate Beynon?
Born in the Year of the Dog in Kowloon, aka the City of Nine Dragons at 9 a.m on the 9th of September, Chinese Malaysian mother and Welsh father; migrated to Australia from the U.K as a child; contemporary artist practicing and exhibiting for over twenty years; based in Melbourne with husband Mike Pablo, our 16 year old son Rali and our crazy but lovable Staffy Cross Tudo; and also Step-Mum to Soul, Rali’s very cool and artistic big brother.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Try not to stress so much, dedicate more time to experimenting in the studio, travel to more places, exhibit more internationally.

Who inspires you and why?
My transcultural family with their multi-coloured mix of ancestries because it has given me a connection to many different cultures. Also inspirational are contemporary artists creating work which is both visually compelling and concerned with social and environmental issues and the curators supporting them, including friends Sangeeta Sandrasegar who makes amazing cut paper, mixed media, video and sculptural works and who I painted accompanied by cat Fujimoto for the 2014 Archibald Prize (currently touring NSW).

Lindy Lee with her amazing energy which infuses mesmerising perforated paper works and flung bronze sculptural installations; Nalini Malani, based in India, for her wonderful shadow-play projections, video installations and paintings on mylar; Marnie Dean for her vivid cross-cultural works and also for including my work is two fantastic group shows of women artists from Indian and Australia, Re-Picturing the Feminine in Kochi, India (2012) and Mythopoetic in Brisbane (2013); and the fabulous Maura Reilly who co-curated with Linda Nochlin the major exhibition of women artists Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum (2007), a highlight of my career, and who inspires with her many projects, lectures and books supporting feminism in the art world and beyond.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
If the ‘Transfigured Gorgon’ figure from my paintings could come to life, she would selectively turn all bigots to stone. We could start locally and go from there. This would include anyone who does not respect Indigenous rights and acknowledge Aboriginal people has having true ownership of and connection to this land. Also people who need to see that refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the threat of torture and death, should not have to then face lengthy and horrendous conditions incarcerated in detention centres. If the bigots could be genuinely reformed, then they would have a chance to return from their stony state.

Also if possible, I would support micro loans, particularly for women in challenging situations here and globally, help fund schools in places of need and support programs for saving wildlife and the environment. In addition, my artwork is a way of expressing concerns and hopefully connecting and promoting positive energy for a crazy mixed-up world.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Incredible India! Loved visiting Fort Kochi in Kerala with Rali and my mother for the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012 and to participate in the satellite group exhibition Re-Picturing the Feminine. Recently, Mike, Rali and I visited the lovely Samode Village in Rajasthan where we attended our friends fabulous wedding ceremonies and celebrations. We would love to go back to experience more of the intense colours, sights and flavours of India.

Other favourite places include New York where we spent time at a studio residency in Harlem and also to visit my best friend Natasha and her family, and Brazil where Mike and I went for a belated honeymoon. We stayed in Santa Theresa in Rio, were charmed by the people we met there and have fond memories of feijoada (hearty black bean stew) and caipirinhas with fried bacalhau (salted cod) and cassava snacks by the beach.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
A combination of art and food. TarraWarra Museum of Art for a fantastic day out in the Yarra Valley, perhaps with some wine tasting or a tasty pub meal at the Healesville Hotel.

In town, it would be the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (acmi) and Sutton Gallery in Fitzroy for a range of great exhibitions, plus yum cha at the Oriental Teahouse in South Yarra or Hu Tong, Prahran for a proper dumpling feast, including loads of Har Gow – prawn dumplings. And if there’s time for a drink and a friendly ping-pong game, then it would be Franscesca’s Bar, our local in Northcote.

What are you currently reading?
Novels: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin and The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, all special gifts from my BFF Betty and her husband Scott. For my PhD research, I am a big fan of n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal and I am also proofreading Mike’s upcoming book.

What are you currently listening to?
In the studio it’s been Nina Simone, alternating with instrumental electronic beats by our LA based friend Michael Morgan (aka Transistor Cricket), which Mike and I are working with for a soundtrack to a new animated multi channel video work in progress.

Happiness is?
A balance of: time enjoyed with family, creating in the studio, exercise (training with a fantastic women’s Cross Fit gym in Clifton Hill), dog walking in the park, delicious food, catching up with friends, visiting exhibitions and other cultural activities, hopefully being able to contribute something positive to the world through art, a feeling of hope that there are enough people in the world who support equality and peace, to counteract the insane amount of destruction and damage inflicted by war, conflict, racism, sexism and other evils.

What does the future hold for you?
I am in the process of finishing new works for two solo exhibitions. An-Li: A Chinese Ghost Tale will be at TarraWarra Museum of Art (28 March- 8 June) and features artworks from the book of the same title that I have been working on with Art and Australia. Collaborating on this project has been an amazing experience, encouraging new developments in my work and I am really excited about the book being published. Following this, I have a solo show of new work at Sutton Gallery (18 April – 16 May) which coincides with a solo of Lindy Lee’s work. I am also about mid-way through my PhD studies so that is a long road ahead!

Since graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1993, Kate Beynon has held over 25 solo exhibitions. Significant individual exhibitions include Auspicious Charms for Transcultural Living, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2008; Mixed Blood and Migratory Paths, The Physics Room, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2005; and Kate Beynon 1994-2002, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide, 2002.

Beynon has participated in over 100 local and international group exhibitions, with recent selections including: The F Word: Contemporary Feminist Art in Australia, Ararat Regional Art Gallery, Ararat, Victoria, 2014; Mythopoetic, Women Artists from Australia and India, Webb Gallery, Griffiths University, Queensland College of Art, Brisbane, 2013; Re-Picturing the Feminine: New and Hybrid Realities in the Art World, Open Eyed Dreams (OED) Gallery, Cochin, India, 2012; The Naked Face: Self-portraits, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2011; Change, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2010; and The China Project, Three Decades: The Contemporary Chinese Collection, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2009; Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, USA, 2007; and TarraWarra Biennial 2006: Parallel Lives: Australian Painting Today, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, 2006.

Beynon received an Australian Post Graduate Award (APA) in 2013, and is currently undertaking a PhD in Fine Art by Research, at Monash Art Design and Architecture (MADA), Monash University, Melbourne. Beynon has also been the recipient of several other grants and awards, including Arts Victoria International Program, 2012 for travel to exhibit in India; Australia Council for the Arts, New Work in 2009 and Professional Development for a self-organised studio in Harlem, New York in 2004. She has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (and touring to Victorian and NSW regional galleries), in 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Her work is held in significant public collections including American University, Washington DC, USA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, The Museum of Modern Art (MMK), Frankfurt, Germany, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia and National Gallery of Australia. She has presented regular solo shows at Sutton Gallery since 1996 and is also represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

Kate’s new body of work, An-Li: A Chinese Ghost Tale will be presented at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art: 28 March – 8 June 2015. For more information, visit: www.twma.com.au for details.

Image: Kate Beynon – photo by Mark Swaroop