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Creatively ChristchurchFeatured

Kate McLeod

Paint and Print, Visual Arts
image Kate McLeod

How would you describe what you do?

I’m a full time abstract artist working from my purpose built studio in Ilam, Ōtautahi.

Currently I’m obsessed with the lunar cycles and ancient lunar traditions. During the 2020 lockdown I would gaze at the moon and realised that although we were separated by distance, we were all connected. Our struggle is shared. The moon is a symbol of connection and belonging. With so much division in the world, I seek to find the communal thread that weaves humanity together.

I’m currently making new work for the NZ Art Show, the Auckland Art Show and the Christchurch Art Show which will be at the brand new Te Pae, Convention Centre later this year.

What was your most recent project?

A collaboration with a collective called Th’Orchard at The Great Hall in The Arts Centre. It included original music, dance, spoken word, rap and live painting. Performing on stage alongside other incredible artists was a humbling experience and one I’m looking forward to repeating once the pandemic is over. We have a collaboration with the CSO, NZ Youth Ballet and Th’Orchard planned for the future.

What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?

My children.

I’m also passionate about historic restoration and I’m a volunteer trustee and project manager for Tiptree Cottage, a heritage I listed building in it’s final stages of restoration. Once it’s fully restored, I will be extremely proud of this project. My first solo show is also up there.

What is essential for creatives to have in their life?


What inspires you about Ōtautahi?

There’s so much that inspires me about Ōtautahi. I was born here but I’ve lived in Ankara, London, San Francisco, Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne. Since starting a family, I’ve consciously chosen to put my roots down in Ōtautahi.

During my Art History and Sociology degree at Canterbury University I discovered my love for the city’s architecture (shout out to Ian Lochhead). I remember standing in the middle of the square and being taught that every decade’s architecture could be seen from where we were standing. Post earthquake, that’s no longer the case but I’m inspired that we’re rebuilding The Cathedral and The Arts Centre, and that the Town Hall was saved.

What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?

Coming from a tech startup background one principle I’ve taken with me is to fail fast. The creative process involves making mistakes then discarding the dross to find the gold.  It’s a mantra I repeat to myself in my studio when I get stuck.

What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?

That it’s relaxing and enjoyable.

I hardly ever sit down in my studio. I paint really large works and make all my own timber frames. It’s a very active process. The emotional component of painting is not relaxing either. Some days I feel like I’m battling for my soul. It can be very painful and bring up a lot of emotions to work through. Art is a great healer.

What Christchurch artists do you most admire?

Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney, Icarus and Seraphine Pick (during her Pencilcase Painter stage when she was in Christchurch).

What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?

It’s too hard to chose just one.

My first live gig was Smashing Pumpkins at Christchurch Town Hall in 1996. I remember looking into the orchestra pit and seeing the guitars, tuners, roadies and infrastructure supporting the band. At that moment I realised that there’s more to music than just playing a song. Like a lot of art, most people only see the finished product, not the process. It’s the process that interests me the most.

Some of my most breathtaking experiences have been architectural ones. Including the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, The Pantheon in Rome and St. Chapelle Cathedral in Paris.

It’s difficult for a painting to truly take my breath away because I’m fixated on more rational questions like “how is this constructed? what pigments are used? how is the paint applied?” The most recent paintings to transcend my rational thinking were Hilma af Klint’s Altarpieces. They were so overwhelming that I had to walk out of the gallery and then return to see them later. Connecting with people at a spiritual level is my ultimate goal as a painter. Hilma certainly achieved that.

What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?

When you feel like it, do the work.

Don’t seek permission from anyone other than yourself.

When you don’t feel like it, do the work.

Detach yourself from your art. Bad art doesn’t make you a bad artist.

When you feel that nothing makes sense, do the work.

Diametrically opposed views can be held at the same time.

Rest. Your best ideas will come when you are in the shower or swimming in the ocean.

Rinse and repeat.

What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

Ghostcat’s scratchbuild of a record pyramid shrine. IYKYK.


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