Artist in Residence


Kathy Allam

October - December 2018

Kathy Allam graduated from North Metropolitan TAFE in 2012. She has exhibited in numerous exhibitions, most notably Sculptures by the Sea in Perth and Bondi. With careful consideration of the meanings they carry, Kathy creates assemblages both large and small which transform humble materials into the sublime. Over the past four years she has been working intensely with found plastic. During her residency at Heathcote, Kathy sought to explore the possibilities of interpreting her large, ethereal cloud sculptures through painting and drawings. 

My time at Heathcote

I came to the Heathcote studio residency with the aim of capturing in two dimensions the essence of my ethereal Green Dream cloud sculptures. Constructed from recycled plastic bottles, they are transparent, highly reflective and transform at night when illuminated from within.

The first week was spent moving in and gazing out the window at the glorious view. To get that distracting beauty out of my system I captured the river and the clouds in small paintings. Then I started the work I came to do, making small paintings and drawings, experimenting with colour, translucency, opacity, melding, building up, wiping away, creating depth to visually move in and out of the surface. I started by using the flocked bases of the bottles to print. My preconceived ideas did not lead to the results I was hoping for but rather to frustration and blind alleys. Toward the end of the time, I started to discover a way ahead which I look forward to developing.

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The installation of three ‘Cirrus’ clouds at Heathcote Cultural Precinct has also led to the idea for a new body of work - ‘Incongruent Realities’. This will continue to explore the question of how will we create a more sustainable future? Particularly, how will we manage our growing mountains of plastic waste? Working with the detritus of modern consumer society, I pose the question of whether a boundary can be crossed that utterly transforms waste into something of value and beauty.

I want to create a series of unusual, abstract sculptures created from recycled plastic drink bottles. They will be small enough for me to easily move by myself, and at night they will be illuminated from within by tiny battery operated LED lights. The sculptures will be placed in man-made and natural locations creating ephemeral (1-3 hours), site-responsive installations. Interacting with people curious about what I’m doing will also be part of the process. If they are open to the experience they can place the work or suggest a location where I could place the work. These interactions open up discussions about plastic, art, and the environment, and the actions we can take to live more sustainably. Images of people willing to be photographed interacting with the sculptures will also form part of the artwork. Once the sculpture is positioned it will be photographed, during the day and again at night. A final exhibition will be a combination of the sculptures, the images and paintings developed from the residency. During my residency I made a small ‘Cirrus’ cloud which has subsequently been exhibited at the Artsource Galvanised exhibition and is the starting point for 'Incongruent Realities'.

The calm and quietness of the residency room gave me opportunity to reflect. A number of new directions have emerged. This includes a sculptural work ‘A Cheer for Jonas Salk’. He dreamed of finding a way to rid the world of the crippling disease polio. After discovering the polio vaccine he was offered a tic-a-tape parade in New York City, which he politely declined. The artwork will be a cloud of trailing streamers. During my residency I made a sample section. Giving Jonas a cheer entails asking the viewer to press a button that sees the streamers convulse, wave and dance (a symbolic tic-a-tape parade) with the aid of a fan. Being at Heathcote has started a period of research on the breakthroughs in mental health.

I also planned (using mind-maps) two significant, costly projects that I want to create, but have felt overwhelmed as to where to start. This made it clear that one of the next steps is to gain funding. I have now applied for a fellowship for one of these projects.

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The workshop I led on colour mixing was well attended by an enthusiastic group of 12 people who were engrossed in creating colour samples. I enjoyed the experience and learned a great deal about teaching.

On Sunday, November 11th, I opened my studio as part of the Perth Open House and enjoyed meeting and talking to curious visitors about Heathcote and my work.

The studio opening was one month prior to the completion of the residency. It gave me the opportunity to share my explorations with a number of people, and led to some interesting feedback.

Meeting many of the other artists at Heathcote was one of the highlights. Only another artist would find it interesting to talk about paint for an hour. Connecting with other artists is really important and I thank all the current artists for making me so welcome.

It has been a privilege to work in the quiet, light-filled space and to be part of the vibrant life of the Heathcote Cultural Precinct. I would like to say a special thank you to Jana Braddock and all the staff for their support and welcoming me to the Heathcote artist family.

By Kathy Allam

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