“We would always be making things with that ‘nothing to lose’ kind of attitude as kids which I still feel in my work now. I like that I can still have a huge sense of play in what I do as an adult.”
Claire Kirkup’s Artistic Journey
Meet Claire Kirkup, a contemporary Australian painter born in 1976. As one of four daughters, she spent most of her childhood in Canberra, with a brief stay in the mining town of Cobar, NSW. Growing up, Claire and her sisters were all naturally creative, constantly embarking on imaginative projects and pursuits. Claire, in particular, had a fondness for collecting trinkets and scouring the bushlands behind her home for unique finds such as discarded medicinal bottles, which she treasured as prized possessions.
Today, Claire’s childhood spirit of playfulness and creativity continues to permeate her work as an adult artist. With a carefree enthusiasm and willingness to take risks, her art exudes a unique sense of vitality and authenticity. Claire specializes in creating large contemporary paintings that reflect landscapes and contain emotional depth derived from personal experiences and thoughts.
The artistic process is often a deeply personal and idiosyncratic endeavor, and for painter Claire Kirkup, her creative space is as much a part of her art as the paintings themselves. Kirkup’s process is marked by frequent movement and repositioning of her canvases, and she prefers to work on two or three paintings simultaneously, with an additional “throw off” piece in the corner to alleviate any creative tension. Surprisingly, these secondary works have often emerged as the highlight of her collections, setting the tone for the rest of her creations.
Claire Kirkup’s Studio: A Haven for Creative Expression
For Kirkup, an ideal working environment is one that allows her to move freely with her large canvases and not feel constrained. Equally important is the presence of good music, which helps to foster an inspiring and productive atmosphere. In her studio, the act of dipping a brush into a bucket of paint and smearing it onto a canvas is the epitome of artistic expression, serving as a grounding reminder of life’s simple pleasures in a world that is increasingly driven by technology.
Kirkup’s studio, located in her home, serves as a comforting refuge where she can engage in conversation with her children as they seek warmth or solace in her company. In this sanctuary, technology, education, and interpersonal relationships hold no sway; its sole purpose is the creation of art. Through her unique and deeply personal approach to art-making, Kirkup reminds us of the power of creativity to transcend the distractions and pressures of modern life.
Claire Kirkup, frequently draws inspiration from her outdoor experiences, often deriving ideas from the unique shapes and lines that she encounters. She mentally stores these striking visuals, like mental photographs, and later incorporates them into her artwork upon her return to the studio.
Inspiration from Landscapes and Emotional Energy
Claire’s creative process is heavily influenced by her emotional state and the energy she carries with her into the studio. Recently, she visited the Hot Springs with the intention of taking in the natural surroundings and utilizing them in her paintings. However, as she found herself alone, she inadvertently overheard conversations of those around her. What started as a plan to depict the tangible landscape, transformed into a painting centered on the audacious topic of discussion that she overheard. The experience was a friendly reminder to watch what is said as sound has a tendency to travel more quickly over water.
Kirkup’s artistic works were heavily influenced by physical locations prior to the Covid-19 lockdown. She enjoyed going on weekend drives and exploring new areas to gain inspiration from actual landscapes. However, when Melbourne entered lockdown, with a strict restriction of 5 kilometers from her home, she found herself at a crossroads. She spent her limited time outdoors in local parks, where she started to study the intricacies of the public spaces, their designs, and how people utilized them. She then began creating hybrid urban landscapes, incorporating abstracted structures, such as exercise equipment and other man-made objects that people often ignored. Her art gradually became more metaphorical, and this element has continued to be a prominent feature in her conceptual works.
From Figurative to Interactive Projects
Claire Kirkup used to create a considerable amount of abstract figurative artwork. Nowadays, her works have evolved to become more structured and land-based, but they still retain an element of the human form. The movement of the brushstroke, the layering of paint, and the composition continue to convey a sense of vitality, which Claire is proud to have integrated into her creations. Her artwork now possesses the ability to simultaneously convey both emotional depth and representational value, and it brings her great satisfaction to see her art evolve in this manner.
Claire Kirkup is enthused by the prospect of an interactive project that offers viewers a tangible or auditory experience. Currently, she is focused on producing substantial, deconstructed floral shapes on canvas, methodically exploring their relationship to her current artistic practice and their potential inclusion within her portfolio.
Claire Kirkup eagerly anticipates the prospect of traveling extensively throughout the upcoming year. She plans to document her experiences, observations, and adventures through a series of paintings, which will be showcased in her solo exhibition with the esteemed Studio Gallery Group in November 2023. With her unwavering dedication to her craft, she is committed to presenting a thought-provoking body of work that captures the essence of her travels and inspires contemplation in her audience.