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INTERVIEW // KATHERINE GRIFFITHS

 
Back Fence from 'Lucid', 2013
 
 

Katherine Griffiths is an emerging artist based in Canberra. Motivated by dreams, the surreal and the uncanny, personal experiences and observations of today’s society, Katherine plays with both still and moving image to construct  narratives that delve into topics of identity, self-concept and emotional understanding. Often taking on a performative role in her work, she combines dramatic lighting and staging to create highly dynamic and engaging self-portraits.

In 2010, Katherine graduated from the Australian National University School of Art completing her Honours in Photography and New Media Arts. Since graduating, Katherine has undergone residencies, solo exhibitions and multiple group shows. She was also the winner of QCP’s Youngblood Editions earlier this year. Her Naturally Beautiful series is currently on show at Edmund Pearce Gallery in Melbourne until 20th December.

Lynette finds out a bit more about Katherine’s arts practice, motivations and recent creative endeavours.

What have you been up to since your show and publication launch of the Youngblood Edition at QCP earlier this year?
Since the show I have produced a new work for the Canberra Contemporary Art Space as part of their Blaze 8 exhibition which showcases eight emerging artists. I have started a freelance photography business and moved to Sydney in the middle of the year. While adjusting to a new life in Sydney I have also been developing a concept for a new body of work.

Rhiannon, 2011 from 'Naturally Beautiful'

Rhiannon from ’Naturally Beautiful’, 2011

Tell me a little bit about how the concept for Naturally Beautiful arose.
My photography has always derived from personal experience and observations, often using myself as the subject. I wanted to take a step back from the self and examine the influences currently shaping the ideals and identities of young girls at a susceptible age. Whilst developing the series I was a casual babysitter for two girls aged 9 and 11. Spending time with the girls after school and having discussions with them centered on image, beauty, magazines and popular culture, I started to observe the influence generated by female pop stars.

Is this idea of beauty and influence something you will seek to challenge further through your photography?
Definitely! I’m constantly intrigued by the ever changing idea of identity. Both women and men are faced with heavy gender expectations in today’s world and we are all subject to social conditioning on a day to day basis. I have always had a strong focus on the female experience throughout my work and it will continue to influence my ideas and practice in one way or another.

Through the construction of narratives, your work addresses issues of identity and emotional understanding, whilst providing observations of today’s society.  In addition to the still image, you work with moving image. How have you sought to explore these themes through video? 
My video work uses imagery and audio to elaborate on an idea or observation that I have discovered through my still photography. I created a video piece which accompanies the series Naturally Beautiful to further convey the influence of the female icon portrayed in pop music videos. This video aimed to highlight the suggestive nature of pop music and how some girls are influenced to adopt and mimic the image and dance styles of their female role models. I used excerpts from music videos and contrasted them with excerpts of teenage girls dancing in their bedrooms to pop songs on Youtube.

REM from dsdfds

REM from ‘Lucid’, 2013

There is a heavy performative element running through the majority of your work, and I am curious as to what process you undertake when crafting a still where you feature as the subject.
As a photographer you develop an intimate relationship with the lens and the space within the frame. There is something very personal and intuitive about the process of taking self-portraits. A fine balance is created between the performance and the directing. I firstly set up my shot – I find the right setting, test the light and ultimately aim to find the perfect composition before I even begin performing. Then I use a 10 second timer, rush to my position and wait for the shutter to capture the moment. Sometimes it’s in the last three seconds that I will spontaneously improvise and find something that I had not planned for – taking the work in a different direction. I review the image in camera – analysing, critiquing and mentally noting aspects that I will change for the next take…repeat. This process can take up to 4 hours for just one shot, depending on its complexity; it can be very particular and repetitious. I often want to finish a shoot but my instincts tell me that I need to keep going.  This inner argument can be extremely frustrating – but it’s often in the last moments of shooting that I capture what I set out to do. Although it would be easier – I choose to not use a remote shutter as there is an exciting uncertainty in that 10 second countdown – the ideas that are inspiring the shoot come into perspective and I feel that without this small window my performance would not have the same life.

You undertook two residencies in Canberra during 2011, at M16 Art Space and Photo Access.  What was your experience of the residencies? What did you work on during your time at both art spaces?
M16 Artspace was a fantastic opportunity to meet other artists in different mediums. I had my own studio space which was a convenient short walk from my house. It was refreshing to have a space I could go to, away from everything else to purely work on my art and it was good to be part of an active and engaging arts community. During my time with M16 I created my first solo show ‘Entertain Me’ which explored the social disconnection that our relationship with technology can create. With my residency at Photo Access I had use of their darkroom facilities and was able to attend any of their courses. I did a short course with artist Lee Grant who mentored a small group of emerging photographers, giving advice on how to start in the industry. I found this course really useful; it was quite daunting finishing my Honours and not knowing how to take my photography forward. It was during this residency I produced the series Naturally Beautiful.

Still, 2014 from 'Lucid'

Still, from ‘Lucid’, 2014

Are you currently working on any other projects or publications?
I am currently developing a body of work which explores themes of the uncanny, the surreal and mental spaces. I am interested in the dichotomy between familiar and foreign concepts and the way in which we associate with and yet are simultaneously repelled by them. My new work entitled Still (which was featured in the Blaze 8 exhibition) is part of this latest series and is an example of how these themes and ideas will be explored. This new area of interest is a natural progression from many of my previous works.

And just to conclude, what was the last book, film, idea or conversation you had/read that stayed with you?
Recently I was discussing dreams with my neighbour. She explained to me that she has dreams which in some respects could be considered psychic. These dreams tend to be centered on particular people and situations. There have been many occasions for her when several days later, these dreams have become an abstract reality and are very different to the concept of déjà vu. Interestingly, she can differentiate between normal dreams and psychic ones. I found this conversation really intriguing as my last series – Lucid – explored the unique nature of dreams, which have always been a fascinating topic for me. It was also strangely well timed due to my current explorations into the uncanny.

Naturally Beautiful opens tomorrow night, Thursday 27th November, 6pm at Edmund Pearce in Melbourne and will run until Saturday 20th December. For more information, please visit the event page. To view more of Katherine’s work, please visit her website.

Lynette Letic is an emerging photographer based in Brisbane.

Banner image: Back Fence, from ‘Lucid, 2013

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