March 2016 feature artist Katie Lloyd
For the month of March, the featured artist at Nimbin Artists Gallery is Katie Lloyd. Katie’s art has always been distinguished by an independence of approach and a readiness to fly in the face of convention. She took up professional painting at a relatively mature age, and has concentrated on watercolours, with the occasional addition of pen drawn details.
Until recently her images have usually featured animals, which she painted in an impressionistic manner often with part of the image being obscured or ‘washed out’ by the light, similarly to the way a photograph might have a patch obscured through refracted light. This is the result of Katie’s technique where she might put one or two spots of pure paint on the paper, and then build up the image using a watery brush to wash the colour across a given area. This brings a transparency and suffuses the image with light, and achieves two further goals. First, it introduces an element of chance into the technique which gives a vibrant immediacy to her paintings, and secondly it leaves room for the viewer to complete the picture as co-creator with the artist.
A sustained reflexion on the role of the feminine in our society has led her to shift her main focus to what she calls the seat of femininity, the vulva, or the yoni as it is called in Hindu mythology. One of the things that led Katie to this was the discovery of labiaplasty, the process of aesthetic surgery conducted to reduce the profile of a woman’s labia minor. She was outraged by this discovery, which basically aims to reshape the vulva to the image of the vulva of a pre-pubic girl, debasing the nature of the feminine by reducing the essential female organ to an image befitting a female child. This becomes an issue of cultural politics, which Katie has taken up with passion and to which she is applying all her artistic skills. She is attempting to recapture the appreciation of the vulva as the home and essence of all that is feminine. As in Hindu art, especially tantric art, the vulva and the womb are conceived of as the seat of female energy, creativity and pleasure, and the source of all human life.
Her yoni paintings cover a spectrum ranging from quite abstract to an almost photographic realism. At the abstract end of the scale, they could suggest colourful topographic maps, even Google Earth views of river deltas, while the more realistic ones are, to speak personally, quite confronting. Of course being confronted by the direct image of a vulva speaks more about the mind of the viewer than the image or the artist, and that is exactly the effect Katie is aiming at: all of us, male or female, are deeply conditioned by religion and all the other cultural influences in our attitudes to sexuality. Presenting these beautifully coloured and shaped images to the world has the effect of confronting and diluting our fears, and possibly showing another way of viewing this mysterious channel through which we all arrive in the world.
Call in to Nimbin Artists Gallery during the month of March to see a display of Katie’s work. Also watch out for her life drawing classes held in the Bush Theatre – there’s another one coming up in late March.