KAY TURNER : THE CONTEMPLATION OF BEAUTY
Ralph Waldo Emerson once mused that we are made immortal by the contemplation of beauty.
That is to live, and continue to live, with a constant stream of relative openness running through us regardless of place, time or position. To simply be brought to life that little bit more with every glance taken as we wander and ponder the earth. Poetic and flimsy as it may seem, this is the constant work of the artist, and the pros and cons that accompany this mindset can be many, as Kay has come to embrace.
A dedication to the ‘contemplation of beauty’ has led to Kay’s signature work being born out of a fascination for what she knows as Nature Mort, or ‘dead life’, which is a literal French translation used to describe items of still life found and used to convey new, artistic ideas. Always recording, stamping and observing the natural world Kay’s jewellery and work speaks to the notion of working with nature, not against it. Proving that nothing is final and nothing is firm, as even metals can be moulded into something more. All it takes is a little fluidity, well directed curiosity, and a willingness to see failure as the ultimate tool when it comes to producing something of the highest value.
When and why did you start your practise?
“I started my practise when I came to Queenstown 20 years ago. I worked at the wonderful Celia Kennedy gallery and an Auckland jeweller called Brian Adam used to come down with a trestle table and a bottle of gas and make rings on the street. Because I worked there I watched and helped him do that and thought since I had made things all my life I should have a go. I took classes with Colin Forster who has an amazing studio in Queenstown. The reason I stuck with it is because it fascinates me how you can get metal to do anything you want to, and as a pattern maker it intrigues me that the metal can behave like fabric to a degree.”
What mediums, materials, tones or forms do you tend to work with most and why?
“I work with silver mainly, but also with fabric. The natural materials inform what I do - the shapes and textures. Fabric informs all of it really, fabric is my thing. I’ll just make things - I’ll think oh I could make that or how could I make that or what shall I make out of that? I don’t know why other people don't think like that, they always seem amazed when I come up things”
What would your advice be to someone who says they don’t have a creative bone in their body?
KAY: “That’s just not true. The problem is people tell themselves they can’t and as soon as they can’t they are closed to the idea. It’s all based around fear. For me, I was really lucky I never got squished growing up. There was no judgement that I could or couldn't do anything, it was just ‘oh, so you can paint, ok…” But strangely I did have this fear of art school, that you’d have to think of something amazing to produce everyday, and then I told myself ‘I can’t do that’ so even though I was accepted I never went. Mainly I only have random ideas and I still work like that - random ideas at random times and then I’m away. I wake up some mornings with all the ideas lined up, its weird really. That’s why I’m currently ten days away from an exhibition and still haven’t really made anything yet!”
How does your environment or location affect your creative process?
“A sparse environment is better for me. What’s out there in Queenstown is good because it’s sparse and immensely beautiful. I really like working in this tiny wee space with not a lot of tools - that lack of resource makes me work better. My environment has to be minimal, but not plain.” In saying that though I am also get very messy as the process builds. The studio just fills up.
Do you think the artistic process has shaped you to embrace change, challenges and problem solving in other areas of your life?
“Yes totally. Change is fantastic. It’s terrifying but it has such enormous possibility. One part of me weighs things up to a degree and then the other side goes ‘go for it I know what we can do!' Right from the beginning of my work I’ve always had to problem solve because pattern making is about creating something to be critiqued, pulled apart and remade, every time.”
Do you have any specific rituals or habits you engage in before you start your practice?
“Not really but recently I watched the Kobi Bosshard film, and what I got out of it was his huge message about slowness. The ritual of slowness. His ritual is his whole being, the way he lives his life and I thought gosh that’s how I would like to be.
I’m an ideas person they come thick and fast. Even the idea of having a coffee is interesting, and I don’t often stay put. I tend to jump all over the place. Ever since I watched the film I’ve been trying to slow down, single task, and stay on task. But I will probably get back to that frenetic way. I think I have to do five things at once, because one informs the other….I can’t finish one and start the other. No no no, never! Imagine that - maybe thats my ritual to have numerous projects.
If art is a conversation what do you like talking about the most?
“My need to express what I see and feel. I will go for a walk and see something really cool and can take a photo but it’s just so frustrating because it does not express the interest that it sparked in me, being just a photo. I don’t know why I need to express the whole essence of something, but I do.”
What is one piece of life advice that’s never left you?
“It’s never what you first think it is, so keep looking" My dad was a tailor, and he used to say that about fitting clothes. And he’s so right because it never is. If you have an disagreement with someone I find often it is not actually about what you think it is about. Or when I make something and I think it’s wrong because I haven’t got something lined up properly, so I line it up and it still isn't right. It’s never what you first think it is, you have to look again and keep looking until the truth appears.”