Kirsty Wither Biography

Kirsty Wither

I started using oil paint at art school 25 years ago – and it was an absolute revelation! The smell, consistency, texture, richness of colour; I loved everything about it. I still feel exactly the same, maybe more so. I am so familiar with it now: how it behaves on the brush or knife, or fingers, which colours go easily together, which need more attention and how much or how little of what will make the smallest but most important variations of colour.

It seems the actual working process is virtually subconscious, allowing the picture-making process to be an intuitive, inventive and fantastically exciting one. The surface of the painting has a life of its own, the subject matter can be secondary and the painting develops through a variety of layers and marks, light, shade and colour.

I no longer work directly from life: I found it too distracting and was inclined to paint in a purely representational way, so for years I have relied on images and ideas from memory. Paintings can start with the glimpse of a hedgerow, the colour of a stone or the pattern on a fabulous pair of trousers!  I realise these methods might be slightly unorthodox, and I have to have faith that as I am travelling around and going about my life, I am able to retain colours, shapes, textures, and other essential information, and be able to bring it to the surface when I need it.

It can backfire though, never more so than after my first trip to Morocco. Bursting with ideas and virtually overwhelmed with all the sights, sounds, smells, colours and patterns, I tried to jam it all into three or four paintings, such was my enthusiasm, only to stand back horrified as each became busier and busier, packed with images and colour, and all of them a total disaster!

I learnt my lesson, and it took about a year before any Moroccan images began appearing successfully and in their own time.

A trip to Japan in 2008 is still filtering through into the paintings. I love their elaborate but classy textiles and ancient screens, the incredibly beautiful women in traditional costume and the importance of presentation in even the most mundane day to day objects.

My recent body of work marks a growing up; a shift in tone and texture…more layers of paint, less contrast. The paintings explore tones of mushrooms and mosses alongside the heady colour combinations that have always underpinned my work.   These changes have also led to renewed vigour: there has been time to play with the subjects themselves, leaving some flowers less defined, a figure more enigmatic, a landscape more abstract. The paint has been positively dancing about the surface with bags of energy – and I’ve been having a great time!