In The Studio / Amalia Keefer
IN THE STUDIO / AMALIA KEEFER
As part of our recent collaboration with our dear friend, long-time employee and artist Amalia Keefer we sat down and spoke about her return to creative practice. Amalia's abstract paintings for us exert a joyous energy which is synonymous with the Amalia we know and love. However, this is not to deny the complexity of her work. Harmoniously, Amalia's art combines colour, form and space to render a design that is thoughtfully layered, beautifully balanced and inevitably emotive. Discover Amalia's art on our new tote bags.
As someone who has recently reconnected with painting, how important do you think it is to refine your own visual language?
I've been painting for over a decade, but relocating from Melbourne back home to South-East Queensland amidst such challenging times has prompted a recalibration of creative approach, and confirmed that I'm not one to over-analyse my work in a way that restricts its meaning. The whole point of painting, for me, is to move with a feeling in the moment rather than attempt to convey a singular, premeditated experience. Shape and colour and movement mean different things to different people, and these meanings should have the freedom to be interpreted in different ways based on one's lived experience. This isn't to say that I never draw upon my experiences, or that the experiences of those I care about aren't playing on my mind—actively or subconsciously—when I paint, but it's more a meditation on the ebbs and flows of momentary feeling.
It's taken me a really long time to pursue painting as something more than a hobby—in part because life is busy and procrastination is real, but also self-confidence is not something you can switch on when convenient, or when the time seems 'right'. For so long I was trapped by the idea that to achieve perfection should be the only motivation; because I hadn't given myself the time and space necessary to develop my approach, the direction of my work was limited from the get-go. Reflecting now, I understand the value in slowly re-teaching myself to accept the creative process rather than be intimidated by it.
"Shape and colour and movement mean different things to different people, and these meanings should have the freedom to be interpreted in different ways based on one's lived experience."
Your paintings combine organic shapes with bold neon colours - has this juxtaposition been intentional?
It's not necessarily intentional, but has certainly become a theme in most of my work—not so much by choice, but as a natural progression of feeling captured in form. As much as I try to renew my approach on each canvas by limiting, or changing, colours and aiming for a more muted outcome, I always fall into the same pattern of using all the colours of the rainbow. Painting free-hand, it's hard to plan what the finished product will be; in my mind, nothing can ever be truly finished. I find organic shapes are what come naturally to me, and at this time, the prospect of painting in a contrived manner defeats the purpose of authentic expression and would interfere with my connection to the process.
Can you tell us a little about the process you go through when painting a fresh canvas?
This is the most exciting thing for me; I love starting new work as there is so much possibility when there's nothing in front of you. I often go into the work with a very loose idea of what the final piece will look like, apart from the colours I want to work with. I've recently started to paint on large canvases, which has been such a liberating transition for my practice. Painting on a larger scale has allowed me to mentally step back from the work and invest myself more physically in the process. I try to move relatively fast, not allow myself time to judge each stage of the work so it can take its natural course. I generally start each work with either acrylic spraypaint or fine brush strokes of a single colour oil paint to set an outline, then applying washes of thinned oil paint to lay a base of colour. From there… who knows?
Layers seem an important part of your work, you often use washes of colour instead of an opaque block, revealing whats underneath. Can you explain how you achieve this and why you recreate this feature in your art?
Repetition is an interesting thing—in life, it has the potential to insinuate boredom, or predictability, but artistically its effect can be quite mesmerising. Colour is another thing that is potentially unpredictable, but that is part of the intrigue when you layer with it on a flat surface. Colour-created depth is visually stimulating, and layering can simultaneously support and challenge the process of creation; what you're left with may not be what you envisioned, but you retain the stages that got you there.
Away from your practice, you are an infectiously effervescent person, and your art exerts a similar energy. How do you perceive the connection between art and self?
My art is an expression of my own experiences and feelings—I don't think art can really exist without human feeling, irrespective of what or who that feeling is directed at. I tend to be a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and I certainly approach my work with the same freedom for change, or adaptation.
As a longtime employee of LM, what is your personal relationship with the brand?
Working at LM has been a huge part of my personal and creative growth over the past four years. What's been so wonderful about the brand is its dedication to bringing together a varied range of people with different stories and interests; I find I'm constantly energised and inspired by those I both meet and work with.
How did you come to create the artworks for the new tote bags? What relation do you think the work had to LM?
My favourite part of each LM collection is always the unique floral prints and sculptural silhouettes synonymous with the brand; I consciously included both of these key elements in my print designs, as an ode to Lee. Actual creation of the work was fundamentally different to my usual oil on canvas (this time using dry pastel on paper), as it would ultimately be getting adapted for the bags via a four colour screen printing process. With depth of colour and layers unable to be conveyed in the same way as with a gradually painted oil work, I focused more on the dynamic between positive and negative space to create form. The original artworks were single colour layers of pastel built-up on textured paper, then later digitally manipulated to reflect flat colours, retaining the effect of the textured paper in the print.
Photography: Tamas Keefer