My Eurasian Dream Garden – London artist Kathleen Dutton’s new works at Skylark galleries by the Thames, By James Brewer
Creating her ethereal paintings in deceptively simple style, Kathleen Dutton radiates energy from an “inner garden of light and space.” Her output has a mystical quality that draws on phases of her life in New Zealand, Hong Kong, and London.
Kathy, who has during two weeks in July been celebrated as featured artist at Skylark 1 Gallery at Gabriel’s Wharf on the south bank of the Thames, and has additional work at Skylark 2 at the nearby Oxo Tower, recently has filtered the simplicity of execution further.
For a new series of portraits, Kathy dispensed with her sketchbook, normally a constant accessory. “This is the first time I have gone straight on to painting without sketching: getting rid of some steps and being immediate, ” she told us. “These are really simple strokes, and I try not to go back on anything. Normally in painting I am reworking things.”
The immediacy paid off. One of her subjects is her teenage daughter, seen in My Eurasian Dream Garden among misted flowers and foliage evoking a mysterious blend of East and West. The spirit of Chinese calligraphy – which she admires for its simple lines – infuses this acrylic and oil work.
Kathy turned to acrylic and graphite for another portrait of her daughter, whose looks serve as the archetype for a child. We are faced by a slightly belligerent gaze, “that knowing look that teenagers give.” There is more complexity than many might think to such a look: “there is a point where all the mistakes you [as a parent] have made are reflected back at you.” Teenagers “do have clarity of vision, ” observes Kathy.
Another portrait is of a young ballet dancer she knows. “Her dancing is so beautiful that on several occasions it has moved me to tears.” Head and shoulders only are portrayed, in a pose of utter absorption in her dance steps: it is obvious that the girl has ballet in her bones.
Kathy is an enthusiast for the Skylark galleries, which are in effect artists’ co-operatives and provide high visibility to their members in locations by the Thames, with thousands of tourists strolling past each day.
Kathy blends into her output meditation, illustration, inspiration, and the cross-cultural depth she has gained through her travels. She aims to be spontaneous and direct in her works – in that, she admits she has something of the “eternal teenager.” She likes to paint people and characters from her life after meditating on what she calls the inner landscapes of imagination, a garden of light and space where energy and time are transformed. She says: “We are caught looking into our own soul and looking out, and all of us are connected.”
Pure nature comes to the fore in Forest Adventure, a canvas that works surprisingly well, given its contrarian blue tones, which succeed in conveying the majesty of New Zealand woodland that Kathy holds dear. This is an example of the way that her practice at times teeters on the borderline of figurative and abstract.
Her interest in the Chinese zodiac is represented by some dramatic red-hued acrylic/oils of the Year of the Horse – it is a sign that indicates a fast-moving year, which is turning out to be an appropriate reference to this stage of the career of this talented and unassuming artist.
Skylark 1 is at, Gabriel’s Wharf, 56 Upper Ground, London SE1. Skylark 2 is on the 1st floor of Riverside, Oxo Tower Wharf, London SE1. www.skylarkgalleries.com