Once artist Kate Tucker stopped worrying about what others thought of her work, the response was immediate. “Other people saw something in it that spoke to them,” she says. The catalyst for the change in her mindset was becoming a mother six years ago. “After my son Jasper was born I started painting in a new, simpler way, which reflected the way my whole worldview had changed through becoming a mother,” she says.
However, it took a while for Kate to turn to painting. While she grew up in a home that encouraged creativity and tried various creative fields - from performing and music to multimedia design - nothing gelled until she went to art school. “I’ve always been interested in cross-disciplinary practice, so it came as a surprise to me that I found my way to painting,” Kate says. “But everything I’ve done before seems to make sense through the lens of painting, it gives all the creativity a focus.”
Kate was born and raised in Canberra before moving to Melbourne for university. She studied Multimedia Design at Swinburne University and worked in design until she did a graduate certificate in Visual Art at the Victorian College of the Arts followed by a Graduate Diploma in Visual Art. Kate held her first solo exhibition at c3 Contemporary Artspace in 2011, and became represented by Helen Gory Galerie and had her first exhibition with them in 2012. In the same year she was selected for the Archibald Prize for her portrait of Missy Higgins. Kate is exhibiting at Daine Singer in Melbourne until November 5 and will open a show at Galerie Pompom in Sydney on October 19.
Which five words best describe you? Better at describing with pictures!
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I always wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t go straight to art school. I was partly scared of failing at or ruining something I loved, and partly motivated by the need to earn a living. I also didn’t feel like I had much to say yet. I worked as a designer for years, and gained many skills that I’ve brought with me to art. But something never felt right. Eventually I realised that my reasons for not being an artist were unsound. So I went to art school, and immediately felt like I’d found my home. I fell pregnant with my son after two years of study. He helped me stop overthinking things; I found a joy in painting I never had before. I had my first solo when he was nine months old and it sold out. It felt amazing to realise that I loved painting and that maybe people were going to be interested in what I made.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Probably to say no, which takes a lot of confidence.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I find it hard to rank achievements, some things look amazing from the outside but actually don’t matter that much, other things don’t look like much but they change everything. I feel proud that I’ve been exhibiting for six years and had two kids and I’ve made something of every moment, and this is just the beginning.
What’s been your best decision? At a certain point it felt necessary to shift the emphasis away from the final product and onto the process. You’ve got to try to find the right balance between the discipline required to develop a strong body of work and the spontaneity that keeps it interesting - for you, maybe also for the viewer. I had to consciously turn off the part of me that cared what other people thought. It wasn’t just liberating, it enabled me to clarify what I actually wanted to do, which made the work stronger.
Who inspires you? My children. Also my husband, whose creativity is combined with a confidence and optimism that is a hugely beneficial influence on me. Also my whole family: I have struck it very lucky in that department. Also music, musicians, and too many visual artists to list.
What are you passionate about? Nature, fairness, creativity.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Probably David Attenborough, because he’s been my hero since I was a kid and that’s a hard thing to shake. And I think he has really changed the world.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I really am living my dream. I have been very lucky and I would like to do a lot more for the planet and for others less fortunate in the future.
What are you reading? I am currently “not reading” either of the books on my bedside table, but they are Thinking through Painting; Reflexivity and Agency beyond the Canvas by Isabelle Graw, Daniel Birnbaum and Nikolaus Hirsch, and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.