by Inigo del Castillo in New Art on Thursday 12 December 2013

Kate Shaw’s surreal and dream-like landscapes have captured the imagination of many, from New York, to Paris, to Melbourne. She took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her creative process and the places that inspire her to create her vibrant and powerful interpretations of our environment.

You were commissioned by the Museum of Brisbane for the Projections on William Jolly Bridge. How was that experience for you and how did you feel about the change in canvas?
I loved it. It was amazing to see my work inserted into the landscape on such a large scale. I would love to do more of this, especially with my new video work

You have a very unique method of creating your paintings. Can you take us through the typical process of creating one of your artworks?
Most of the time I really need to experience a place before I make work about it. Recently, I did a residency at SIM in Iceland that allowed me to travel to some amazing places there. The lava flows and melting glaciers create incredible sculptural forms, which inspires how I translate this into the paintings. I am very visceral. Other times, I am inspired by some scientific fact, such as that illustrated in Isao Hashimoto’s work, ‘1994-1998’. With these works – for the exhibition ’Nightingale’, for instance – I chose different locations were nuclear testing had occurred and tried to imagine a nuclear flash moment.

Are there any specific influences that made you realize you wanted to focus on nature and landscapes as your subjects? 
A visit to Central Australia in 2004 really helped me coalesce ideas about the materiality of paint and how this could connect with the material world through landscape. The sedimentary layers of rocks literally looked like the paint I was playing around with in my studio, and it started from there.

What special places in Australia do you like visiting for inspiration? In terms of places in Australia
All of it is pretty amazing, but particularly where you can see evidence of what an old continent it is. For example, Uluru is a 400 million year old rock which you can reach out and touch. I love the idea of touching ‘time’.

You’ve had exhibitions in cities as diverse as New York, Los Angeles, Beijing, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. What was the difference in reception between these cities when they first saw your otherworldly and psychedelic works and which city was your favourite?
I love the diversity and energy of New York, and have spent about half my time there over the last seven years. I visited Beijing for the first time in 2011 and was blown away by the layers of history that were literally in front you: old Houtong and high-rise, old men in Mao suits and hipsters. It was a fascinating place. The art precinct 798 is incredible too, there is a sense that something will transform into something else overnight!  

I have had great reception to my work in Australia and the US. People seem both intrigued and intoxicated by the works, I like that everyone brings their own interpretation to them, like a Rorschach test. I will be showing early next year in Hong Kong at the Cat Street Gallery as well as the Art14 in London, so this will give me a better idea of Asia and Europe regarding my work.