Kathryn is an abstract expressionist painter by definition but her work blurs the line between intention and artistic categorization. Her paintings can be defined more so by their improvisatory nature and her philosophical training which allows her to treat colour, matter, and paint as discrete agents within the artistic process. In this sense, her role is not the master of colour but rather a collaborator of colour, texture, form, and materiality.
Recent M.A. Graduate Kathryn Last is a full time practicing artist, scholar and teacher. Kathryn’s recently completed M.A. degree in Cultural Studies encompassed a Visual Arts Research-Creation focus that engaged with Embodiment and Trauma Theory. Kathryn is an internationally shown and sold abstract painter from Toronto, Canada.
What initially compelled you to create your work?
I was initially compelled to create by this desire to express color and emotion in a very tangible way. I have always wanted color to move beyond the canvas; with each stroke a joining together of sculpture and paint. As a person who paints intuitively, I rely on feelings and sensations that I experience in everyday life to inform the work; this is what compels me creatively.
What main topic does your artwork address and why?
The artwork I create is often a reflection of my own lived experience. In that sense, the main themes that tend to inform my work are embodied. When I say embodied, I mean that first a theme will begin in the body and later appear on the canvas. As part of my process, I allow the main topics in my paintings to reveal themselves. I think about painting as this collaboration between the materiality of paint and the artist. Some main topics that I am presently engaging with in my paintings are memory landscapes, trauma, and art therapy.
In your artistic journey, what has been the most challenging point thus far?
The most challenging part of my artistic journey so far has been my constant struggle with the self. As an abstract artist you are working very closely with yourself when you are painting. I often think of abstract work as a mirror to our unconscious, so a lot comes up for me during the painting process. Deciding to become a full-time artist two years ago now, I have had to really struggle with believing that I could do it and that I was good enough to be successful at it. I am still working through and softening my inner critic, but the struggle is what makes it all worthwhile.
Is there an aspect of your life that especially impacts your practice?
My embodied approach to art making allows me to really engage with my own lived experiences and try to process them in real time through color and texture. There have been these poignant moments in my life that have really informed my practice. In 2018, I experienced a traumatic event that was a turning point for me as an artist and human. I cannot talk about my art now, without acknowledging what happened in 2018 because it changed me as a person. It changed my practice, and it is something that always informs my work now. Through this experience, I have been able to really heal and find beauty within the work and for that I am so grateful.
What do you do when you find yourself at a creative block?
When I find myself in a creative block, the first thing I do is physically take myself out of the house if I am able to. When I get outside, even if just for a few minutes, I realize that there is this entire world going on around me. Experiencing those new sensations in my environment, even if that is just sitting on my patio for a few minutes, I find, this always opens spaces in my mind to create something new.