For background on the artist and works, see below.
About the ArtistKathryn Madill, based in Dunedin, has attracted critical acclaim for her fine printmaking and paintings drawn from fragments of literature, mythology, and fairytale. In the age-old tradition of the printmaker, her work sometimes taps into the dark side of the subconscious, but there is also an uplifting quality of faith and belief underpinning much of her work. She draws the viewer into her imaginative, sometimes haunting storytelling through its intimacy and fine detail, and her sublime sensitivity to mood. In recent years she has also established a strong following for her paintings, which like her prints have an otherworldly, haunting or lyrical feel, accentuated by her fine use of oil or gesso. She has also done a number of collaborative projects with authors. She exhibits widely throughout New Zealand and has works in private and public collections here and in Australia. Born in Ruatahuna in 1951, Kathryn Madill also grew up in Taupo and Dunedin. She majored in printmaking for her Fine Arts degree from the University of Canterbury, graduating in 1971, and now lives and works in Dunedin, in the south of New Zealand.
Kathryn Madill seldom talks about her meticulously crafted paintings, preferring to let them speak for themselves, but the viewer will find evident themes of journeys, seeking, waiting, trusting, and believing.
Mezzotints and etchings
The artist is one of New Zealand’s finest exponents of mezzotint – a process which allows very intense inking and depth in the work. Figures float, morph, and meditate in works of great delicacy, especially when she works in miniature. Some reference Shakespeare, others Victorian literature (such as The Life of Emily Bronte) in which she has a special interest, while certain prints draw on mythological reference or life experience, often with a contemporary edge.
The plate for The Life of Emily Bronte was made in 1998, but she delayed making this exquisite print until 2015 when she felt confidence in her skill to execute a work of such delicacy. The etching & drypoint Pastorale has a quite different feeling of the light and essence of summer; the aroma of cut grass seems to emanate from the work. The unframed work Sorrow is a tour de force of printmaking in its delicate precision, reminiscent of her works based on Ophelia.
In Art New Zealand in 2011, arts writer and critic David Eggleton described encountering her art as ‘like being given the key to a locked room of curios and talismans – the votive tokens of time and memory’, works with a hypnotic dreamy quality and exquisite moodiness.
Her works are most often peopled by female characters, sometimes contemporary, sometimes of another age, often journeying or seeking sanctuary. Metaphor and allegory abound, with signals beckoning, perhaps suggesting hope, from a far shore, or shadows lurking just beyond the light.
Faith and Trust engages the viewer with similar emotional intensity, inviting them to interpret the figures through their own portal of experience. Travelling companions, a midway point in a journey of self, a watching guardian/spirit, the transition of time and age? Small details shift shape on the beach, motifs perhaps of memory, survival, precious things, as the younger woman succumbs to sleep, and light lifts in an endless horizon. The work is painted on an old kauri panel or shelf, like a piece of an exquisite fresco rescued and hung in the gallery.