WA artist Lauren Kennedy.
Artist Lauren Kennedy likens her creative process to having a "conversation with the outdoors". Image by HANDOUT/RAQUEL ARANDA
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The WA artist finding beauty in the wild and unruly

Stephanie Gardiner October 1, 2023

Lauren Kennedy crouches on a patch of red dirt in the Pilbara, using a handful of dry grass as a paintbrush to capture the unforgiving surroundings.

The West Australian artist is drawn to remote places like this, where she is dwarfed by the environment and sheltered from the demands of modern life. 

“It’s an antidote to this highly-stimulated, fast-paced world, it’s the opposite,” Kennedy tells AAP.

“You feel really vulnerable and small.

“It puts you back into perspective: we’re only here for a short amount of time and we’re not really as important as we think we are.”

During a trip to the Kalbarri National Park – defined by its dramatic gorges and jagged rock formations – Kennedy realised the elements could actively influence her work.

Painting on a rocky surface or as winds howl and rain falls, she allows the conditions to move the colours on her canvas in their natural patterns. 

“It’s an intuitive way of painting and I don’t really overthink it anymore,” Kennedy said.

“I try not to get frustrated with the wind or rain and just allow it to make accidents, to create visual interruptions to respond to.

“It’s like a conversation with the outdoors.”

Kennedy is one of five artists featured in the first Art Station exhibition, a collaboration between the Michael Reid Murrurundi gallery and national country women’s magazine Graziher.

Works from Indigenous artist Emily Cullinan will feature, evoking her childhood travelling with family through South Australia’s APY Lands.

Dobell Drawing Prize finalist Lori Pensini, who lives in remote WA, abstract oil painter Sarah McDonald, from SA, and NSW New England region potter and painter Anna Henderson were all chosen for the show.

The inaugural exhibition aims to highlight and support the work of female artists living in regional and rural Australia.

Kennedy, a former textiles designer, was raised by generations of creative women.

“My nanna was a seamstress and my mum … would weave her own hat or crotchet her own bikini.

“I was brought up with creativity, so it was just natural, and then I became a bit obsessed.”

That obsession led to work in the fashion industry and, more recently, life drawing and landscapes.

Kennedy has no interest in painting rolling green pastoral scenes, preferring the raw and “grotesque”.

“It’s some of the ways the trees connect, or they can look a little bit like ghostly figures,” she says.

“It’s quite sharp and angular and it’s not manicured, it’s wild and unruly.”

Her hometown of Geraldton, where she recently returned after nearly two decades working in Perth, features in the seven works for Art Station.

There is a collection of sunsets sinking over the hills near her property, dark storm clouds and a flock of emerald budgerigars, blurred in full flight.

“There was just little things happening around me that I had this insane urge to capture.

“I don’t really fight it, I just paint it as it comes.”

Art Station runs at Michael Reid Murrurundi, in the NSW Upper Hunter, from October 7-22.