in her element

Kirra Jamison knew from childhood she’d grow up to be an artist. She kindles in her own home/studio, creating paintings that transcend categories, staying true to her aesthetic whether it’s in vogue or not.

interview by ciara bird
photographs from where they dwell by paul barbera
artwork courtesy of sophie gannon gallery

Do you remember your first encounter with art? What was it like? I grew up in a small beach side town called Byron Bay. It’s an extremely creative place, full of hippies. I was exposed to live music, theatre, dance and visual arts from a young age. Being an artist was always presented to me as a legitimate career choice. I was lucky in that way.

Did you always have the intention to become a professional artist? Always. For as long as I can remember that was my dream.

Can you imagine yourself doing anything else? I can’t imagine not painting. But I can absolutely imagine doing other things as well as being an artist. I love to cook and have a food blog called Keke (, which seems to be opening up a lot of unique opportunities for me at the moment.

How long did it take before you began to find your own style? My final years at art school were definitely formative. But as for ‘style’, it’s something I try to avoid. Every painting I make looks as if it has been created by my hand, but my work moves freely from one place to the next.

Who did you look up to when you first started? And now? The gutsiness of painter Laura Owens influenced me as an undergrad student. These days I find myself looking further into the past. I’m very inspired by Helen Frankenthaler. She was very much a woman in a man’s world—Mid-Century Abstract Expressionism. Her joyous, but exacting use of colour was inspired by nature; she was able to achieve such luminosity with her soak-stain technique, pouring the colour washes onto raw unstretched canvases.

Can you talk a little about your creative process? As the years pass and I become more familiar with my studio practice I am less impulsive with my work. I used to jump into a painting blindly. Now I have a very clear idea of what the work will look like when I begin. I like to work with gouache on paper in the initial stages of conception. A smaller and more intimate scale allows me to work through ideas quickly. Once I am feeling confident with a concept I shift from paper to canvas.

How long have you been in your home/studio? I’ve been living here for three years, my longest stint anywhere. I was feeling more inspired in my home setting than in my studio, so it made sense to combine those spaces.

Do the pros of having a live/work space outweigh the cons? Absolutely. Some people need the work life separation. I’m not one of them. Once you get the hang of navigating the days and weeks it can be very productive. I enjoy the peace working at home in my own time without external influences or distractions. And I like to set my own pace.

As an artist, do you find that you treat decorating your home differently than you do when sourcing inspiration for a project or do they share the same process? That’s strange to think about. Filling the space around me is a fairly haphazard affair. I don’t go out of my way to ‘decorate.’ I wander around a flea market and something grabs me. Inspiration for my painting can take me by surprise, but there is more a sense of urgency or need, a constant searching. With my home I don’t feel that.

You have an incredible art collection; are you an impulse collector or do you contemplate pieces before deciding which to bring home? Impulse! You have to buy what you love… and quickly before anyone else does! Some of the artwork in my home has been traded with friends for paintings of mine. I’m currently out of wall space, which is troubling.

What are your plans for the future? I’ve just had a big show open in Melbourne, so for now I’m taking a little me time. I’m traveling throughout Bali for the next six weeks— it’s a magical place.

And lastly, where would you like to get lost? I’d like to get lost in Amsterdam for a few months. I’d get myself a cute bike, a little boathouse on a canal and just soak in the city.


This interview was conducted early 2013.

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