In the Northern Rivers of NSW we are surrounded by an engaged community of vibrant creatives, innovators and inspiring people committed to making the world a better place.
Friendship and creative connection, cemented in a mutual admiration for each other’s work underlies the relationship between us and artist and muse, Sylvie Kettle.
A creator in motion, Sylvie has an authentic ability to express the connection between art and healing, and the energy of mother nature and the female form – she’s a girl after our own heart.
Meet our dream girl below…
Sylvie, please introduce yourself…
My name is Sylvie Kettle, I’m a full-time artist living on Bundjalung Country. I’ve just moved to Myocum with my lover, musician Billy Otto, and we couldn't be happier enjoying this sweet earth together.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My first waking moments are really important with my beloved, enjoying the emerging of the morning together & looking over the hinterland. I love to begin the day with yoga at first light. My morning flow and meditation is like the incubation period of my art practice, where I can connect to essence & ruminate on stillness and potential. Afterwards I’ll go to the studio; I love creating through the morning! Then the rest of the day will flow and change greatly.
Sometimes more painting, gardening, resting (I love to nap), emails, cooking, ocean, meeting clients or embracing & connecting with my dearest humans.
The nature of my work really moves in seasons. Whether it is painting for weeks on end, or resting & filling my cup back up, its all equally important. Each season implies the other.
Wearing: Christina Mini Dress in Pink Iris
Tell us about your journey and how it’s evolved to be where you are creatively today.
As a child I was always creating. I remember finding any random house paints & pin boards/wood/fabric to paint on, I craved it from an early age. Eventually my mum put me into art school for many years with my now long time friend Gillian who runs Artable, when it was a regular technique based education. I was obsessed with watercolour and botanicals, deep diving into realism for years until I found it didn't light me up anymore.
I travelled on and off for a few years, living in Portugal for some time thinking that my painting days were over ahaha! Little did I know!
I began life drawing with artist & wordsmith Ron Curran who encouraged me to get out of my mind and into my body. A process of composting my realist education into a new world of abstraction, immediacy and intuition.
I never really intended to be a full time artist, but there came a point where I realised I was already doing it and I've decided to show up for that everyday since.
Ron said to me one day “ Sylvie, you know you’ve been doing this since you were a child, just with different things instead of paint”. And I think this is true for all of us in some ways, your inclinations are always there- we just find different ways to express them over time.
The title of your most recent exhibition was A Meeting Place. How did this title and body of work connect and come to fruition for you?
The name came forward over a chai with dearest sister Nidala Barker (also an incredible musician).
It can be hard to talk about your art after you create it because often the painting language does not translate to words. Actually, I think a lot of things don't really translate - they are felt, and sometimes soul can be lost in translation when we naturally turn to meaning making.
So I arrived at ‘A Meeting Place’ because it allowed for a sense of spaciousness. A language of symbology that worked more as a gateway to the art, not a direct translation.
The term place can have many different feels to it & tends to move beyond the tangibility of a space. It's so sensory for me, and I love that it can be viewed through many different lenses; a place can be physical, emotional, spiritual etc.
I notice in response to my art, some people resonate with the colours, others the female form, or maybe the mystery of abstraction. It's like “choose your vehicle!” And hopefully it propels them past the form into a meta space of the wider experience. At the end of the day, we all arrive at A Meeting Place of oneness.
Wearing: Christina Mini Dress in Pink Iris
Your work expresses the ebbs and flow of nature and the inherent connection to the feminine divine. How did this come to find its way into your style of painting and when did expressing this first resonate with you?
I’m the youngest of three daughters in my family, so we had a deeply feminine charged family life. I really grew to understand the seasons of the feminine through my older sisters and craved my initiation into the world of periods & womanhood as a child!
I’m also a part of the first generation to really grow up with social media from a young age & observe how that has specifically affected young women & their ideas of beauty and sense of self first hand.
When I stepped into my first life drawing class, it shook me how much I realised I craved this kind of honouring of the female body. People from all walks of life creating ritual around the slow & present observation of the feminine form.
This age old tradition started out as a sort of rebellion for me against today's limiting representation of women, but turned into so much more.
In this space she brings forth the divine but also in no way different to a tree or a mountain. You can be observing the curves of a woman's hips or the light on her belly button but the line itself becomes an endless representation of the pulse of life. When you abstract this curvature it can become a hairline or a highway, if you know what I mean? Form can be an entry point to all things, and I’m still in the process of unravelling this.
Can you tell us about your creative process, is it emotional, intuitive or purely visual?
It is many things at once! I like to think of my role as opening the channel between artist, muse and artwork. Art is prayer for me, a connection to something intrinsic; an idea that desires to be materialised. It can sound serious at times, but I also think it's simply play- play as an avenue to flow-state. Children instinctively know how to do it and perhaps creating into adulthood is our way of re-discovering that inherent connection we have with the divine. Somewhere between listening, discipline & trust I find intimacy with this universal impulse. And if I land here I can lose sense of time for hours.
Nick Cave explains the artists process so perfectly;
"Ideas are everywhere and forever available, provided you are prepared to accept them. This takes a certain responsibility to the artistic process. There is discipline and rigour and preparation involved... The sitting comes first, turning up with a certain alertness to possibility. Only then does the idea feel free to settle. It settles small and very tentatively, then, through your active attention, it can grow into something much bigger. Sitting in a readied state can sometimes last a long and anxious time. But you must not despair! I have never found a situation where the idea refuses to come to the prepared mind. While you are in this prepared state, be the thing you want to be. If it is a writer, then write. Initially, stream of consciousness is fine. Write without judgement and self-condemnation. Write playfully and recklessly. Even if this initial writing appears of little value, keep going, for the beautiful idea has awakened and is moving toward you... It is you that it is searching for and you alone. Be yourself. The idea is moving closer."
What role does the artist have in society?
Ooh I love this! An age old question!
The role of the artist, to me, is to be as unclouded as possible in order to move & express with the rhythms of truth. The world doesn’t need just another neutral, inoffensive painting; we live in a time where we need to make art matter. The artist's role also brings with it the archetype of the mystic and the healer, the messenger and prophet. I think it's really important to be tapping into rhythms beyond the material world, so we don't just become an earthly echochamber of what's trending. I take a lot of responsibility for this role knowing that people live with my art, and it becomes apart of their everyday. Many people exclaim notions of remedy through my work which is deeply gratifying for me.
Wearing: Savannah Overalls in Sage
What’s next for you?
I’m very excited to be launching a small new collection with Fenton & Fenton, I’ll be creating these pieces in the next few weeks - so stay tuned for that!
I have many commissions scheduled so I’ll also be tapping into the experiences of some special people to bring forward resonant paintings for them.
This last exhibition really excited me with the possibilities of creating an experience around immersive art. My partner and I really want to curate more beautiful mergings of music, art & spoken word and take it Australia wide. I’m calling in another exhibition perhaps at the end of this year or the start of next- I just don't know where yet. Whatever happens I’m here for it!
What are your top 5 tunes to inspire the creative process?
Give Me Love - George Harrison
Halah - Mazzy Star
Arrabi al Arabe - Mariem Hassan
Fantastic Man - William Onyeabor
Beautiful Strangers - Kevin Morby
‘A Meeting Place’ will be showing at Newrybar Merchants until August 23rd; view the catalogue HERE.
Contact Sylvie via email for any commision enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
And for your daily dose of creative inspiration follow @kettlepaints on Insta.
Shop Sylvie's looks online here.