Friends of BuildHer… Sarah Kelk – Artist

Sarah Kelk is a Melbourne based painter whose work is expressive, colourful and abstract. Energised blocks of colour are central to her work, and although traces of structure appear, references to decorative arts, patterns, architecture and nature are visible in a less ordered energy.

Her approach is fluid and intuitive, exploring bold structure without abandoning the organic energy that appears at the beginning of each piece. Sarah submits herself to the processes and influences simultaneously, harmoniously not loosing one idea to the other, but rather connecting them in a new narrative.

Sarah is based in Melbourne, Australia, but grew up in the South Island of New Zealand. Having spent over a decade working in the art and design industry, Sarah is finally bringing her own ideas to life on canvas.

Recently collaborating with the likes of T’Gallant (who doesn’t love beautiful art AND wine…. what a combo!), Thankyou and also featuring in Frankie Magazine, Sarah is definitely turning heads.

We featured some of Sarah’s beautiful work in our Alpha House and we also sat down with her to ask her a few questions:

Sarah’s artwork at The Alpha House

What’s your background and what path led you to where you are?

I’m based in Melbourne, Australia where I live with my husband and two children (Charlie, 9 and Annie, 6). I grew up in beautiful New Zealand, and studied both Art History and Design. After studying, I started working in various gallery and design spaces in New Zealand, as well as some time spent working as an Interior Designer. In 2002 my husband and I decided to travel the world, and after 2 years living and travelling in various countries, we ran out of money in Edinburgh, Scotland. We ended up living there for the next 7 years and have such fond memories of our time there.

Whilst in Edinburgh, I was fortunate enough to help establish a gallery space dealing with talented artists and designers. I continued my own art practice, but this definitely took a back seat for a while due to having a family, running a business and generally not having much time for myself. My husband and I had always hoped to end up in Melbourne at some point as we had lots of family and friends living here. When he was offered a job in Melbourne early 2011, it made our decision to leave Edinburgh that bit easier.

On our move to Melbourne, I initially started looking for a physical shop space, as I were passionate about continuing a creative business here in Australia. I didn’t want to loose contact with all the amazing independent artists I had worked with, and loved being able to share their products with other like-minded customers, so decided to open the online store, Hello Polly. From there, grew our own range of homewares, which are all made in Melbourne (including prints of my work). Alongside this, I picked up a paint brush again and started focusing a lot more on my own art practice and haven’t looked back since.

Some of Sarah’s pieces

What does your work aim to say?

When working on a series of paintings, I usually research some over riding themes, ideas and inspirations that I pull from whilst I’m painting. I’m not great at planning each piece, preferring to let intuition guide me as I’m painting. I get so engrossed in working on the layers, colour and texture balance within a piece, that it usually comes down to the feeling I get from an inspiration. Of course, what I’m trying to convey to a viewer always changes, not only within a body of work, by often whilst working through an individual piece.

Appearing in Frankie Magazine

Who are your biggest influencers? What Influences You?

I’m always inspired by references of nature, architecture and the decorative arts. I usually spend hours immersed in books, online or simply out and about, drawing on colour palettes, patterns or inspirations that strike at anytime (I make sure I always carry a sketchbook with me).

I’m endlessly inspired by the work of American colourfield painter Helen Frankenthaler as well as Sonia Delaunay. Both empowering other females to enter the male dominated art world.

I would also love to have met Ray Eames! A design icon who was prolific and inspirational almost her entire life.

Some of Sarahs works

How did you develop your career to where it is today? What were your biggest challenges?

I started selling work whilst I was studying at University, although once I started travelling, running a business and having a family, painting naturally took a bit of a back seat. I was itching to spend more time with a brush in hand when I moved to Melbourne and used painting as a starting point for the homewares and print collection I designed for Hello Polly.

Getting back into the creative zone as a starting point for our Hello Polly collection was a great way to get my work out there. From there, my original paintings were picked up by The Design Files, and featured in their Open House and various exhibition events. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have had some amazing support from Melbourne’s creative community, and it has kind of just spiraled (in a good way). I’d love to say I’m ‘lucky’ but I also know how hard I work. The wonderful team at Modern Times, have been endlessly supportive of me and my work.

If I’m being completely honest, like most other creatives and parents out there, it’s a constant struggle, and I often feel like I have so many balls in the air, that it could all come crashing down at any moment! The saying “the busier you are the more you get done”, definitely applies to me, and I often work really well if I have a deadline.

At the moment, I’ve been trying to be more present and focused with tasks as I’m working on them. I find it really easy to get distracted, so forcing myself to finish what I’m working on before moving on to the next thing really helps. It doesn’t always work, but It has definitely helped me feel a bit more on top of each individual task. It also means that when I am with hanging out with my kids, I’m not constantly juggling the work tasks that I didn’t get done.

I’m also a firm believer of the do it now policy, I use it everyday and thank my sister for sharing this great bit of wisdom with me.

Sarahs Collaboration with T’Gallant Wines

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

I have a few exciting projects in the pipeline, and have just released a wonderful collaboration with Melbourne social enterprise Thankyou.

I’m also busy working through the research phase for a new series based on the feminine and hypnotic repetition of patchwork quilting which is fascinating.

I’d also love to paint the outside of a small minimalist house in the middle of nowhere ….. so if you know of one, let me know!

Like to know more about Sarah visit Sarah’s website:

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