Artist Statement - Kim McCarthy

Painting has provided me with a life long expressive outlet. It is my way of examining, processing and expressing my personal experiences and beliefs, sharing my spirit and connecting with the world. I choose to paint with encaustic, a medium that consists of beeswax, tree resin and oil pigments. The fact that this medium has historical roots back to Ancient Greece resonates deeply within me and informs my imagery. This was a period where women were priestesses, reading the oracle, honoured for their fertility and revered as spiritual guides. I also admire how their mythology was rooted in honouring the union between the natural world and the human spirit. In my works I develop imagery that pays homage to and celebrates that same union. When the Greek civilization ends the position of the divine female diminishes. Shortly thereafter the encaustic medium also disappears, only to be resurrected as an art form by Contemporary artists in the 1960’s. I will always be grateful to them as they created a gateway for me to later join the current art scene where we explore and push the boundaries of this versatile medium. It has been through this medium that I discovered my artistic voice and developed a visual vocabulary rich with symbolism and metaphors. It is my hope that the language is universal and that my work will touch viewers on a mystical, ethereal and spiritual level. I believe that this is the ultimate level of connection with one another and the world. 

Painting has always been a vital component of my life. When I discovered the encaustic medium I felt like I’d come home! I love the overall process and I see it as a metaphor for life itself. A painting evolves through the accumulation of countless layers of the hot, melted, encaustic medium. I think of how this cumulative process of layering and fusing layers resembles the collection of life experiences. Each layer presents options, possibilities and choices. As I build and fuse each new layer of colour with a heat gun or propane torch it adheres to the previous layers thus altering the work in progress.  As the layers evolve a unique, one-of-a-kind creation emerges. I favour jewel tones of colour. I think they’re fitting to represent the richness of life and viewers often tell me that they experience them as uplifting. I love how they mix and intermingle as they are layered. Subtle new colours emerge and present themselves like magic in the fusing process. I intuitively decide how much heat to apply, where I want the colours to bleed and blend, and where and when do I want it to remain as it is. I also selectively choose where I want the colours to remain translucent like portals that reveal previous layers and where I want it to be more opaque, covering and burying the past. This process and these colours are how I envision and express my sense of ethereal and mystical dimensions. 

Once I’ve acquired enough depth I begin to embed symbolic found materials as well as my pen and ink drawings between the layers. I think of them as precious and coveted treasures to be shared, discovered and interpreted by the viewer. Some of my favourites include keys symbolizing what we may need to be more open to in life. Threads represent a continuum of what we carry forward. Spirals and circles are universal spiritual motifs; watch parts portray timelessness, feathers represent the divine and fossils typify ancient beginnings. Seeds are my metaphor for fertility, holding life, migration, anticipation and manifestation. My intention is to engage and invoke questions and reflections by the viewer as they recognize and interpret meaning or associations for themselves. Then my process continues with the development of rich organic textures. I strive to replicate and honour the beauty I find in the natural world like the bark on a tree or the pattern left in stone after centuries of elemental erosion. These natural visual rhythms fill me with a sense of awe, wonder and serenity. I feel grounded in them and connected to Mother Earth. Hopefully my attempts to present similar undulating patterns that echo nature create a calming visual experience. I bring the work to completion when I apply and adhere gold and copper leaf to parts of the painting. My intent is to bring a spiritual component to the piece. Gold has long represented the presence of the divine throughout centuries of art. My goal is to manifest a visual dance of ethereal and luminescent passages of light throughout the painting. As the light changes and shifts throughout a day the experience of how the gold shines or shimmers, reflects or radiates light is ever changing. Hopefully this keeps the engagement and experience with the work enticing and continuously evolving. 

Currently, my subject matter celebrates the divine feminine and the natural world. These paintings are a reflection of my own spiritual journey and divine intervention during an era of modern feminism. Rooted in the earth, Goddess like figures rise up from richly textured ground. Resembling tree bark, they evolved through an additive and subtractive process of countless multicoloured layers. Portrayed in silhouette poses of honouring and celebrating rituals they dwell in a spacious atmosphere of saturated colours and ethereal light. An abundance of seeds fill the fields and the atmosphere around them. Universal, ancient symbols like spirals and circles both surround and embody them to represent how the energy of the human spirit and the environment are intertwined and connected as a whole. These female figures are reflective of my own maturation process and spiritual journey, developing through life experiences, growing through the dark and stepping into the light. Birthing these works has been a significant part of my personal transformation towards wellness as they represent sacred space for me. I hope that others on this shared journey experience nourishment in my work. Ideally, viewers experience my paintings from two perspectives. Firstly, to observe it from a distance and to absorb it as a whole hopefully feeling both the unity and the contrasts. Secondly, I am honoured if they explore at close proximity the various layers, textures, symbols, nuances and intricacies. Each individual that approaches the work will bring their own life experiences and associations to the imagery. I wonder if anything will stir and resonate with them. What will they discover, appreciate, interpret? Will they share their revelations, insights and associations? Witnessing their exploration, moments of discovery and connection completes the purpose of the work as I have offered a part of my soul to the world to be received.


Photo Credit: James Riley Lewicki

Photo Credit: James Riley Lewicki