Kate Tucker

Attention ATL readers & collectors: young Melbourne-based painter Kate Tucker is one to watch, writes Susie Burge


Kate Tucker's 2012 Archibald Prize finalist portrait of Missy Higgins - Melody (you're the only one who saves me) Acrylic on linen, 155 x 125

I first came across Kate Tucker last year when Brisbane’s Edwina Corlette Gallery posted a covetable series of abstracts on Facebook, then swiftly announced that this new solo exhibition of paintings had sold prior to opening. (Bugger.) I next came across Tucker at this year’s Archibald Prize, when the artist attracted public attention with her portrait of Missy Higgins. Now, Kate Tucker’s work is appearing on billboards around town. She created the cover artwork for Missy’s chart-topping album, distinctive painterly gorgeously-coloured fragments swirling and coalescing, almost 3D in sense, some surrounding the subject, some freely their own landscape. This week, the artist’s exhibition of new paintings – her third solo exhibition – is due to open at Helen Gory Galerie in Melbourne.

Kate Tucker studied multimedia design before completing a Graduate Diploma at Victoria College of the Arts in 2009. She learned to create work across a range of different digital media, including animation. She was originally a textile designer, and her move to painting has happened organically over a number of years.

Kate met Missy by chance. A friend was sharing her house and Tucker offered to paint the garden fence to make it more festive for a party. “It was this spontaneous sitting in the backyard thing,” she laughs, recalling the meeting. “It took a couple of days to paint, it was great fun and Missy just loved it.” At the time, Missy happened to be thinking about the cover of her new album and she asked Kate if she’d do it. “I’d never done portraiture before,” explains Tucker. “But I was totally going to give this a go!”


Clockwise from left: Kate Tucker; Melting Billow, 2012 Acrylic on linen 105 x 87cm; Circularity, 2012 Acrylic on linen 36 x 36cm

Creating the album artwork led organically to the Archibald entry. “It was a wonderful process, we were very creatively attuned and we’ve become great friends,” explains Tucker. “I felt I could make a portrait that was really personal and really honest and also really celebratory.”

Tucker has always been interested in playing with dimensionality, experimenting with the image space. She acknowledges influences of contemporary indigenous art and a lineage of abstractionists from Helen Frankenthaler and Sonia Delaunay to Ralph Balson and Brent Harris (her new paintings also call to mind David Aspden). She’s inspired by the natural world and (conversely?) by the possibilities of digital media. “Working digitally can remove the emphasis on the finished product, as what you are creating can be infinitely recontextualised and changed,” she elaborates. “On the other hand, paintings can feel quite ‘final’. I like to explore the malleability and freedom of digital processes when I paint.”

Currently, Tucker’s method begins with making paper sculptures – scrunching it into a form she finds visually appealing - and then sketching and painting the shapes onto canvas. “I’m interested in the contrast between something that’s structured and planned and something that’s fluid and organic,” she says. She’s always loved paper. “It looks like landscapes, it looks like flesh … something incredible happens when you transfer paper to another medium.” She’s been bewitched by colour since childhood when she collected beads and scraps of antique fabrics. Her practice seems to emerge imaginatively, kaleidoscopically, out of all these fascinations. “It feels so natural,” she muses. “It’s not a conscious thing, it comes from a place deep inside me. Every painting I do creates the next painting.”


Above: Infinite Regress, 2012, Acrylic on linen, 155 x 125cm

Kate Tucker’s exhibition Viewfinder is on at Melbourne’s Helen Gory Galerie 15th August – 8th September

- Susie Burge, all rights reserved.

All images courtesy of the artist and Helen Gory Galerie.