'Landscape is a portrait of the soul'
I explore the spaces we exist in, both physical and psychological. I use the real landscape which surrounds me as a metaphor for my inner life of imagination and emotion; these are not drawings from life, but drawings of life; drawing the relation between the visible and the invisible; the material and immaterial are not separate but are reliant on each other to create meaning in this lived reality.
Drawing dominates my practice at present as the media most complements and mirrors my subject matter, which is expressing facets of our existence. In drawing there is a relation with the provisional and unfinished, it exists in a state of suspense so connecting it with the lived life experience.
To live is to forever be in a state of change and so the medium of drawing is particularly relevant to the subject matter as 'instead of fixing the flow of imagination it keeps it in flux' (Gombrich). It records the unfolding of an event, not the fixed reality of an object. Drawing is a dialogue between our thoughts and our experience of the real; it has always been aligned with thinking and ideas, as much as with representing the appearance of objects, it has as much to do with reflection as with observation.
The fragmentary nature of the images reflects that although we live a linear existence, what we currently experience is altered by memories and expectations, our present being created by these absent moments.
The obvious time and effort spent on these beautifully precise drawings, is integral to the reading of the work, reflecting on the connections between a repetitive act and creative energy in all aspects of our lives.
Originally I trained as an illustrator and worked in publishing, however in 2009 after having spent some time raising more children than is really sensible I decided to escape from the Playground Mafia and I returned to Art college to study Fine Art. I graduated with a First Class degree in 2011 from Norwich University of the Arts. Since then I have exhibited widely in my home county of Norfolk as well as in Cambridge, Twickenham, Derby and London. I have been a finalist in the International Saatchi Drawing Showdown, featured in series 2 of the BBC 2 Programme 'Show Me the Monet' and was Visual Art Trader’s Artist of the Month, they wrote of my work:
"The senses of emotional uncertainty, of time evaporating and of forgotten memories in Kirsty's drawings are made all the more powerful by the beautiful and precise execution of the images."
Drawing On Gesso
People often look at my work not sure what media it is, is it some kind of photo or a print? They comment that they have never seen anything like it before.
My artworks are all hand drawn with a pencil, however I do not work on paper; this is because the textured surface of paper always becomes an integral part of a drawing, however my work is purely about the image, I want it to exist free from it’s substrate. Firstly I take a wooden board which is sprayed with gesso and lightly sanded down to give a very smooth surface onto which I draw directly. I use a very hard 4h pencil, because the surface is hard anything softer creates too much loose graphite. Gesso is an unforgiving medium to work on, unless the mark is very light you cannot rub it out, so I have to work carefully and meticulously.
Finally I have the boards sprayed with a protective acrylic lacquer which effectively makes the work wipe clean.
The art critic David Lee said of my work “It’s not often you find work that wants to draw you in”. I think part of this is because of the purity of the image achieved through my chosen media.
CV & Education
Qualifications and training
2011 - First Class honours Degree, Fine Art, Norwich University College of the Arts, Norwich
1991 - Illustration, Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design, Bournemouth
2012 - Contemporary Drawings, The Assembly House, Hobart Room, Norwich
2012 - Kirsty O'leary-Leeson, Norwich Playhouse, Norwich
2012 - Kirsty O'Leary-Leeson: Contemporary Drawings, Nicholson Gallery, Gresham's, Holt, Group exhibitions
2015 - The Lynn Painter Stainers Prize, The Mall Galleries, London
2015 - Unease, Halesworth Gallery, Halesworth, Suffolk
2014 - Turner - Watercolours from the West - and Modern British Landscapes, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
2014 - @ Paint Britain, Ipswich Art School Gallery
2014 - Place and Landscape, Waterfront Gallery, Ipswich
2014 - Priseman-Seabrook Collection, Huddersfield Art Gallery
2014 - NCA14, The Forum, Norwich
2013 - The Royal Society Of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition, The Mall Galleries, London
2013 - Art-Links, The Maltings, Stansted Abbott
2013 - Inaugural Exhibition, The Red Light Gallery, Norwich
2013 - After The Monet, The Coningsby Gallery, London W1T 4RJ
2013 - Natural Selection: Chelsea Fringe, Espacio Gallery, London E2 7DG
2013 - State of The Art, The Hobart Gallery, Blickling Hall National Trust, Nr Aylsham, Norfolk
2012 - Art and The Coast; in Association with The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Mundsley Church Rooms /The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Mundsley
2012 - Cambridge Artworks Open, Cambridge Artworks, Cambridge
2012 - Elements, The Quad, Derby, DE1 3AS
2012 - Fields of Vision: Landscapes Past and Present, Orleans Gallery, Twickenham, London
2012 - NCA12, Norfolk Contemporary Arts Society, The Forum, Norwich, Norfolk
2012 - Savorr VII, Savorr, 1 Westlegate, Norwich, Norfolk
2012 - Show Me The Monet Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London
2011 - Brinkmanship, Norfolk Contemporary Arts Society, Rocket House, Cromer
2011 - Elements: Material Worlds, Norfolk Contemporary Arts Society, The Forum, Norwich
2011 - Facing Hard Times, Out of the Box Curators, Greyfriars Art Space, Kings Lynn
2010 - Emergence, Unit 5 Project Space, Norwich
2010 - Panamama, Stew Gallery, Norwich
2010 - Print and New Media, Nicholson Gallery, Greshams, Holt, Norfolk
2010 - Shades of Grey, Stew Gallery, Norwich
2009 - Impulse Response, NUCA Gallery, Norwich
2011 - Elements: Material Worlds, NCAS, The Forum, Norwich
2015 - Drawn Together workshops, 5 afternoons - Expressive drawing, Printing, Creative
Journals, Easter Crafts
2014 - Drawn Together workshops, 3 days, expressive drawing
2014 - Art Workshops, 3 days, Langham Primary School, Norfolk
2014 - Adult Drawing Workshop, Aldborough Art Group
2013 - Team-building art workshops for adults, YMCA Norwich, Norwich, Norfolk
2013 - Drawing Workshop - Portraits: 2 days, Scole Primary School, Norfolk
2012 - Artist in Residence for Arts Week; 4 days, 8 drawing workshops, Cromer Junior School, Cromer
2012 - Drawing Workshop: 2 afternoons, North Walsham Junior School, North Walsham, Norfolk
2010 - Still Life Workshop: 2 mornings, Corpusty Primary School, Corpusty, Norfolk
2009 - Green Man Clay Project: 4 Mornings, Corpusty Primary School, Corpusty, Norfolk
2013 - Stealing The Light From The Sun III, private collection, New York
2014 - Molten Light, private collection, UK
2014 - A Brief Crack of Light, public collection, Madison Museum of Fine Art, USA
Competitions, prizes and awards
2013 - Juried select Winner (drawing category), Artslant, Web
2012 - Show Me The Monet, BBC 2, London
2011 - Saatchi Drawing Showdown: Finalist, Saatchi.com, Online
2009 - Shortlisted for the John Riches Drawing Award, Norwich University College of the Arts, Secondary Educational experience
2012 -13: Art Teacher, Key stage 3, 4 and 5. Sheringham High School and Sixth Form Centre
2011 - Visiting Artist, Sheringham High School and Sixth Form Centre, Sheringham
2012 - Artist of the month (March 2012), Visual Art Trader, www.visualarttrader.co.uk
2012 - Show Me The Monet , BBC 2, London
2011 - Dialogues Symposium, Norwich University College of the Arts, Norwich
2010 - Dialogues Symposium, Norwich University College of the Arts, Norwich
2010 - The Improbable - Presentation, Wysing Arts Centre, Wysing Nr Cambridge
I run Art Workshops for all key stage areas, and for adults; I have also set up a Community Arts Group called Drawn Together which is funded by a Lottery Grant; the group’s aim is to provide creative, stimulating and inclusive opportunities for communities to come together, and be inspired through engaging in artistic and creative activities.
21st Century British Art: Swindon Art Gallery and Museum
East Contemporary Art: University Campus Suffolk
Madison Museum of Fine Art, USA
Artist Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/artistkirstyolearyleeson
Artist Blog: http://kirstyolearyleeson.tumblr.com/
Appearance on BBC 2's Show Me The Monet: www.youtube.com/watchv=Rc8LCC9vHx0&feature=plcp