The greatest rewards that have manifested over the past few years of writing on this site are the friendships I have made along the way – the sheer joy of writing about things that I love gives back more than enough, in that respect. People I have written about or talked to for here, for example, often become good friends – luckily for me.
When I first interviewed Kaff-eine some two years ago, I didn’t know her from a bar of soap. We’d never met, and yet hers was work that I loved on first sight – and, ever curious, as I tend to be, I was given a chance to send her some questions about a show she was putting some work in – Fibre Femmes.
Since then, much has changed in Kaffs world. She’s become a full time artist – (unlike me, she has made "the switch"), and yet for all the "How the fuck does she do it" that came before, I still don’t know how the fuck she does it all – even given that she now spends all of her time painting. Her work over the past year has gone in amazing new directions.She has multiple creative projects on the go, outside, inside, between the covers of books, and, also, she is about to do her first actual solo show – for someone so accomplished already, this keeps taking me by surprise.
Most importantly, however, for me, is that she has become a good friend – and whenever I do manage to purloin some of her valuable time (ha, she’d probably throw that one back at me), I’m always bowled over by her sincerity, humility and passion. Kaff is just good people, and what you see in her art is a sublime reflection of her own self. She may not realise this, but her work really does reflect many aspects of both her demeanour and personality, and I think that may be why it resonates with so many people; it is honest, identifiable, unpretentious and, quintessentially, "Kaff-eine".
I fucking love interviewing Kaff, and I hope you enjoy reading this piece about this remarkably talented lady, as much as I enjoy writing about her…
So – the first time we chatted was way back when you were doing Fibre Femmes. How was all of that, anyways? and as it was one of your first group shows, how do you believe things have evolved from there to where you are now? It is still a highly regarded show, now, what are the aspects of it that you have carried through with?
Oh, Fibre Femmes was great! It was such a fantastic introduction to exhibiting, + meeting some people who have since really become great artistic collaborators + friends. Things have evolved so much since then; my own personal style, the people + opportunities I’ve been lucky to intersect with, it’s been an amazing ride.
I reworked + developed the original Deerhunter characters from Fibre Femmes into what are now some of my central characters; this has lead me in a different direction with much of my work , it’s unexpected but neat. The other thing I’ve carried through from that exhibition is my work with Precious. I didn’t know her before the show, + since then we’ve developed an awesome creative partnership. We do heaps of work together; we’ve painted collaborations with her characters + mine, we’ve done collabs between her poetry + my characters (on the street + in exhibitions), we constantly bounce ideas off each other, + we have heaps of super plans for the future!
We also talked back in January, when you were putting on Urban Scrawl with Precious Little, Blacklodge and Tig-tab – this makes three interviews, Kaff! :) We did see that show, and loved it to bits – how did it all go, for yourself, personally?
Yes! I love Invurt interviews :)
Urban Scrawl was super, both in terms of artistic output, + the friendships that grew during the making of the art, which was entirely collaborative. I’d never tried to paint to somebody else’s ideas let alone their poetry, so I loved the challenge of interpreting Presh’s heartbreaking poetry in my paintings. Lightpainting with BL + TT also meant that I got to know them really well, + to have some amazing artistic adventures with them. The whole thing really pushed me artistically. This year my time has been colonized by other projects, they’ve been busy too, but I’m looking forward to getting back together with them + doing some more exploring + photographing together.
Since all of that, you have left your 9-5 job, and become a full time artist. How have you found this transition and what have the challenges associated with it all been?
It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done! I’ve been working 7 days a week since then, flat out painting books, walls, exhibition pieces + commissions; leaving the office in June was the only way I could get all the painting jobs done. The transition was smooth, I just stopped going into an office for 40 hours a week, + used that extra time to paint! The only real challenge is not letting myself get too weird when I lock myself away in the studio + don’t leave the property or speak to people for days at a time.
I’m caring less about this now, though.
We’ve been a huge fan of your new work over the past year or two, especially the work that you have done outside of the city limits – do you often travel out to the country to do work, and how does the juxtaposition between the two reflect on the work that you do in both locations – is there a difference, or do both environments reflect the other?
Oh, good question. I love driving, love the countryside + I like to paint in peaceful locations hidden away from people, so it makes sense to seek out remote locations to paint in. I’d love to have the time to do more country painting, but the past few months have been taken up with other projects so I haven’t done as much as I’d like. I have some fun remote projects coming up over summer though, so that’s rad.
I tend to seek out decaying + abandoned spaces in both country + city areas, + the work that I paint is pretty similar in either location. The main difference for me painting in the country is that I can easily find ‘clean canvases’, paint in areas where nobody else has painted (which I love the most), + there is much less chance of getting caught.
There’s one thing that I have always wanted to ask about – and that is in terms of the nature of your work. One line of correlation that I draw, is in the urban "feral" aspect. I remember watching a doco not long ago about foxes and urban environments, and the like … – building on the last question, I’m interested in this synergy of yours between urbanity and the natural world that you love so much, there is very little "artificial" themes in your work – so, tell me, where are the robots? Just kidding! But, seriously, what other themes and directions would you like to move your art towards, in the future?
Haha, I knew you’d have to drop robots in here somewhere!! I guess I paint the things that most interest me, + at the moment ‘natural’ things like animals + human bodies have my attention, + combining the two in one character is pretty interesting for me too. I don’t have a conscious plan for the direction of my work, it’s pretty organic, with each painting giving me ideas for the next one. At the moment I want to get outdoors + develop my large-scale painting technique as much as I want to create new characters.
If anything, I think I’ll continue to develop the Deerhunter characters, I’m having heaps of fun with those.
You have two books coming out early next year, for One Day Hill and Scholastic – can you tell us about each of these books, and what they involve? How did you get involved in doing these books? We heard the story about one of them, the bushfire one, and it just sounds so fantastic …
Aw thanks! One Day Hill (the publisher) approached me with some manuscripts, + asked if I wanted to illustrate them. The two stories are lovely Australian stories for children; one is a true story of WWI battle at Villers Bretonneux + the incredible friendship that subsequently grew between the town + Victoria, Australia, a beautiful legacy of a bitter war nearly a century ago. Part of the story involves the little French town saved by Victorian soldiers in WWI repaying their debt to Victoria nearly 100 years later, when Victoria was devastated by bushfires in 2009. It’s a little-known story, I didn’t believe it was real when I first read it! The other book is a quaint story about a little run-down caravan that gets rediscovered + loved again, it teaches preschool kids about manners, it’s very cute.
I took them on for the challenge of painting things that I would never normally paint (like caravans + battlefields), + to have my work seen by a different audience. It has been awesome to work with such a great publisher, they gave me an open brief, basically said interpret the manuscripts in my own way + paint whatever I like, however I want to paint it! I reckon it’s pretty rare that that happens, I feel like the luckiest book illustrator around.
Scholastic is distributing both books, so they’ll be widely available.
Right, so, you have over the past year formed a great relationship with the Signed & Numbered crew, and are doing a show with them and the JA crew at Just Another Project Space – how did that all come about? What so you love about the space?
Yes I love the Signed & Numbered crew! Jacqui is so lovely, she has been an enormous help with the whole print-making process (I’m such a luddite) + I love the way she markets the artwork there. I’m stoked to be a part of her store.
The exhibition came about when the Just Another crew took over the spaces at the rear of S+N a few months ago. I was checking out thestand at the Melbourne Art Fair when Melika offered me a timeslot for a solo in the space (which wasn’t yet built!); I thought she was kidding, but a week after the show it was confirmed, so it kind of happened by surprise! I knew I already had heaps on with the 2 books, but there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to do it, so I went for it. It was a big leap of faith for me, I hadn’t worked with Just Another before + hadn’t even seen the space, but I’d seen the events that they’d held in the past, + knew that they’d come through with something rad. Which they have. And now I’m part of the Just Another agency, so it’s even more rad.
And Boneyard – this is what people really want to know about – the very first solo show from Kaff-eine. Huh? Somehow, I keep thinking that I’ve been to shows from you before, but then realise they’ve all been group projects. How has this differed, from your previous shows?
I’ve hardly done any shows at all! I’ve only done a few group shows, so this is a big leap for me. This one is definitely different – it is all my own vision, from the concept, to the artworks + the design of it within the Just Another Project Space. It is a different body of work too, a real development from the previous pieces I exhibited.
Are there otters? If no otters, please tell me why. Or dinosaurs. Or an otter riding a dinosaur, holding a toy robot. Oh hell yes. Wait, back to the question – thematically, what do you love most about the work that you have done for Boneyard and what have you really enjoyed exploring with it?
Haha no, but I love otters! Ok I’ll paint you a bloody dino-riding cowboy otter holding toy robot guns after the show!! I promise! Hehehe.
I’ve really enjoyed the freedom of painting whatever was in my head at the time – it lead to work that was darker, more elegant + sophisticated, + it gave rise to a tighter painting technique. I’ve loved bringing some of my street pieces to life on paper in the studio, I’ve been wanting to try that for months. The whole process has given me some great ideas for future exhibitions.
So, after you’re done with all of this, after you’ve hopefully sold a bag load of work and you have a little bit of respite – can we go painting again? :) x
OF COURSE YES!
I loved painting with you in the past! I’m really looking forward to a summer of outdoors painting fun with awesome people, it’s going to be supersweet.
Let’s go + paint dinosaur-riding otters with robots.