LAYERED approach

Frankston artist, Kylie Stillman, is an artistic alchemist. She creates images from absence, three dimensions from two, paints with thread and illuminates with shadow. Her exhibition, Glimmer Warning, is currently on display in the foyer of the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

Kylie was invited by the MPRG to exhibit as a local female artist in front of the National Gallery of Australia’s Know My Name travelling exhibition. It’s an NGA gender equity initiative that celebrates and acknowledges the work of Australian women artists. While not part of the NGA exhibition, Kylie is delighted to represent local women artists.

Glimmer Warning looks at simple elements of nature that bring joy – dewdrops glistening on spiderwebs, light through trees at certain times of day that make shapes in shadow, the unexpected patterns found in cut vegetables when cooking – reminders that there is beauty all around us if we take a moment to look at it.

Kylie’s greatest satisfaction is seeing someone look at her work and smile. She wants her artistic legacy to be bringing joy. She is inspired by imagining how to transform an empty space into something that elicits delight and personal reflection.

Making has always been an integral part of Kylie’s life. Her mother was a very practical person who made clothing for Kylie and her brothers. Without even using a pattern, she’d lay clothing out on broadsheet newspaper and trace around it. Kylie has internalised this practicality and uses it to create art in a similarly purposeful and sequential way.

“From a very early age I understood flat patterns that come from three-dimensional forms. That’s my work over and over again – it’s three-dimensional forms that come from cutting out two-dimensional sheets of paper, wood or shapes from a book. And I love that. You’d never think a pant leg comes from a shape kind of like an R,” she says.

Kylie’s interest in art came from crafting with her mother. In addition to fashioning and sewing, Kylie was always interested in drawing. Wherever she was, when she had nothing else to do, she occupied that time with drawing. Her artistic talents were recognised in primary school.

From high school, Kylie went to Moorabbin TAFE then Monash University to study Graphic Design because she viewed it as a practical trade with good employment prospects. She loved that course because it introduced her to other arts such as, photography, ceramics and printmaking. It was a really good grounding in materials, disciplines and how things are made.

“It was the art history component of that course that really got me. From there I was hooked. I understood art much better then. I didn’t finish that degree because I wanted to study painting.

It was the only discipline I hadn’t been introduced to.

I left Monash and begged RMIT to let me into their painting program. Someone dropped out and I got into first year painting,” she says. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at RMIT with honours.

Photos: Gary Sissons

Her first job was as an art technician at a private secondary. She stretched canvases, set up the dark room and print lab, fired ceramics and made sure the computers and printers were working. This was at a time when photography was transitioning from analogue to digital so she also learned new editing suites. It couldn’t have been a better grounding.

In her second job, she worked in arts management at the Melbourne Art Foundation, running events and working with artists. Here she came to understand art at an operational level learning what curators and project managers do. This knowledge built on an already strong foundation.

Since graduating from university in 1999, Kylie has exhibited continuously in Australia and abroad. Utopia Gallery in Sydney began representing her in 2003 and that relationship continues today. Ten years ago, she decided to work exclusively as an artist full-time.

Kylie has been awarded numerous grants and prizes, including the prestigious Montalto Sculpture Prize in 2019 for her piece, Moonah. She has also been an artist in residence from Police Point in Portsea to Milan, Italy. Her work is held in regional, national and private collections across Australia.

Harkening back to those early days crafting with her mother, everything Kylie creates is handmade slowly and methodically.

“I like handmade because I have control. I get all the joy from it. It takes a long time, but I’m not in a hurry. I have to cut one piece at a time. There is no other way. I like working with encyclopedias because I can take a break and read a page,” she says.

In taking the time to view her work, you may be fascinated too by getting a glimpse into such an intricate process. Even better if Glimmer Warning brings a smile and a bit of joy into your day – that’s the aim.

Peninsula Essence – February 2024