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Kim Buck

Portrait of Australian artist Kim Buck, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Kim Buck, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Kim Buck

Kim Buck was born in Mount Gambier, South Australia. Since graduating from the South Australian School of Art in 2009, she has had four sell out solo exhibitions and won the Prospect Portrait Prize (2011), the Limestone Coast Prize (2010, 2011, 2012) and the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Award. She has also been a finalist in the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing, the Paul Guest Prize, the National Youth Self Portrait Prize and the Hazelhurst Works on Paper Award. Kim is represented by Peter Walker Fine Art (Adelaide), Jan Murphy Gallery (Brisbane) and Michael Reid Gallery (Sydney).

While Kim’s drawings have always found inspiration in the human form, her current work explores the intersection of figurative traditions and the natural environment, offering a unique broadening of the term landscape.

Interview with Kim Buck

How do you describe your work to others?
Generally it begins with some uncomfortable hand gestures and a few umms and ahhs before finally saying that I draw, mainly with charcoal, and mainly figurative realism. If I’m on a roll I’ll go on to speak of my fascination with emotional geography and my current project exploring the intersection between my two great loves: nature and the human figure.

How do you begin new work?
Usually with quite a lot of nervous energy and excitement, some vague wispy ideas and a towering pile of books. I find it quite challenging condensing all of that into a more coherent or formulated plan so more often than not I just start – somewhere, anywhere – and hope that with time, the work and ideas take a clearer shape.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
A bit of both. I like to make exhibitions with a central theme and flavour but it’s kind of reassuring to look back over the last few years of work and see how each drawing lead to the next and then the next in a nice meandering thread.

What attracts you to your subjects?
Without exception, my subjects in a thematic sense are always related to my life experiences in some way or another. That authenticity is really important for me. The human subjects themselves are friends or friends of friends who have some kind of special indescribable quality, some kind of uniqueness or mystery about them. They’re generally pretty sensitive souls too! I think that allows them to express something quite vulnerable – and beautiful – through their physical body, which I then attempt to translate into drawings.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
I usually do quite a few sketches and then take an enormous amount of reference photographs of the models to work with. A lot of time goes into planning the composition before the drawing begins – I like to have a fairly clear idea of where I’m going. There isn’t a lot of room for mistakes once charcoal hits paper!

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
More intuitively. Sometimes I wish it was clearer initially but I’m learning to trust that it’s in there somewhere waiting to be uncovered…

Do you aim to create the finished piece exactly as you envisioned or enjoy allowing it to develop organically?
As I mentioned above I generally have a fairly clear map of where each individual drawing is heading. The series as a whole though often ends up in a totally different place than I first imagined!

Where do you create?
I have a little home studio. I’ve always worked best at home, and it means no one else has to put up with my daggy old charcoal-stained clothes and occasionally bad pop music..

Given your connection with the environment and how it is translated into your work, do you find that where you live affects your mindset when creating?
Absolutely. It’s been challenging finding that connection in Melbourne. I’m lucky to live in a fairly green patch not far from the river, but I miss hills and mountains constantly.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
Many! I need routine more than just about anything to have a good day in the studio. There are plenty leading up to it, but the last couple are putting on my drawing clothes, turning on Radio National and sharpening a stack of pencils.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
I second Emma de Clario. Radio National, without a doubt.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Very much. I try to treat them as gentle suggestions rather than absolute statements of meaning.

What’s your favourite part of creating?
The drawing itself, which is the vast majority of what I get to do all day every day. I feel pretty grateful for that.

What is your ritual when you’ve completed a body of work?
Have a holiday! (which is code for coming up with new ideas)

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Relax, breathe and trust. If it’s a tough day at the easel, just keep standing there. Something always – always – eventually happens.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
No, although I’ve secretly always hoped to stumble across that kind of relationship. I guess in recent times it became the landscape I was living in, in the Blue Mountains. Those mountains… gosh, they know a lot.

How do you alleviate the down times?
If possible, by drawing. It can be a real comfort. If even that doesn’t work, panic, cry, eat lots of chocolate and just wait it out.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
It was more of a pre-practice moment in the very very early days when I was working in hospitality and waiting to work out what to do with my life. I’d been doing a little bit of pencil sketching as a hobby when a friend suggested I try charcoal. The first time that pencil hit paper was almost like remembering a language I forgot I knew.

What is the most memorable artwork you have seen and why?
The David. How can he be so immense but so delicately detailed? How did the hands of a 26 year old man search patiently within that stone to find him and make him visible for us? How does marble become skin and warmth and emotion? It still makes me shiver.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
For the above reason, the artist would be Michelangelo, but I don’t think I could narrow it down to one question! I’d like to sit in the Florentine sun with him one afternoon and just listen.

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