Kirsten Lilford is an artist based in Cape Town, whose naturalistic paintings reveal a mysterious and rather ominous tone in what would otherwise be everyday snapshots of family outings, domestic scenes and the suburban landscape.
To start, please tell us more about yourself…
I grew up in Cape Town and attended an all girls’ school in Wynberg. I studied at the Michaelis School of Fine Art and graduated in 2011. I had my first solo exhibition of paintings last year at Salon 91 in Kloof Street.
When did you realize that an artist was something you wanted to, and could, become?
The idea first crossed my mind when I was in high school. I had a very inspiring art teacher. He played an important role in my growing interest in the practice of painting from a young age. It was only however, when I had my graduate exhibition at the Michaelis School of Fine Art that I really realized that being an artist painter could become a reality.
Could you give us some more insight regarding your process?
My painting process begins with searching family photographs whether this is in photo albums or simply searching online. I start to pick out images that contain details that interest me –a blurred out face, a pool of water or a dark row of trees in the background of an image. I pin these images up on my studio wall, move them around a bit and try to develop some sort of “storyboard”. I am not interested in doing preliminary sketches or mapping out my process before I start. Once I have found my image I usually start to paint it straight away and only then does the painting begin to develop a sense of direction.
Is routine important to you or is it something you actively avoid?
Routine is very important to me. I set alarms! I can usually be found in my studio in the very early hours of the morning as I feel I am most productive then.
Your paintings reinterpret snapshots of everyday life, revealing an entirely different dynamic. What is the underlying idea or thinking behind your works?
I guess in some way or another I am trying to make sense of everyday life. One could perhaps say that my painting process allows me to shift everyday life into a slightly more uncertain space.
Why do you think the “ordinary” parts of life are in fact so significant?
I think “ordinary” parts of life are often not really considered. We tend to brush over them or sweep them under the doormat. When one however, really starts to look at snapshots of everyday life there is often something that is not so ordinary about them. Whether it is that overly pregnant belly of a woman in her garden, the father closely surrounded by five children in a bubbling Jacuzzi or that smile of the grandmother that is no longer alive.
What are some of the other things that influence your work?
Movies, conversations, watching other people doing their day-to-day activities, and my everyday life experiences e.g. Family lunches, days on the beach, swimming in my garden.
How would you describe your paintings to someone who has never seen them before?
My paintings reference snapshots of everyday life. I am influenced by the work of the Impressionists but have developed my own style over time that reveals paintings that have a slightly more sinister tone to them.
Would you consider yourself a collector? If so, what do you collect?
Yes, I have started a small collection of art. I own a couple of Lisa Brice prints, an Alice Gauntlett photograph and am hoping to own an Ian Grose painting very soon!
When you aren’t painting, what are some of the things we could expect to find you doing?
Working as an art director at an advertising agency, reading a book, having delicious dinners with my family and friends and going to yoga!
What’s the most rewarding part of being an artist?
When you suddenly create something on the canvas that you feel is significant after hours and hours in your studio.
What are you working on at the moment, and what do you have planned going forward?
I am currently planning on being involved in a few group shows next year and building up a new body of work for second solo show in the near future.
Kirsten’s website: www.kirstenlilford.com