Q & A with Kirsten Beets

Q & A with Kirsten Beets



1. What drives you as an artist?

The hope that I have something beautiful or something of interest to contribute to the world.

2. Do you see any resemblances in the way you make art and the way you live your life?

There’s a calmness and tranquillity in my work that I feel I try and attain in my life but never get there.

3. In your opinion what is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever created?

I always hope that the next thing I make is the most beautiful thing.

4. Please tell us about some of your daily rituals and routines.

I have never been a morning person, nor do I aspire to be one. I have accepted that I will not be my best self before 10am so I take a slow start to the morning and wake up with the help of a lot of tea. I get to my desk and fuss and reorganize my space and tend to any dirty bushes or open paint that I left from the night before. I try to get into a calm state of mind. It helps when I have to paint small and intricate details. At some point my dog insists that I need a walk, so we go and do that. I usually take a break late afternoon-ish and the start work again in the evenings and stay up much later than a responsible adult should.

5. Historically, the majority of artists seem to focus on one major theme or subject throughout their careers. Do you have any preferred or recurrent subject matter that you tend to revisit in your practice?

I have several things that I keep going back to. I like greenery, gardens and greenhouses. I also like people-watching and animals. They all find their way into my paintings at some stage.

6. Tell us about the connection you make between people at leisure and the natural world in your work.

People at leisure are generally in a safe space, a place that has been constructed especially to be used by them like parks, pools or gardens. When I add an animal to those situations, I’m doing it as a reminder that there’s still a wild world out there and to add some tension into an idyllic leisurely scene.

7. Your work appears to capture isolated moments frozen in time. What significance does this hold for you?

I work from photographic reference. So, when I take a photo of a scene it captures a tiny slice of time. Preserving it in paint can lengthen that moment for as long as the painting survives. It gives the viewer a change to engage in a split second of time for as long as they want.

8. Was there a particular moment in your life that inspired you to become a painter?

I made an owl out of two pom-poms in preschool. I even stuck on a little graduation cap, that was my way of showing that owls are wise. It was a masterpiece in felt, wool, glue and googly eyes. I was very proud. I think it was the first time I realized that if I could put raw materials into the right order and stick them in the right places, I could create something more than the sum of those parts. I could make a little personality or a story or something that people would recognize and respond to. It was un-self-conscious artmaking which is such a fleeting thing. I don’t know if this specifically inspired me to become a painter, but it did instill some confidence in my art-making abilities.

9. What are your major artistic influences?

I love botanical illustration, old Dutch masters packed with strange detail and hidden meaning. I also love travel and spending time in nature.

10. What do you believe characterises your work? What makes your style identifiable and unique?

The amount of detail I put into my work. I also tend to paint in quite a realistic manner. Most of my subjects are small-scale but I have also done bigger work. I also think there is a playful humor that comes out in my work.

11. Can you tell us about your process? Would you say that you work quite intuitively or in a more structured manner?

I usually work in a structured way. I tend to not play around too much on the final image. I’ll have an idea and then play with it using sketches and then create different options or small experiments. Once I’m happy with what I feel is the end result I’ll start painting the final work. Sometimes the process is hard and sometimes it comes easily. I still make adjustments as I go but I like to have and end point in mind.

12. Your paintings are rich and complex both in terms of their subject matter, as well the high level of detail to which they are executed. How important is it to you that the viewer experiences something of this intensity?

I think people don’t engage in work enough, I’m guilty of it too. I think the world is pretty busy and managing to find the quiet space needed to look and engage with an artwork is tough. I wanted to make work that rewards people who actually took the time to really look at it. I also wanted to make work that you could take home and continue to find new things within it to appreciate.

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