ABOUT THE ARTIST
Contemporary abstract artist Karen M. Andersen works from her home studio on the Fraser Coast in southeast Queensland, Australia. Her childhood was also spent growing up here, in a seemingly eternal summer, exploring the beach and the bush, watching storms come and go in the evening sky. University studies in biology – together with days spent at the beach at Hervey Bay and on Fraser Island with her partner and children – have seen Karen develop a deep affection for the Queensland coast, especially for the sea and the Great Barrier Reef, rich in its cacophony of creatures with mesmerising unique forms, vibrant colours, and rhythmic underwater movements. These life experiences form a significant part of the inspiration behind Karen's artwork.
As a long-term sufferer of depression and anxiety, Karen also feels a deep calling to share her encounters with mental illness through her art. It is her hope that in doing so, she may contribute to erasing the stigma that still exists around mental illness in today’s society, while helping fellow sufferers to feel validated, worthy, and understood. Painting also allows Karen to explore her feelings about and her reactions to her own illness. It is her therapy - a way for her to process her emotions, to face her fears, to grow in confidence and wisdom, and to heal.
Karen’s lifelong obsession with colour and fervour for experimental and expressive mark-making serve as the vehicles through which she delivers messages of joy, hope, empowerment and determination. She paints instinctively and spontaneously, allowing the paint to drip and run down the canvas. Flamboyant, vibrant hues dance harmoniously around more sorbet, pastel tones, laid down in broad, sweeping planes of colour and accented with daring splashes, dots, lines and swirls of paint. The result is paintings that are evocative, intoxicating and exciting…alive with character, rich in emotion, and imbued with layers of meaning.
THE JOURNEY TO HERE
"I come from a family of makers, so it is perhaps only natural that I developed a passion for creating from an early age. Making art and colouring-in were my favourite things to do as a child and I dreamed of being an artist when I grew up. High school introduced me formally to art – Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gaugain, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andre Derain – but it was seeing the work of iconic Australian artist Ken Done for the first time, at the age of 12, at the World Expo in Brisbane (Queensland) in 1988, that entranced me with its colours and awoke in me a deep affection for art. It was this encounter that would act as the catalyst for my pursuit of a career as a fine artist at the age of 40.
Although choosing to pursue the 'safer option' of a career in biological science after high school, rather than in art, I continued to draw and paint and took art classes at university where I could. Plagued by anxiety and severe depression throughout most of my life, art-making was always a hobby, a means by which I could escape the darkness and feel safe, free, and at peace. Nothing made me feel as settled as art did, but mental illness, self-doubt, and the responsibilities of life saw that I put a professional career in art to the back of my mind for many years after university.
In late 2015, with my 40th birthday looming and faced with the realization that my life was potentially half over, I began to ponder some quite existential questions; why am I here, what is my purpose in life, what do I want to do with the rest of my life, what is it that makes me truly happy? I kept coming back to one answer…art.
Early in 2016, I learned that Ken Done - my most favourite artist, one whose work has continued to inspire me since first seeing it all those years ago - was to hold an exhibition of his abstract reef paintings at the Rockhampton Art Gallery in October that year, only a few hours drive away from me. I felt compelled to go, especially as I had never seen his reef-inspired works in person before and as they were such a huge influence on my own art, so I moved mountains to make it happen.
Attending the exhibition, meeting Ken Done, hearing him speak about his work and experiences as an artist, and taking an art class under his tutelage...it was life-changing for me. Through those experiences, I found a happiness, a self-belief, and a dogged determination that I never knew I had and I began to chase my dream of becoming the professional artist I had always wanted to be. After all, if Ken Done could start his career as an artist at age 40, then there was no reason why I couldn't too.
I started painting and drawing as soon as I returned home from the exhibition and I haven't stopped since. Now I live to create art every day and I am very excited to see where my journey along this artistic path will lead me in the future."
Karen M. Andersen.