Kate Vassallo

Refraction, 2021

38 × 30.5 cm
Systems surround us in contemporary life, from the bureaucratic structures of our government to the rules and scripts underlying our digital interfaces. In my art practice, I design materially driven systems as a methodology to produce artworks, combining chance, rules, repetitious labour and serendipitous material textures. Equal parts chance and conscious decision-making in the studio, I hope to visualise a tension between system-based perfection and the looseness inherent in handmade objects. Rules dictate my compositions, order, colour and density.

I am conscious of how my abstract artworks can depict light, often using tone, density and translucence to convey a sense of light refracting. At art school, I majored in Photomedia. Though I haven’t continued to work heavily with light-sensitive materials, a focus on light has continued to underpin what I do.

In recent years, my artworks have used chance-based elements to dictate composition by connecting or layering random points in different ways. This painting is built up with many thin layers of colour. The shape of each layer is mapped out by scattering random points that form negative space when connected together.

Many of my influences originate from the Conceptual Art and Minimalist movements of the 60s and 70s. While being conscious of situating my practice in the contemporary, I find myself nostalgic for a time and place I never experienced. My art practice feels very interlinked with time, the repetitious nature of my mark-making and systems becoming an abstract visual record of time and labour. Sometimes I feel that my time spent labouring in the studio is a form of time travel. While making, I think about the ambiguous nostalgic associations that my artworks can connect to.
With an interest in process-orientated repetition, building material density and optical perception, Kate Vassallo designs materially based systems to work with. Currently based in Canberra, Vassallo graduated from the Australian National University School of Art in 2010 with First Class Honours and a University Medal. Since this time she has exhibited extensively throughout Australia, including solo exhibitions at Firstdraft (Sydney), Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Galerie pompom (Sydney) and MOP Projects (Sydney). She has also been curated into group exhibitions and programs at Canberra Museum and Gallery, PICA (Perth), Blindside (Melbourne), Critical Animals at TiNA (Newcastle), Kings ARI (Melbourne) and Flinders Lane Gallery (Melbourne). In 2019, Vassallo won the Preparator’s Artist Residency Award, as well as Highly Commended for the Early and Young Career Artist Prize at the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award at Hazelhurst Arts Centre. In recent years, she has also been a finalist in the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing, Ravenswood Australian Woman’s Art Prize, Gosford Art Prize, Goulburn Art Award, Fisher’s Ghost Art Prize and M16 Drawing Prize. Her artworks are held in the Artbank and Goulburn Regional Gallery collections, as well as private collections throughout Australia and the USA.

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