Bellingen artist Krys Merrett creates art from the subconscious, combining fairy tales, spirituality and symbolism to tell unique visual stories. FOCUS caught up with Krys to find out more about her work, creative process and upcoming exhibition.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I arrived in Bellingen some 16 years ago on my own with three small children.
I couldn’t think of a better or more beautiful place to bring them up. It is a place of great beauty and a very strong energy of creativity.
Where did your journey as an artist begin?
I actually dreamt of paintings from a really young age, before I knew what they were. My creativity was well fostered by my mother, who always ensured that I had many arts and crafts available to me. Drawing was play to me; it still is! It has always given me a sense of opening a door into another world, and to this day it has kept the feeling of excitement, wonder and curiosity in me every time I paint or draw.
What does being an artist mean to you?
For me it is about taking a different view of life, seeing things not how they appear to be. Art gives a backbone of spirituality to my life, another dimension, which is really important to me. I find the world a very shallow place, with little relevance or support to the human being or our evolution. Somehow art softens the blow of the harsh reality of life and the world around us.
How would you describe your work?
This is always a hard question. My artwork is symbolic and eternally feminine.
I am, for the most part, a painter of women. Rather than a gender predisposition, it is about the symbolic nature of the female – spiritual, nurturing, transcendent, ephemeral and fertile.
Other symbols I use include opium poppies, which represent the unconscious and a deep dream state. In one of my paintings I use poppies with blades, which in essence is about cutting through the unconscious or making it more easily seen. And I use hummingbirds to symbolise wisdom that is whispered … Secrets that only they can tell.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
I tend to get impressions from something I have seen, heard or even smell, and it carries on from there. If it is a strong impression, I literally cannot stop thinking about it. It feels like a temptress beckoning you in. Sometimes one of those impressions can take years to develop into something plausible. I’ll then draw it up, and it will change a thousand times more until I get to the end.
I have three paintings on the go at the moment, which is a really new thing for me. In order to fully immerse myself in the one subject, I used to only let myself concentrate on one painting at a time, to the very end. But I have recently discovered that I’m really good at multitasking and the more I open myself up to the creative process, more comes in.
What inspires your paintings at the moment?
Right at the very moment and with the current painting I am working on it’s fairy tales, folklore and Hinduism. When I say fairy tales, I’m talking about the original ones that were never ever told to children, which are incredibly violent and really twisted.
Can you tell us the story behind one or two pieces?
Creatrix is about the weaving of the fabric of life, all life and everything that could be conceived of in this existence. She is represented here “knitting” the universal flower of life pattern together. The hummingbirds are telling her secrets to help with her recipe. She sits in lotus inside a cosmic bubble, and the soles of her feet and her forehead have eyes to represent her omnipresence, omniscient nature.
In Harmony of the Spheres, the spirit or soul of the Earth (represented by a woman) plays the Earth like a harp, keeping the Earth in a type of stasis – a harmony that cannot be disrupted or negatively compounded in any way.
In essence, it is a statement to the apparently over powerful human who thinks that they can disrupt this stasis or harmony. When the human race is long gone, the essence and the spirit of the Earth will live on.
You also work as a tattoo artist. What influence does your art practice have on this and vice versa?
Coming from a creative background has had huge benefits to the art and design areas of tattooing. The art of tattooing itself takes a very long time to “master”; though, I wouldn’t say I have mastered it. Like art, you are always learning!
Tattooing has had huge benefits to my artwork. It has pushed me and opened up my creative view. Whereas painting is a loner’s job (standing at an easel for six hours at a time is not exactly a social event) tattooing is very different; it is, in essence, performance art. You have an audience, the person you are tattooing, and communication and rapport are essential to the tattoo being successful.
I feel very fortunate to work in an industry that allows you to come into contact with people from all walks of life and many different backgrounds and privileged to be allowed into these people’s lives and loves and sometimes sadness and grief.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists on the Coffs Coast?
Absorb yourself in your artwork, boots and all! Always maintain the fascination, wonder and curiosity not only in your artwork, but the whole of your life. The creative process happens much more easily if you do this.
Doubt is a huge aspect of creating art; understand that, but don’t let it hinder your own belief in yourself or what you create. This can be easier said than done.
No one creates art to be seen only by them; get it out there, and know that some people will just hate it, while others will love it and see something that moves them. And that is the prize – that is the real worth of creating art.
You are having an exhibition this month; what can people expect to see?
You can expect to see a culmination of my paintings of the last 10 years.
Where can we see more of your art?
Facebook: Sundaram – Art and Tattoo by Krys Merrett
Skin Wizardry Tattoo Studio, Bellingen,
2/74 Hyde St, Bellingen
Exhibition name: The Ephemeral Art of Krys Merrett.
Where: Bellingen Art and Framing Gallery, Hyde St, Bellingen.
When: 2 – 23 June. Opening night, Friday 2nd June.